'Gravity,' '12 Years a Slave' share Hollywood producers' top prize

Mon Jan 20, 2014 2:48am EST
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By Mary Milliken

BEVERLY HILLS, California (Reuters) - Hollywood producers injected drama into the race for Oscars on Sunday by choosing not one but two movies as their best films of the year, the space thriller "Gravity" and the slavery drama "12 Years a Slave".

It is the first time the Producers Guild of America has declared a tie in the 25-year history of its awards. The PGA has correctly chosen the eventual Academy Award winner for best picture for the last six years, including Iranian hostage drama "Argo" a year ago.

The PGA decision clashes with that of the Screen Actors Guild (SAG), which on Saturday chose the 1970s-set corruption caper "American Hustle" from director David O. Russell for its top prize, best film ensemble cast.

But SAG has a mixed record on foreshadowing the Oscar best picture with its ensemble cast award, correctly predicting the Academy Award in six of the last 10 years.

Nevertheless, after an intense week of awards, the Oscars are shaping up to be a three-way race between these films. "American Hustle", with its strong performance, and "Gravity", with its technical innovation, lead nominations with 10 nods a piece, while "12 Years a Slave" and its brutal depiction of pre-Civil War slavery in the United States has nine.

The highest honors of the film industry from the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences will be handed out on March 2. Voting among the 6,000 members runs from February 14 to 25.

It was a crucial night for "12 Years a Slave", which won the coveted Golden Globe last Sunday for best drama but failed to bring in any other awards that night. It has also lost out on key acting awards.

Director and producer Steve McQueen, in accepting the PGA award along with co-producer and actor Brad Pitt, addressed an issue that could complicate the film's Oscar potential: talk that it is too difficult to watch.   Continued...

Brad Pitt (C) and Steve McQueen, producers of the film "12 Years A Slave", along with cast member Chiwetel Ejiofor (L), arrive at the 25th Annual Producers Guild of America Awards in Beverly Hills, California January 19, 2014. REUTERS/Fred Prouser