Producers Guild Awards 2015: Birdman Wins Best Picture

Birdman won the Producers Guild of America (PGA) Darryl F. Zanuck Award for best movie, elevating its status as awards-season front-runner; the last seven PGA winners have won the Best Picture Oscar.

Fox Searchlight’s dark comedy, starring Michael Keaton as a washed-up film star, topped “American Sniper,” “Boyhood,” “Foxcatcher,” “Gone Girl,” “Grand Budapest Hotel,” “The Imitation Game,” “Nightcrawler,” “The Theory of Everything” and “Whiplash.”

“Boyhood” had been the consensus favorite to win the PGA trophy — based on voting by more than 6,700 PGA members — with “American Sniper,” “Birdman” and “Imitation Game” as the most likely to score an upset.

The award went to director Alejandro G. Inarritu, John Lesher, James W. Skotchdopole.

“They want me to talk so that I make you laugh with my bad English,” Inarritu said. “On behalf of all of us, our only ambition was to make a risky and experimental exploration of the cinematic language, of an artist’s complexity played by the incredible Michael Keaton.”

“I feel humbled by this,” Inarritu added. “All the films that are nominated have such an individual voice, the expression behind them, only the people who made them, could have made them.”

“Gravity” and “12 Years a Slave” wound up in a dead heat last year as both won the Zanuck award — the first tie in the PGA’s 25-year history for the trophy. The PGA uses the preferential balloting system employed for the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences for the Oscars.

The PGA’s Zanuck award has become a strong indicator of Oscar sentiment in recent years, matching the Oscar for best picture in 18 of its 25 years — including the last seven, with “12 Years a Slave,” “Argo,” “The Artist,” “The King’s Speech,” “The Hurt Locker,” “Slumdog Millionaire” and “No Country for Old Men.”

The PGA winner last diverged from the Oscar best picture in 2006, when “Little Miss Sunshine” won the top award while the Academy opted for “The Departed.”

The producers branch of AMPAS constitutes about 8% of the AMPAS membership. When the Academy expanded the best-picture Oscar category to 10 nominations in 2010, the PGA followed suit with an expansion of the Zanuck nominations to 10.

The top TV awards went to the final season of AMC’s “Breaking Bad,” Netflix’s “Orange is the New Black” and FX’s “Fargo.”

“Breaking Bad” won the Norman Felton Award for top drama series for the second year in a row, topping “Downton Abbey,” “Game of Thrones,” “House of Cards” and “True Detective.”

“You only know that your show is a big hit when the location signs are stolen,” Bryan Cranston said.

“Life Itself,” the biographical film about the late Roger Ebert, won the PGA documentary award for director Steve James, Zak Piper and Garrett Basch.

Magnolia’s “Life Itself,” based on Ebert’s 2011 autobiography, topped “The Green Prince,” “Merchants of Doubt,” “Particle Fever” and “Virunga” — which was the only PGA nominee to also receive an Oscar nod.

FX’s “Fargo”  won the David L. Wolper Award for longform TV. The drama — based on the 1996 film of the same name by the Coen Brothers — topped “American Horror Story,” “The Normal Heart,” “The Roosevelts: An Intimate History ” and  “Sherlock.”

Netflix’s “Orange is the New Black” won the Danny Thomas award for top comedy series. The win by the groundbreaking prison-set series denied ABC’s “Modern Family” its fifth consecutive award in the category. “Orange is the New Black” also topped “The Big Bang Theory,” “Louis” and “Veep.”

Earlier, “The Lego Movie” took the PGA’s top animated movie award — nine days after it was overlooked in the Oscar nominations.

“Lego” producer Dan Lin accepted the trophy from Reese Witherspoon and Bruna Papandrea. He gave extensive thanks, concluding with co-directors Phil Lord and Chris Miller and his family, and made no mention of the Oscar snub.

Warner Bros.’ “Lego” topped “Big Hero 6,” “The Book of Life,” “The Boxtrolls” and “How to Train Your Dragon 2″ in the first award of the evening ceremonies for the 26th Annual PGA Awards at the Century Plaza. “Frozen” won the PGA award and the Oscar last year.

“The Tonght Show Starring Jimmy Fallon” won the Live Entertainment and Talk Television award. NBC’s “The Voice” took the competition TV award.

Previously announced awards included HBO’s AIDS drama “The Normal Heart” as recipient of the Stanley Kramer Award, which honors raising awareness of important social issues; Lionsgate CEO Jon Feltheimer for the Milestone Award, and “The Walking Dead” producer Gale Ann Hurd for the  David O. Selznick Achievement Award.

Brad Pitt, Dede Gardner and Jeremy Kleiner’s Plan B Entertainment received the Visionary Award presented by Norman Lear. Mark Gordon, producer of “Criminal Minds,” “Grey’s Anatomy” and “Ray Donovan,” received the  Norman Lear Achievement Award in Television.

Jennifer Lawrence received the biggest laughs of the night with her intro of Feltheimer. “Jon has been in this business for longer than I’ve been alive – I love saying that,” she said at one point.