Pete Hammond

In an intriguing move, the Producers Guild of America decided suddenly to move its annual PGA Awards nomination announcement up a day and put out the list shortly after 2 PM PT this afternoon — instead of the originally scheduled time tomorrow. Whatever the reason for jumping the gun, it could impact the Oscar race as the Academy extended its own voting period 24 hours to a 5 PM deadline Friday instead of Thursday, as originally planned, and the PGA choices could be influential for last-minute Oscar voters rushing to see everything and get their ballots in. In the new world of online voting for the Academy, this two-day window could be important, and I will bet the PGA was aware of that when they decided to unleash their choices today.

Related: PGA Awards Nominations Announced

If that’s the case, the PGA’s 10 nominations for Best Picture — or as the guild calls it, the Darryl F. Zanuck Award for Outstanding Producer of Theatrical Motion Pictures — provided no real surprises. All 10 picks — Argo, Beasts Of The Southern Wild, Django Unchained, Les Miserables, Life Of Pi, Lincoln, Moonrise Kingdom, Silver Linings Playbook, Skyfall and Zero Dark Thirty — are the most likely contenders to score at the Oscars according to most prognosticator predictions. It’s particularly good news for Quentin Tarantino’s bloody and controversial Django Unchained, as the film was one of the last to be screened in 2012 and was the only one that reportedly did not benefit by having a screener sent to the PGA membership, the reason widely blamed for its AWOL status in the SAG Awards nominations announced in mid-December.

One film left off, Sony Pictures Classics’ Amour, is not a shocker since smaller foreign-language entries rarely make the PGA list. It would seem the most likely to replace one of the PGA nominees when the Oscar list is announced January 10. Other films missing from the list like Flight, The Impossible and The Master have seen momentum stalled with poor showings in critics and other precursor awards. The only slight surprise for me was the omission of big moneymaker The Dark Knight Rises since the PGA, being producers after all, do like to reward financial bonanzas and the film was the last of Christopher Nolan’s enormously profitable and critically acclaimed Batman trilogy for Warner Bros. The PGA also had previously nominated 2008′s The Dark Knight for their top honor even when the group had only five nominations; Oscar failed to follow suit and passed it by for a Best Pic nod that year. The move prompted the Academy to move to 10 nominations the next year to (hopefully) include more popular films in their Best Picture lineup.

The top moneymaker of 2012, Marvel’s The Avengers, was also passed over by the PGA this year, but that blockbuster has not figured in many Best Picture discussions. Avengers and Dark Knight Rises were No. 1 and No. 2 worldwide for the year. Another recently minted billion-dollar grosser, Skyfall, did make the list, becoming the first James Bond film to receive this type of honor from the PGA, a move that bodes well for a possible first-ever Best Picture Oscar nomination for a Bond movie.

The PGA also vets eligible producers for the Academy Awards process, so its list of nominees — especially since both groups went to 10 contenders in 2009 (the Academy has since amended that to a possible Best Pic list of anywhere from 5 to 10, while the PGA stuck with 10) — have tended to mirror each other. Of course, the Academy doesn’t necessarily have to name 10 films anymore, so the correlation is not exactly foolproof.  In any event, the PGA’s final winner has been a strong harbinger of Academy sentiments including last year when both groups went for The Artist.  In 2009, the PGA turned heads when they chose The Hurt Locker, the lowest-grossing  film among their nominees that year, over big December release Avatar, which was coming off a Golden Globe victory and became the highest-grossing film of all time. That win gave the “little engine that could” Hurt Locker, a June release to boot, strong momentum that took it all the way to the Oscars and a Best Pic triumph. In 2010, after The Social Network swept virtually every precursor award including the Golden Globes, the PGA pulled off another shocker and chose The King’s Speech instead for its top prize, a move that gave that film the momentum to continue all the way to a Best Picture win at the Oscars.

The PGA’s choices this year are also good news for the major studios as Warner Bros, Disney, Fox, Universal and Sony have all come back with a vengeance in terms of genuine awards contenders. Sony has real reason to celebrate with three films out of the 10: Zero Dark Thirty; Skyfall; and Django, for which they have international rights (Weinstein has domestic).

With the race as tight as this year’s Best Picture contest is, will the PGA have another shocker in store when the envelope is opened January 26th? It will be the first guild awards to be handed out (SAG follows the next night), and that is very important as the guild awards — with their similarities to the Academy membership and peer group voting — are key indicators of the way Oscars usually go. The PGA could either cement a solid frontrunner or throw the contest into further chaos. Fun stuff to watch as the season progresses.

Related: PGA Awards TV: ‘Homeland’, ‘Downton Abbey’ And ‘Louie’ Enter Series Fray

Awards Columnist Pete Hammond - tip him here.