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‘12 Years a Slave’, ‘Gravity’ up for PGA HFPA warns studios about misleading Golden Globes ads

LOS ANGELES, Jan 3, (RTRS): Hollywood producers nominated slavery drama “12 Years a Slave,” 1970s con-men caper “American Hustle” and space thriller “Gravity” along with seven other films on Thursday for the top Producers Guild Award, a key indicator of sentiment in the race for the best picture Oscar. The other films nominated for outstanding producer in a motion picture were Woody Allen’s tragic comedy “Blue Jasmine,” Somali pirate thriller “Captain Phillips,” AIDS activist drama “Dallas Buyers Club,” quirky computer-age romance “Her,” heartland comedy “Nebraska,” Disney’s making of “Mary Poppins” in “Saving Mr Banks,” and Martin Scorsese’s tale of American greed “Wolf of Wall Street.” Notable snubs included the Coen brothers’ portrayal of the 1960s folk scene “Inside Llewyn Davis” and two films from awards season power player The Weinstein Co — family dysfunction drama “August: Osage County” and civil rights saga “Lee Daniels’ The Butler.”

The Producers Guild Awards will be handed out in a ceremony in Beverly Hills on Jan. 19, six weeks before the March 2 Academy Awards. Oscar nominations will be announced on Jan. 16. The top PGA award can give crucial momentum to a frontrunner. In the last six years, the PGA winner has gone on to win best picture at the Oscars, including last year’s Iran hostage drama “Argo” from director, producer and actor Ben Affleck.

In a highly competitive year for film, “American Hustle,” “Gravity” and “Her” have garnered top critics groups awards. But the unflinching portrayal of pre-Civil War slavery from British director and producer Steve McQueen in “12 Years a Slave” is also considered a best picture frontrunner and leads nominations for the Jan. 12 Golden Globe awards alongside “American Hustle” with seven nods a piece. Megan Ellison, the daughter of Silicon Valley billionaire and Oracle Corp. co-founder Larry Ellison, is a double nominee this year for “American Hustle” from Columbia Pictures and “Her” from Warner Bros Pictures. The 27-year-old Ellison, through her production company Annapurna Pictures, has emerged as a notable force in Hollywood by backing recent successes like “Zero Dark Thirty” and Western remake “True Grit.” Time Warner Inc’s Warner Bros., Sony Corp’s Columbia and Viacom Inc’s Paramount Pictures each had two nominees in the list of 10 motion pictures. In the animation category, the Producers Guild nominated five films for outstanding producer — “The Croods,” “Despicable Me 2,” “Epic,” “Frozen” and “Monsters University.”

The president of the Hollywood Foreign Press Association has sent an email to awards campaigners asking them to refrain from identifying Golden Globe nominees as “winners” in their advertising. Although HFPA president Theo Kingma does not identify any culprits in his letter, the Weinstein Co. and Fox Searchlight have both run ads calling the Weinstein titles “August: Osage County” and “Philomena” and Searchlight’s “12 Years a Slave” winners of nominations. Kingma told TheWrap that the email was sent on Tuesday afternoon to “a select group of publicists we work with throughout the year.” After stating that it is “entirely appropriate” to reference Globe nominations in ads, Kingma wrote in the email, “ e have recently seen several instances in which the word ‘Winner’ was used too prominently in publicity and advertising to describe nominees. “While earning a nomination is certainly an honor and one to be celebrated, it is not a ‘win’ and using that term or terms similar to it is likely to mislead the public and diminish the excitement around the awards show, when the winners will be revealed.” Just before Christmas, Weinstein began running television ads that referred to “August: Osage County” and “Philomena” as winning Globe nominations (below) — and in onscreen graphics, the word “WINNER” appeared in much larger type than “NOMINEE” or “NOMINATION.” Fox Searchlight has run similar ads on behalf of “12 Years a Slave,” with the word “WINNER” in far bigger type than “NOMINEE.”

The ads were first singled out by the Franklin Avenue blog. Kingma’s letter does not specifically reference the Weinstein or Searchlight ads, but only says that the organization wants to remind campaigners of “the proper scope of advertising and publicity related to Golden Globe Awards nominations and awards.”  The Academy specifically prohibits that kind of wording in Oscar ads, but the Globes do not have as rigorous a set of campaign guidelines. Other recent ads that use varying type sizes to stretch the limits of acceptability include some that feature “GOLDEN GLOBE AWARD” in large type over the word “NOMINEE” in tiny type; ads of that sort have recently appeared for TWC’s “Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom” and Sony Pictures Classics’ “The Past.”  But neither used the word “winner” to describe the recipient of a nomination. An HFPA spokesperson told TheWrap that Kingma has spoken to Harvey Weinstein, and the Weinstein Co. confirmed that all of their offending ads will be pulled this week.

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