The science fiction film Gravity has become an 11th hour frontrunner to win the Academy Award for best picture after a stunning, and unprecedented, win at the Producers Guild Awards.
For the first time in 25 years, the Producers Guild awarded two films jointly as best picture: Alfonso Cuarón's Gravity and Steve McQueen's 12 Years a Slave.
The win effectively pushes Gravity into the front line in the race for the Oscars, alongside the two already established race leaders 12 Years a Slave and David O. Russell's American Hustle.
Complicating the game is the fact that the Producers Guild Awards have accurately predicted the best picture Oscar winner for the past six years.
And despite the attention directed towards the Golden Globe Awards, the Producers Guild Awards have better aim generally: in the past 24 years the PGA has been in step with the Academy 17 times.
The last time they differed in opinion was in 2006, when the PGA gave the best picture award to Little Miss Sunshine and the Academy awarded The Departed.
The race for Oscar gold is shaped heavily by a raft of other awards shows held around the same time - Hollywood's so-called "awards season".
The nominations in each category for the Oscars is announced in mid-January, but the final round of voting takes place between February 14 and 15.
As a result, the winning films from other awards shows held in January and February are considered to have an advantage in the race, as those wins can be extremely influential in shaping the opinion of Academy voters.
January's Golden Globe Awards, Screen Actors Guild Awards and Producers Guild Awards have already been held.
There are three more remaining awards shows in the season: February's Writers Guild Awards, Director's Guild Awards and the Independent Spirit Awards.
Of all of those awards shows, the Producers Guild Awards are seen as one of the most influential, which is why the tied win - the first time ever in the 25 year history of the awards - is a huge windfall for Gravity in the Oscar race.
There are nine nominated films in the Oscar best picture category this year: American Hustle, 12 Years a Slave, Gravity, Paul Greengrass' Captain Phillips, Jean-Marc Vallée's Dallas Buyer's Club, Alexander Payne's Nebraska, Stephen Frears' Philomena, Martin Scorsese's The Wolf of Wall Street and Spike Jonze's Her.
The Golden Globes have the hedged bet of two best picture categories: one for "comedy/musical", the other for "drama". This year they awarded American Hustle the former and 12 Years a Slave the latter.
The Screen Actors Guild awards for performance only, but gave its top nods - best actor and best actress - to Dallas Buyer's Club (Matthew McConaughey) and Blue Jasmine (Cate Blanchett).
The Oscars are voted by roughly 6000 members of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences using a secret ballot the results of which are tabulated by the auditing company PricewaterhouseCoopers.
Members vote in their individual disciplines, though all members are eligible to vote the category of best picture.
This year's Oscars will be held in Los Angeles on Sunday, 2 March (Monday, 3 March, NZ time)
- Sydney Morning Herald
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