Hollywood's producers named "Nomadland" the year's best film at their virtual prizegiving on Wednesday-a prestigious award that revs up the US road movie's status as the firm Oscars favorite. Disney-owned Searchlight's intimate portrayal of semi-retired Americans living off the grid in worn-out vans already has a Golden Globe in its glovebox, and again sped past streaming rivals like Netflix's "The Trial of the Chicago 7" and "Mank" in an award season transformed by COVID-19. "In a year where we have all been leading such isolated lives and movies felt so vital, we are proud to have produced a film about community, and what connects us," said producer Peter Spears.

The annual Producers Guild of America (PGA) Awards, chosen by the 8,000-odd Hollywood movers and shakers of the producers' union, have predicted 10 of the past 13 winners of the Academy Award for best picture. Earlier in the largely pre-recorded show, Charlene Swankie-one of several real-life nomads who plays a fictionalized version of herself in the film-said inviting director Chloe Zhao and star Frances McDormand into their world had been "a special road trip" that was eye-opening for all parties. "If you were to ask me last year what the PGA was, I would have said it was a golf organization," she joked.

'Thank you very much'

With movie theaters only beginning to reopen in Los Angeles last week after a year of Covid-19 restrictions, streaming services had been widely tipped to supplant the traditional Hollywood studios this award season. Netflix and Amazon alone bagged more than half the film nominations chosen by the PGA this year, but the night's top prize went to a movie produced by Searchlight, the arthouse label Disney recently acquired from Fox. Disney's existential jazz adventure "Soul" continued its sweep of this year's animated film prizes, while the filmed Broadway performance of "Hamilton" airing on its Disney+ streaming service won the PGA's best televised motion picture.

But Netflix's aquatic wildlife feature "My Octopus Teacher" bolstered its Oscar hopes by winning best documentary. The streaming giant also dominated the main television categories, with zeitgeisty chess drama "The Queen's Gambit" winning best limited series and the latest series of British royals saga "The Crown" named best drama. "The Last Dance," Netflix's co-production with ESPN about basketball superstar Michael Jordan, won best non-fiction show.

The final season of "Schitt's Creek" won best comedy, while HBO's "Last Week Tonight" was named best talk show for a sixth consecutive year. Host John Oliver used his pre-taped acceptance speech to poke fun at the night's unusual format. "Thank you very much for this, it means a great deal," he said. "If we have won, that is of course... if we haven't won, please destroy this." - AFP