The Big Short takes top prize at Producers Guild Awards in Oscars harbinger

A cinema still from The Big Short, starring Christian Bale.
A cinema still from The Big Short, starring Christian Bale. PHOTO: UIP

LOS ANGLES (AFP) - The Big Short won top honours on Saturday at the annual awards ceremony held by the Producers Guild of America, seen as a reliable bellwether of Oscars glory.

The movie, set on the eve of the 2008 global financial meltdown, beat out a number of highly-touted rivals for best movie including The Revenant, Spotlight and The Martian.

Its cast includes Christian Bale, Steve Carell, Ryan Gosling and Brad Pitt.

The PGA has an impressive track record of giving top honours to movies that go on to earn the Best Picture honours at the Academy Awards - including last year's Birdman.

The non-profit PGA is a trade group representing United States film and TV producers. The awards are chosen by its7,000 voting members.

The group also voted to honour the documentary Amy about troubled soul singer Amy Winehouse, who died in 2011 after years of substance abuse.

Pixar's animated movie Inside Out won the award for best animated feature. The Oscars ceremony will be on Feb 28.

But Oscar talk has been overshadowed by a cloud of racial bias since nominees announced earlier this month did not include many actors and directors of colour.

The lack of diversity for a second straight year resurrected the social media hashtag #OscarsSoWhite, and elicited plans for a boycott among A-list actors such as Will Smith and director Spike Lee.

The Big Short producer Dede Gardner acknowledged the issue during her acceptance speech for the evening's top award.

"Yes, we have a real problem, we do. We need to tell stories that reflect our world, our country," Gardner said. She was not alone in acknowledging that film-makers needed to directly confront the troubling issue.

Shonda Rhimes, creator of TV drama Grey's Anatomy,also addressed the need for greater diversity, while PGA president Gary Lucchesi said the industry must"make a conscious decision to challenge the status quo."

The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences responded to the controversy last Friday with a pledge to double its membership of women and minorities by 2020 through an ambitious affirmative action plan, which includes stripping some older members of voting privileges. The changes will not impact this year's Oscar voting.