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The State of the Race: The SAG Awards Make the Race Even More Unpredictable

Here is how I personally measure stats: The big guilds > any other award that precedes them.

What I mean by that is simply this: that Lady Bird and Get Out were shut out from the Best Director race at the Globes makes their fate a wee bit less certain, but having the SAG ensemble nomination means more ultimately than wooing the 90 some-odd members of the HFPA. What matters about the Globes and the SAG awards is that they are the biggest televised events to come before the Oscars, meaning that if you aren’t there, if you aren’t competing, if you aren’t present in an important category so you can’t win in that category, then another movie has the opportunity to overtake you. It’s really as simple as that.

But…

Now we see that (with the exception of the National Board of Review’s Top Ten which omitted the film) Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri, much to my own personal surprise, appears to be the most popular film right now across the board. But I also think that the Best Director race is up in the air, with a good shot for Guillermo del Toro or Christopher Nolan or even Jordan Peele to overtake Martin McDonagh. Maybe it happens, maybe it doesn’t — we’ll need the DGA to tell us that. And we won’t hear from them for a while, until after New Year’s (January 11).

Is there a film that has hit all the markers so far? NBR, AFI, Globes, and SAG? For Best Picture both Get Out and Lady Bird did. Is there a film that hit NBR, AFI, and Globes director/screenplay? No, there isn’t. One of these stats will have to die. And by the way, they aren’t really “forever” stats, any of them. All are vulnerable to being broken, especially this of all years, which so far has been nothing but unpredictable.

Three Billboards appears to be liked by so many different types of folks, with the small exclusion of the NBR. It shocked everyone and won in Toronto, and it was mentioned at the African American Film Critics Awards, which shows a broad spectrum of likability.

With four SAG nominations (and even a Woody Harrelson nomination), Three Billboards might be that zeitgeist movie everyone has been waiting for and it could just start winning at the PGA and not stop. Then again, it might not. It’s an extremely competitive year, with a lot of people rooting for both Jordan Peele and Greta Gerwig. There is a lot of love for Guillermo del Toro’s resplendent The Shape of Water and even Dunkirk has its core fans.

Since SAG is now SAG-AFTRA, we have to take their choices with a wee bit of skepticism in saying “actors rule the Best Picture race.” They do, they always have. The Academy rarely awards films with small casts — they like big casts of many actors. But SAG must not have seen The Post in time because that seemed to be right up their alley. The Post should still do well with PGA/DGA and the Oscars, but, at least in my world, winning Best Picture is a slightly longer shot.

This might be why a late-breaker film has such a hard time winning Best Picture since the Oscars pushed their ceremony up from late March to late February: if there isn’t enough time to get people in front of the movie, to see the movie and build a consensus, it’s all the harder to get the required nominations strongly associated with Best Picture. In contrast, Three Billboards was a Venice/Toronto movie (not a Telluride movie), which gives it plenty of time to be seen.

There are a lot of reasons to think Three Billboards might be our winner, but there are reasons to think it might not be. On the plus side, it is exactly the kind of movie that, if it doesn’t make your number one, it might make your number two or number three (ditto Lady Bird and Get Out). It’s the kind of movie you can mostly sit any group of people down in front of and they’ll get it, they’ll like it, they’ll mostly understand it.

What are the potential problems, you might ask? Well, the preferential ballot is a tricky, complicated thing. Three Billboards has been seen as an underdog, which is good, but if it suddenly becomes divisive, then you might have a situation where another film might surge in its wake. It’s still too soon to say, but if I were this film’s publicity team I’d be pretty happy about these results.

The rundown for Best Picture:

Three Billboards, by default of its four SAG nominations, takes the lead.

The Post, completely shut out from SAG, now needs to build momentum a different way.

Lady Bird has a lot of people rooting for it, and there’s pressure to award a woman filmmaker finally after Kathryn Bigelow became the first ever winner in 2009. The movie is beloved across the board, but it might not have ye old gravitas to pull out an “important” win.

Get Out also has a lot of people rooting for it. It’s a beloved hit across the board, and if Jordan Peele somehow won Best Director he would make history as the first ever black director to win.

The Shape of Water did okay in terms of Sally Hawkins and also netted a nomination for the great Richard Jenkins, but still missed out on the all-important ensemble nomination, which, if you read this site, you would know that is a potential problem in terms of winning Best Picture. However, it was (to my mind) always a long shot in that way, although del Toro and Hawkins remains formidable contenders in their categories.

Call Me By Your Name – I know there is a lot of love for this movie out there, and I know there is heartbreak that Armie Hammer wasn’t nominated, nor Michael Stuhlbarg, nor ensemble. BUT don’t forget, the Academy is a different animal entirely. However, like The Post, The Shape of Water, and Dunkirk, not getting a SAG ensemble nomination makes it a little tougher to pull out a Best Picture win. But anything’s possible.

The Big Sick – SAG gave a nice boost for the movie with 2 nominations. It is a wonderful ensemble and this is a very deserving nomination. Perhaps this will help get it seen by more people and perhaps it makes it into the Best Picture lineup.

Best Actor:

It remains a showdown between Timothee Chalamet and Gary Oldman. Chalamet could be Call Me By Your Name’s big win, if Disaster Artist wins Adapted. I believe Oldman gave the best performance of the year, male or female, and to me he deserves to win for his work. I know many people like Chalamet better — he is great in the film and has a lot of love right now on his way up. But, as I always say, winning an Oscar early in your career isn’t always the best thing — it can be, but it can also cause careers to peak way too soon. Oldman has been consistently delivering one brilliant performance after another ever since he broke out in Sid and Nancy over 30 years ago. I don’t want to hear it from critics on this. I really don’t. So, I remain devoted to Oldman but I am not blind. I can see that Chalamet really has the heat right now. Will that change? I do not know. If they could bottle and sell his charm, they would be billionaires by now.

Best Actress:

I think it’s down to Frances McDormand vs. Saoirse Ronan vs. Sally Hawkins. In that battle. it’s hard for me to imagine McDormand — fierce and unforgettable in Three Billboards — not taking it. BUT Lady Bird is beloved. If Three Billboards wins the big prize, Lady Bird could win other places, like Best Actress or Screenplay.

Supporting Actor and Actress:

Willem Dafoe is going to clean sweep this thing. His only competition is Sam Rockwell, who gives a more realized and fleshed out nearly leading performance. I could see Rockwell winning if Three Billboards continues its upwards momentum swing. Otherwise, it’s Dafoe’s to lose. Laurie Metcalf vs. Alison Janney in supporting is a tough one. Really, *really* tough call. But right now, Metcalf seems to have the momentum. Both women are beloved in the industry. Neither has won an Oscar. Of the two, Metcalf’s character is the more sympathetic, and so she seems to be the one with the best shot to win at the moment.

Director:

This is a tough one. It depends on how this race plays out. Is it a split race, where one director wins something and Best Picture is up for grabs (Moonlight, Spotlight, 12 Years a Slave, Argo) or is it a year where one movie starts winning and takes it all (Birdman, King’s Speech, Hurt Locker)? We just don’t know yet. But presuming it’s a split year, as I said above, I believe Del Toro/Nolan will do battle with Peele/Gerwig, depending on where the buzz shifts. Neither Peele nor Gerwig can win at the Globes, which is the only big director trophy before the DGA (unless you count Critics Choice but I don’t really, not yet). We have no consensus yet for Best Director — the critics groups are, so far, going all over the place. It is going to come down to the DGA to decide this. Hell, Spielberg could even pull off a third Oscar.

All in all, the SAG gave a boost to The Big Sick, which was shut out of the Globes entirely and deserves so much more than what it got, and Mudbound — huzzah for Netflix cracking the SAG five yet again.