We’ll be posting our predictions a bit later on for both SAG and PGA, but here is a quick rundown of the SAG Awards, coming Sunday night and also being decided without the Oscar nominations having been announced. The SAG Awards are widely watched, which makes them one of the best publicity opportunities for contenders heading into the race. What the winners say at the ceremony will likely help tip the balance in the favor of a contender in a competitive race. Take the year where The Big Short and Spotlight were up against each other as the only two films in the Best Picture race with a SAG ensemble nomination. When Spotlight won, they drove the point home that they were the “good guys,” which helped to get people to push that film higher on the ballots of Oscar voters because they felt they were doing something good with their vote. So whichever contender wins, whichever movies win — watch them for to be driving home the best case for why they should win. Some will play ball, some won’t. Some will be captivating, some won’t.
There are a few places where our frontrunners will go up against each other and the SAG is most definitely one of them. If you imagine that the frontrunners are:
The Shape of Water
Since it seems like an unpredictable race at this point, what we’re really looking for is a Lady Bird vs. Get Out vs. Three Billboards face off in ensemble. And we’re looking for Frances McDormand vs. Saoirse Ronan vs. Sally Hawkins to see what that signals about Best Picture. And we’re looking for Daniel Kaluuya vs. Gary Oldman. I know people will say “what about Timothee!?” And yes, if he wins there that says something about the Best Actor race, but it will say nothing about Best Picture. If Kaluuya surprises and wins there and any other film takes Best Cast, well then you know Get Out has the stuff because the actors are behind it.
The frontrunners in the categories right now are:
Gary Oldman, Darkest Hour — an incomparable work by a veteran actor who has never won an Oscar. It is the best Churchill anyone has ever attempted, and many have. It is more than a “career win,” it’s a masterful work on its own, capping off a brilliant career.
Challengers: Timothee Chalamet, Call Me By Your Name — if a star was born this year, he was it. Daniel Kaluuya who gives a brilliant, if understated performance in Get Out. He does most of it with his eyes, which convey the internal world of the character.
Frances McDormand, Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri — the central performance driving this film through the Oscar race is unprecedented in the modern era where men rule. Complex, angry, contradictory, unapologetic — women are always expected to submit to what the world thinks of them. Even Mildred is getting criticism for not being nice enough, not being remorseful enough. But I’ll tell you this, when there isn’t much left of you after your husband beat the shit out of you for years and someone takes your daughter away? Raped while dying? Yeah, fuck the world.
Challengers: Saoirse Ronan — could win for Lady Bird if it doesn’t win ensemble. Many people are captivated by her confused, fumbling teen finding her way in the world. A charming, versatile actress in one of the year’s most popular films, showing the kind of female empowerment that the younger generations seem inspired by. She gives them hope. Sally Hawkins is sublime in The Shape of Water. She is so good the Oscar race, and the film industry doesn’t deserve her. Hawkins is our best reminder that acting can be art. Margot Robbie could also swoop in and steal this whole thing, too. Her work in I, Tonya is the real deal and her winning for it would certainly lend the kind of glamor awards watchers crave. A surprise win here could seal the deal for the Oscar.
Best Supporting Actor
Sam Rockwell, Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri — although the movie itself is the subject of intense scrutiny by the film community for its cavalier handling of racism and police brutality, there is no question that Rockwell gives an off-the-hook brilliant performance. It is mostly a lead role, which always has an advantage in the race because it’s a fully realized performance, with its own arc.
Challenger: Willem Dafoe remains a threat for his work in The Florida Project. The film and the performance are very real, but he’s won so many awards partly because people like film and want to “give it something” and partly because Dafoe has been such a marvelous actor for so long and also never won an Oscar. Also people just like his performance and his character as protector of children and mothers, good and bad.
Best Supporting Actress
Alison Janney in I, Tonya remains the frontrunner heading into the race. Janney’s brand of evil in I, Tonya is so bad it bleeds into funny. She hates the world, hates almost everyone in it, and tolerates a parrot as her only friend. You can say a lot about this film and this character, but the one thing you can’t say is that she isn’t great in it.
Challenger: Laurie Metcalf in Lady Bird, who remains a threat. At first it seemed like voters would favor her because her character is so sympathetic and nice compared to Janney’s, but it’s harder for her to compete since her performance stems more from a reality-based place rather than a more stylized one.
Best Cast (Ensemble)
Frontrunner — Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri seems to be the frontrunner here because it has four acting nominations. But that doesn’t necessarily mean it will win this. If it does, that’s pretty big. But more likely they will spread the wealth, I figure. If they’re going to give Best Actress and Supporting Actor to Three Billboards, they’re probably going to give ensemble to something else. Last year, Denzel Washington and Viola Davis both won for Fences but Hidden Figures won ensemble. Birdman had three nominations but only took home ensemble. The last time a film won two SAG awards plus ensemble was The Help, the year The Artist went on to win Best Picture at the Oscars. It can happen but it’s rare. Something to keep in mind. Three Billboards is the kind of film that would usually win, however, as it has big names and a bravura cast across the board.
Challenger: Get Out — I think this has a pretty good chance to win here, even though the acting isn’t really what stands out so much as the writing and the directing. Lady Bird could certainly win, as it does have notable performances. It would win, more likely, because of the Time’s Up movement pushing it forward, as they will do for the PGA and Oscar. Hollywood will want to prove that yes, they DO award women. Mudbound is a film that really SHOULD win this, as it really does have the year’s best ensemble, or close to it. But it is a long shot. So is The Big Sick but it’s equally deserving. Great big cast with a few high profile stars is what SAG voters usually go for. I could very well see the voters going for this and giving Three Billboards the two SAG awards.
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