by Daniel Kenealy
The Screen Actors Guild is perhaps the strongest litmus test of the general feeling of the awards community. The Globes can often stray toward nominating big star names and trying to bolster flagging films with an international flavor. The PGA have always been a little ‘commercially minded’. Strangely, it is not the Cast Performance award at SAG that provides the litmus – this category does what it says on the tin more often than people appreciate – but the individual acting nominations that can tell us where the stocks of individual movies and performances sit.
Tomorrow the SAG will unveil nominations in five motion picture categories and they will hopefully inject a little clarity into the supporting races. One way or another some serious Oscar prospects will be omitted from the lead acting lineups. This is down to the difference in the ‘spreads’ of the lead categories versus the supporting categories. There are seven legitimate contenders in both lead categories and the SAG probably won’t serve as a game-changer for any of them. In the supporting categories however the spread is wider and thus SAG nominations are, arguably, more beneficial.
One film to watch for tomorrow morning is ‘The Dark Knight’. If, as I suspect, Heath Ledger is the sole nomination for the film then I will be seriously reconsidering its Oscar prospects. Even if ‘The Dark Knight’ does score just a single nomination I still expect it to score PGA and DGA nominations – the former based on its commercial success and the latter based on the genuine vision that Chris Nolan brought to the project. On the other hand, if it gains a Cast Performance nomination, which is not out of the question, then it will become a much safer bet for a Best Picture nomination at the Academy Awards.
Another film with a lot riding on tomorrow’s announcement is ‘Revolutionary Road’. The Globes bolstered it but the SAG could really revive it with a Cast Performance nomination. Individual members of the cast will also be eagerly anticipating the announcement with DiCaprio and Winslet looking to capitalize on their Globe nominations and supporting player Michael Shannon looking to get the ball rolling on his awards season (in what was a terrific performance).
I also expect Oscar favorite “Milk” to make a comeback of sorts with four nominations at SAG. As “Milk”‘s stock rises I anticipate a slight slump for “Benjamin Button” and “Slumdog Millionaire”, both of which could wind up represented in the Cast Performance category solely. Pitt and Blanchett are both serious contenders but their movie might not be the hit with actors that it is likely to be with those from technical branches. “Slumdog” could end up empty-handed tomorrow morning although I have the feeling SAG will be unable to resist throwing it ‘something’.
So, onto the predictions with an alternate and a wildcard in each category for good measure …
BEST PERFORMANCE BY A MALE ACTOR IN A LEADING ROLE
Sean Penn, Mickey Rourke, and Frank Langella are likely as sure for nominations here as at the Academy Awards. Similarly, the last two slots remain up for grabs between four performers – Leonardo DiCaprio, Brad Pitt, Clint Eastwood, and Richard Jenkins. My feeling is that DiCaprio and Jenkins will make the lineup but I justify my selections negatively, i.e. by outlining why I feel Eastwood and Pitt will miss out. In the case of Clint the SAG is perhaps cooler towards this ‘legend’ than the Academy – they failed to nominate him for ‘Million Dollar Baby’ – and his turn in ‘Gran Torino’ is far from a stretch. And I feel that Pitt might be snubbed due the lavish makeup and effects that ‘aid’ (or ‘facilitate’, whichever you prefer) his performance. DiCaprio and Jenkins deliver performances that I feel their peers will appreciate. DiCaprio is simply sensational and quite raw whilst Jenkins is the sort of character actor that the SAG voting body will surely want to embrace.
1. Sean Penn (“Milk”)
2. Mickey Rourke (“The Wrestler”)
3. Frank Langella (“Frost/Nixon”)
4. Leonardo DiCaprio (“Revolutionary Road”)
5. Richard Jenkins (“The Visitor”)
6. Brad Pitt (“The Curious Case of Benjamin Button”)
W/C. Josh Brolin (“W.”)
BEST PERFORMANCE BY A FEMALE ACTOR IN A LEADING ROLE
It seems that only Meryl Streep is safe now in this category for her searing performance in “Doubt”. I’m rounding of the list with my current slate of Oscar predictions. Unfortunately, I feel that Kristin Scott Thomas may struggle at SAG because her film is independent and likely not as widely seen as others. Similarly, Melissa Leo will struggle to make this list in my opinion. Yes, her peers will admire her performance and her career and may wish to recognize her grafting. But the film remains exceptionally small and the performance exceptionally bleak and that double-whammy will probably keep her out of the running both here and at the Academy Awards. So my predictions are Hathaway who has arrived this year with a truly outstanding leading performance; Winslet who actors simply adore starring in a film that actors may be predisposed to liking; Jolie whose performance truly dominates a fairly ‘big’ film and represents a comeback of sorts; and Hawkins who I reckon fellow actors will embrace, much like the NYFCC and the LAFCA.
1. Meryl Streep (“Doubt”)
2. Anne Hathaway (“Rachel Getting Married”)
3. Kate Winslet (“Revolutionary Road”)
4. Angelina Jolie (“Changeling”)
5. Sally Hawkins (“Happy Go-Lucky”)
6. Cate Blanchett (“The Curious Case of Benjamin Button”)
W/C. Melissa Leo (“Frozen River”)
BEST PERFORMANCE BY A MALE ACTOR IN A SUPPORTING ROLE
Aside from the obvious nominees – Heath Ledger and Philip Seymour Hoffman – I sense a comeback for “Milk” after the barren Golden Globe shortlist and predict a double-whammy for Josh Brolin and James Franco (who has had a strong year with “Pineapple Express” to boot). My final prediction is Robert Downey, Jr. although I make it through gritted teeth. I actually hope, and I think its a slim possibility, that the will be snubbed tomorrow. I am bound to be attacked for this but I did not get either the film or the performance and I hope the Academy gets serious and ditches him from their lineup (ok, rant over …). If “Revolutionary Road” makes a sensational comeback then Michael Shannon could enter the race with a high profile nomination. Golden Globe nominee Ralph Fiennes is a possible candidate also but I feel confident in asserting that Tom Cruise will not make the cut!
1. Heath Ledger (“The Dark Knight”)
2. Josh Brolin (“Milk”)
3. Philip Seymour Hoffman (“Doubt”)
4. James Franco (“Milk”)
5. Robert Downey, Jr. (“Tropic Thunder”)
6. Michael Shannon (“Revolutionary Road”)
W/C. Eddie Marsan (“Happy Go-Lucky”)
BEST PERFORMANCE BY A FEMALE ACTOR IN A SUPPORTING ROLE
Penelope Cruz is a sure thing and, despite a performance that runs to just five minutes, Viola Davis seems safe also. After that I am desperately seeking some clarity from SAG. I expect that “Doubt” – a movie that actors may be predisposed toward – will score nominations for the entire cast and so chalk Amy Adams in. Rounding out the list are two solid supporting performances from Marisa Tomei, based on a combination of Rourke’s coattails and their general respect for her; and DeWitt who I feel is ripe for a comeback following her recent snubs. Other contenders include Kate Winslet, Taraji P. Henson, and Kathy Bates who could be wildcard as a respected veteran back in an Oscar-buzzed role for the first time in some years.
1. Penelope Cruz (“Vicky Cristina Barcelona”)
2. Viola Davis (“Doubt”)
3. Marisa Tomei (“The Wrestler”)
4. Amy Adams (“Doubt”)
5. Rosemarie DeWitt (“Rachel Getting Married”)
6. Kate Winslet (“The Reader”)
W/C. Kathy Bates (“Revolutionary Road”)
BEST PERFORMANCE BY THE CAST OF A MOTION PICTURE
I feel that the SAG voters will be unable to resist throwing something at ‘Slumdog Millionaire” and this seems like the only category where it stands a chance – aside from the very slim prospects of Dev Patel. Oscar-probables “Milk” and “Benjamin Button” are safe(ish) bets here whilst “Doubt”, “Rachel Getting Married”, and “Revolutionary Road” all represent solid ensembles with a good blend of big names and solid supporting players. “Doubt” is on track to have its entire cast nominated so it’s hard to bet against it here. “Rachel Getting Married” is possibly the most buzzed about genuine ‘ensemble’ of the year. Other possibilities include “The Reader”, “The Dark Knight”, and “Frost/Nixon”. My wildcard prospect is “Mamma Mia” given the sporadic success of musicals and over-the-top comedies here in the past although “Burn After Reading” is also possible.
3. “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button”
4. “Rachel Getting Married”
5. “Revolutionary Road”
6. “Slumdog Millionaire”
W/C. “Mamma Mia!”
“Doubt” – 5
“Milk” – 4
“Rachel Getting Married” – 3
“Revolutionary Road” – 3
“The Wrestler” – 2