SAG Awards Results and What They Mean for the Oscars

sag-awards-2016

This past weekend the Screen Actors Guild handed out their yearly awards for film and television acting. I have updated the Oscar Predictions page to reflect what we’ve learned.

But really, what have we learned? Well, Saturday’s winners went something like this:

Film
Ensemble – Spotlight
Actor – Leonardo DiCaprio, The Revenant
Actress – Brie Larson, Room
Supporting Actor – Idris Elba, Beasts of No Nation
Supporting Actress – Alicia Vikander, The Danish Girl
Stunt Ensemble – Mad Max: Fury Road

TV
Ensemble, Drama – Downton Abbey
Actress, Drama Series – Viola Davis, How to Get Away with Murder
Actor, Drama Series – Kevin Spacey, House of Cards
Ensemble, Comedy Series – Orange is the New Black
Actress, Comedy Series – Uzo Aduba, Orange is the New Black
Actor, Comedy Series – Jeffrey Tambor, Transparent
Actress, TV Movie/Mini-Series – Queen Latifah, Bessie
Actor, TV Movie/Mini-Series – Idris Elba, Luther
Stunt Ensemble – Game of Thrones

This diverse list stands in stark – seemingly deliberate – contrast to the current list of Oscar nominees and the #OscarsSoWhite controversy that has surrounded them. Those who defend the nominations by arguing that “maybe all of the best performances actually just happened to be from white actors this year” – yes, some people actually said that – were answered by Idris Elba’s not one but TWO trophies.

As for those Oscars and their eventual outcome, that Supporting Actor win interestingly gives us our biggest clue, despite Elba not being nominated. Historically, even when the nominees don’t line up exactly, SAG has always given it’s trophies to actors who were also nominated for Oscar. In this case that should’ve been Mark Rylance or Christian Bale. The fact that they lost tells us that their candidacies are not a strong as we once thought. Had either of them won, they would’ve been a strong threat to the current Oscar frontrunner, Sylvester Stallone. But since he doesn’t have to worry about competition from Elba, Sly actually gets a boost from this win.

Supporting Actress has been a pretty close race between Alicia Vikander and Rooney Mara. Both are actually lead roles relegated the supporting category, a fact that helps nominees more often than not. (There’s a slight threat from Golden Globe winner Kate Winslet, but while her presence is more likely to pull votes away from the two leads, it’s not clear who actually benefits more from this.) But Vikander’s win this weekend, combined with actually giving two awards-worthy performances this year, gives her a solid lead above the rest.

Leonardo DiCaprio and Brie Larsen have been frontrunners in the lead categories most of this race. While Saoirse Ronan may have had a little bit of heat from the early season, SAG essentially just gave our leads a platform to practice their Oscar speeches.

The most interesting result was Spotlight.

Spotlight

The Ensemble award is SAG’s equivalent to Best Picture. Spotlight was the presumed frontrunner until The Big Short took the PGA a couple weeks ago. The two had pretty much the same precursors leading up to that, except for Spotlight curiously missing out on an ACE Eddie nomination. Still, it’s a far more universally well-liked movie. It has no drawbacks and offends absolutely no one. That’s the kind of thing that usually does win with the preferential balloting system used by exactly two groups: the PGA and the Oscars’ Best Picture.

Since the Oscars started using the preferential ballot for Best Picture 6 years ago, they have matched the PGA every single year. Since The Big Short came out ahead with the PGA, it moved pretty solidly into the lead. It’s a very strong statistic, and one that may yet hold, despite the latest development.

But Spotlight‘s SAG win does make things interesting. It clearly has a great deal of support, and would make a great winner. Honestly either one could still take Best Picture. So now we look to next week’s Director’s Guild Awards for a little clarity. The DGA have been a very reliable stat for the Best Picture Oscar (even moreso than Best Director) for a much longer time than the recent PGA matchups.

But if the DGA goes as I suspect it might, things could remain just as up in the air as they are now.

In terms of shear numbers, this year is dominated by two major epic films: The Revenant and Mad Max: Fury Road. With 12 and 10 nominations respectively, they are going head to head in every viable category, except the the former’s two acting nods. Both are serious threats. Well, for director anyway. They are both unlikely to win Best Picture because of a surprisingly important stat: Since the SAG awards have existed, no film has won the Oscar for BP without at least a SAG Ensemble nomination. That’s something neither of these epics has. In fact, The Big Short and Spotlight are the only movies this year with this qualification.

The closest we’ve come to breaking that is when Gravity tied for the PGA and won the DGA and the Oscar for Directing. But even that eventually lost Picture to it’s PGA co-champ 12 Years a Slave.

But while The Revenant and Mad Max are unlikely to win the big prize they are still major threats for directing and for DGA. Or at least one of them is. Unfortunately for The Revenant, that director’s last film, Birdman, just swept the entire awards season, including the Oscars last year. While there’s a lot of passion for his new film, it doesn’t have that kind of inevitability it would need for Alejandro G. Iñarritu to win two years in a row.

That leaves George Miller and Mad Max.

Mad Max Fury Road sniper

In recent years visual and technical marvels Gravity and Life of Pi have had success in directing awards despite not winning Best Picture. I believe George Miller is in this camp, and I believe he’s got enough precursor wins to prove it. That’s why I think Mad Max: Fury Road will win the DGA and eventually the Oscar for Best Director.

But if he does win the DGA, it will only confuse the Best Picture race even further. If the 3 biggest and most important precursors go to 3 different films, who has the edge?

Hard to say. But for now I’m going with that PGA stat and sticking with The Big Short.

Once again, check the Oscar Predictions page for the most recent updates. You can also click the Oscar 2016 menu link at the top of the page for more Oscar information.

Oscar statues

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