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What this Morning’s SAG Nominations Mean for the Oscar Race

The Screen Actors Guild announced the nominations for their 25th Annual ceremony and there were surprise inclusions and shocking snubs that may shake up the Oscar race. But the general consensus is that they missed the mark.

Copyright: SAG-AFTRA

Why People Pay Attention to the SAG Awards

Since their inaugural ceremony (held in early 1995 to honor films released in 1994), the Screen Actors Guild Awards have emerged as the single best predictor of the four acting categories at the Oscars. 98% of eventual Oscar winners had a previous SAG nomination for their role and 74% had a previous win. Thus, it is highly unlikely to win the Oscar without a SAG nomination and a win at SAG makes you a solid bet for the Oscar win.

There are a couple of areas in which the SAG is not a great predictor. The first is Best Picture. As SAG is a body that honors actors, it does not have a Best Picture category. Rather, they have an award for Best Ensemble. This award has only overlapped with the Best Picture Oscar 48% of the time. The second is the non-winning nominees that round out the category. Typically, the Oscars sprinkle 1–2 nominees per acting category that missed out on a SAG nomination. Thus, don’t expect that the 20 acting nominees at the Oscars will be a perfect match.

Typically, SAG nominates more mainstream films and bigger stars, while the Oscars go more obscure and artistic for the remaining slots. This is likely due to the nature of their voting bodies. SAG-AFTRA has over 116,000 members and the only criteria is that they are dues-paying union members. The Academy, on the other hand, has only 6,000 members and is invitation-only.

Copyright: Disney/Marvel

Best Picture

Predictive History: In the 23 years that SAG has handed out their Outstanding Ensemble Award (that award wasn’t handed out the first year of the SAG Awards), the winner has overlapped with the Best Picture Oscar winner 11 times. On only two occasions did a Best Picture Oscar winner not receive a nomination in the SAG Ensemble category (1995’s Braveheart and 2017’s The Shape of Water.)

This Year’s Lineup: A Star is Born; Black Panther; BlacKkKlansman; Bohemian Rhapsody; Crazy Rich Asians

Analysis: Again, Best Ensemble tends not to overlap with Best Picture reliably, so the SAG lineup doesn’t tell us too much. What it does tell us is that A Star is Born, Black Panther, and BlacKkKlansman are looking like locks for Best Picture nominations, Bohemian Rhapsody is looking increasingly likely (despite very lukewarm critical reception), and Crazy Rich Asians has an outside chance of surprising with a nomination. What’s more interesting here is what got left out. Despite their critical adoration, Roma and If Beale Street Could Talk were shut out here (and in all categories). That omission puts a Best Picture win for either of them increasingly out of reach (although both will likely still get Best Picture nominations). Ditto for The Favourite, which scored three SAG nominations but missed out here. There’s also the omission of Green Book and Vice, which seem like the type of films that the SAG would go gaga for. And then there’s the sad absence of the acclaimed, all-star thriller Widows, which needed a nomination here to stay alive this Oscar season.

Copyright: Fox Searchlight

Best Actress

Predictive History: The eventual Best Actress Oscar winner triumphed at the SAG awards 18 times in the past 24 years. Every single Best Actress Oscar winner received a prior SAG nomination. However, in one instance they disagreed on category placement. In 2008, Kate Winslet won in Supporting Actress at SAG and then for Best Actress at the Oscars for The Reader.

This Year’s Lineup: Emily Blunt, Mary Poppins Returns; Glenn Close, The Wife; Olivia Colman, The Favourite; Lady Gaga, A Star is Born; Melissa McCarthy, Can You Ever Forgive Me?

Analysis: This could very well be the five women cited in the corresponding Oscar category. However, there is still a possibility that Oscar will omit one (or possibly two) of them in favor of Roma breakout Yalitza Aparicio or critical darlings Toni Collette for Hereditary or Regina Hall for Support the Girls. The most vulnerable are likely to be McCarthy and Blunt. The lack of love from any of the major precursors probably means there is little chance of Nicole Kidman’s acclaimed turn in Destroyer.

Copyright: 20th Century Fox

Best Actor

Predictive History: In the past 24 years, 19 of the Best Actor Oscar winners received a prior SAG nomination. Each of the 24 Best Actor Oscar winners received a SAG nomination.

This Year’s Lineup: Christian Bale, Vice; Bradley Cooper, A Star is Born; Rami Malek, Bohemian Rhapsody; Viggo Mortensen, Green Book; John David Washington, BlacKkKlansman

Analysis: This is a much weaker category than its female counterpart. This could very well be the lineup on Oscar morning, but John David Washington (Denzel’s son, who broke out in Spike Lee’s BlacKkKlansman) seems especially vulnerable. It seems likely he will be replaced with Ethan Hawke, whose performance as a despairing minister in First Reformed is beloved by critics. There is also a small possibility that Ryan Gosling could break in for his portrayal of Neil Armstrong in First Man, but the film has received a serious lack of attention so far this awards season. And then there’s Lucas Hedges, a gifted and prolific young actor whose chances are hurt by having two stellar performances in competition with one another (Boy Erased and Ben is Back).

Copyright: Fox Searchlight

Best Supporting Actress

Predictive History: 18 of the previous 24 Best Supporting Actress Oscar winners previously triumphed at SAG. On only one occasion — Marcia Gay Harden’s win in 2000 for Pollock — did the eventual Oscar winner not receive a SAG nomination. There was another case of category disagreement between the two award bodies in 2001, when SAG nominated Jennifer Connelly in lead for A Beautiful Mind whereas the Oscars nominated her for supporting; she lost the SAG to Halle Berry but won the Oscar.

This Year’s Lineup: Amy Adams, Vice; Emily Blunt, A Quiet Place; Margot Robbie, Mary Queen of Scots; Emma Stone, The Favourite; Rachel Weisz, The Favourite

Analysis: The biggest shock of the morning was Regina King not being nominated for If Beale Street Could Talk after dominating the critics groups’ awards and being the presumed frontrunner. She is still very likely get an Oscar nomination and could still get the win, but this category is a lot more of a race now than it looked yesterday. Amy Adams now seems a lock for the win at SAG and her Oscar chances are majorly boosted (she has 5 Oscar nominations without a win). Although their placement in the supporting category is questionable, previous winners Emma Stone and Rachel Weisz seem like locks for their role in awards season favorite The Favourite. Speaking of category fraud, as good as Emily Blunt was in A Quiet Place its absolutely absurd for her to be in supporting. She is very unlikely to get nominated at the Oscars for this role (she is much more likely for Mary Poppins Returns.) The only other serious contenders for a nomination are Claire Foy as Neil Armstrong’s anguished wife in First Man (but the aforementioned tepid reception of the film hurts her chances), Nicole Kidman in Boy Erased, and Marina de Tavira for Roma (who would be a very deserving nominee and is the kind of out-of-left field choice that the Oscars have made in recent years).

Copyright: Universal

Best Supporting Actor

Predictive History: Of the past 24 Best Supporting Actor Oscar winners, 16 had previously won an Oscar. On only 1 occasion was the eventual Oscar winner not nominated by SAG — Christoph Waltz for Django Unchained in 2012. There was yet another case of category confusion in 2000 with Benicio Del Toro winning for lead actor at SAG and supporting actor at the Oscars for Traffic.

This Year’s Lineup: Mahershala Ali, Green Book; Timothee Chalamet, Beautiful Boy; Adam Driver, BlacKkKlansman; Sam Elliott, A Star is Born; Richard E. Gant, Can You Ever Forgive Me?

Analysis: This could very well be the lineup at the Oscars, but I think Chalamet is particularly vulnerable. He is a gifted actor, but his film was not particularly well-received. It seems likely that his slot will be taken by Michael B. Jordan in Black Panther or last year’s winner Sam Rockwell for playing George W. Bush to Christian Bale’s Dick Cheney in Vice. Like the lead actor category, this category is also much less interesting than its female counterpart this year.

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Key Takeaways from the Television Nominations

Yes, the SAG also does nominations for television! They are always a bit odd as they tend to go for big stars and buzzy streaming hits over quality and don’t have supporting categories (so all actors in a given genre get lumped into a category regardless of role size). Nevertheless, they have made some inspired picks in the past and are still prestigious. Thus, here are some takeaways from the nominations, which can be found in full here.

  • Of the 30 comedy and drama nominees in Ensemble, Lead Actor, and Lead Actress, 20 were from streaming services (spread out among Netflix, Amazon, and Hulu), 8 were from cable (HBO, Fx, and BBC America), and only 2 were from broadcast networks (both for NBC’s This Is Us).
  • Whereas the Golden Globes spread the wealth in its television nominations, the SAG gave multiple nominations to a small selection of shows (only 14 shows were represented among the 30 nominations).
Copyright: Netflix
  • The Kominsky Method, super-producer Chuck Lorre’s new comedy for Netflix starring film icons and Oscar winners Michael Douglas and Alan Arkin has been the big breakout of this award season. Despite low buzz and only moderate reviews, it has been nominated everywhere.
  • Despite very mediocre reviews (it only has a 59/100 average on Metacritic), Netflix’s Ozark scored a whopping four nominations. This is definitely a case of a show that the industry seems to like more than critics (like fellow Netflix shows Grace and Frankie and House of Cards).
  • The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel and Barry’s Emmy wins in September were not an anomaly — the Golden Globes and SAGs followed suit by showering those two shows with nominations.
  • As for the Television Movie/Miniseries nominations, there aren’t too many surprises. Amy Adams and Emma Stone added to the nominations they received for film and Fx’s Assassination of Gianni Versace: American Crime Story and HBO’s Sharp Objects did well as expected.

I will be blogging all throughout awards season, so follow me on Medium and/or Twitter if you want to stay up to date on how things progress.

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Richard

Passionate cinephile. Music lover. Classic TV junkie. Awards season blogger. History buff. Avid traveler. Mental health and social justice advocate.