If you were hoping for the Screen Actors Guild to help sort out the eventual Oscar nominees, well, there's good news and there is bad news. The good news is that the acting races have been further cemented in stone and should make it easy enough for the prognosticators to make their eventual choices. The bad news is that the acting races have been further cemented in stone leaving little room for surprises and the potential clunk of some really uninspired selections.
Starting with lead actor we have favorites Jeff Bridges (Crazy Heart), George Clooney (Up In The Air), Morgan Freeman (Invictus) and Colin Firth (A Single Man) all receiving nominations from SAG as well as the BFCA and the Globes. Right in line with SAG's current decade rate of seeing 40 of their last 50 nominees for Best Actor get nominated. 80%, averaging one a year to be dropped off the list. The fifth SAG nominee is the welcome Jeremy Renner (The Hurt Locker). He was one of the six BFCA predictions, I mean, choices, but was left off the Globes list in favor of Tobey Maguire (Brothers). The BFCA's sixth choice was Viggo Mortensen (The Road) who was also nominated by the D.C. critics while Renner to date has won over the critics from Boston and Las Vegas and is still in the running from D.C., St. Louis and Chicago.
Arguably the best performance in the bunch, leaving him as the odd man out would be a crime. Then again so are the fading chances for other potential nominees from the early lists. Michael Stuhlbarg (A Serious Man) is up for awards from Chicago and the Globes while Matt Damon despite nods for his work in The Informant! from both of those groups along with Detroit is seeing his double-dip this year shifting to a body-of-work nomination in the more recent and less interesting role of Rugby captain Francois Pienaar from Invictus.
Best Actress is where the SAG awards really shine though. Since 1999, only four of their nominees - Patricia Clarkson (2003's The Station Agent), Evan Rachel Wood (2003's Thirteen), Zhang Ziyi (2005's Memoirs of a Geisha), Angelina Jolie (2007's A Mighty Heart) - did not go onto an Oscar nod. Five if you count that they picked Kate Winslet for Revolutionary Road and she was nominated for The Reader (which SAG, like most others, had her in Supporting.) OK, six if you want to get technical when they put Jennifer Connelly (A Beautiful Mind) into the lead category. But she WAS nominated in Supporting and won the Oscar, so only five then. This year SAG continued with the three locks - Carey Mulligan (An Education), Gabourey Sidibe (Precious) and Meryl Streep (Julie & Julia).
They then reinforced the chance that current box office queen, Sandra Bullock, is going to be nominated for The Blind Side. Yes, the actress who once turned down Million Dollar Baby has received nominations from SAG, the Globes and the BFCA for going blonde in a dumbed down version of Julia Roberts' real-life counterpart in Charlie Wilson's War. SAG also loved the histrionics of Helen Mirren's work as Mrs. Tolstoy in The Last Station, giving her some much needed momentum. Remember, five times in the last ten years, SAG has been a perfect 5-for-5 match in this category and that's bad news for Marion Cotillard (Nine) , who is getting nods in Lead and Supporting currently, Saorise Ronan (The Lovely Bones), Abbie Cornish (Bright Star) and longshot Maya Rudolph (Away We Go). Any serious critic want to argue that any of those four performances aren't more worthy than Bullock? Sorry, Pete Hammond, I said serious.
The nominees for Supporting Actress are in the same both as the leading Actors. Averaging just one miss a year since 1999, it may not be too hard to pick out the odd lady out playing by those rules. Both of the Up In The Air gals, Vera Farmiga and Anna Kendrick, are in the running again against Mo'Nique Dearest for Precious. In the fourth slot we have Penelope Cruz (Nine), a performance also nominated by the Golden Globes but snubbed by both the BFCA and Chicago critics. Cruz's last two nominations from SAG (Volver & Vicky Cristina Barcelona) did go onto Oscar nods, including a victory for the latter in 2008.
The Actors though went not with Melanie Laurent from Quentin Tarantino's Inglourious Basterds, another performance figuring into both Lead and Supporting, but with Diane Kruger receiving her very first mention of this awards season. And quite possibly her last. Looking at the Golden Globes' five choices it's easy to jump to the conclusion that we are looking at the five Oscar nominees. It just looks right. Their fifth choice was Julianne Moore (A Single Man) who was also tapped by Chicago, D.C. and the BFCA. We also can't completely dismiss Samantha Morton (The Messenger) who won in San Diego and has pending noms from D.C., St. Louis and the BFCA. Could both sneak in and take Cruz out of the equation? One thing's nearly for certain - Miss Kruger is not going to fit into that equation.
Where there is more room for error is in the Supporting Actor realm. Hitting their lowest, while still very respectable percentage (76%) over the last ten years, the SAGs have some glaring omissions from this year's list. Christoph Waltz (Inglourious Basterds), Stanley Tucci (The Lovely Bones) and Woody Harrelson (The Messenger) are your awards/nominations leaders for the season and continue their march towards Oscar nods. As mentioned earlier, perhaps to equally honor and free up space in the crowded Lead Actor category, Matt Damon is picking up steam for Invictus, receiving nods from SAG, the Globes and the BFCA. And those groups only. SAG's fifth spot went to Christopher Plummer (The Last Station), echoing the five nominations from the Hollywood Foreign Press.
The BFCA had the top four and then gave themselves a better shot at calling the Oscar list in nominating Christian McKay (Me and Orson Welles) and Alfred Molina (An Education). Chicago liked McKay but presented their fifth slot to underdog Peter Capaldi (In The Loop). Harrelson and McKay are the only ones who have stolen an award from Waltz to this point. The 76% suggests the SAGs can either push four to Oscar or maybe only three. Since they began handing out awards in 1994, the Screen Actors Guild have NEVER matched up Supporting Actor 5-for-5 with Oscar. For whom is this good and bad news for though?
As for the Ensemble category which some like to look upon as an indicator of Best Picture, well, it's less meaningful than what may have been built up in your mind. Just 34 of the last 51 Ensemble nominees were up for Best Picture. 66%. That being said, An Education, The Hurt Locker, Inglourious Basterds, Nine and Precious all look pretty solid at the moment. You can see the full Awards Tally here.