More often than not the SAG Awards turn out to be a very good barometer of future Oscar success. If that continues to be the case this year then things are looking awfully good for Matthew McConaughey, Cate Blanchett, Jared Leto, Lupita Nyong’o and American Hustle, the latter winning the Outstanding Cast award which is sometimes a harbinger of Best Picture success — as it was last year when the cast of Argo won. Being the first major guild awards of the season, SAG is extremely significant in that it means we have turned the corner from critics awards and moved into peer voting. Guilds traditionally are the best indicators of where the Oscar winds may be blowing, so with the SAG results (on top of wins earlier in the week at the Golden Globes and Critics Choice Movie Awards) there can be no doubt McConaughey and Blanchett are clear frontrunners to take those lead Actor and Actress Oscars. At this point it just doesn’t appear Blanchett can be beaten — and she still has BAFTA to go before the Academy opens its envelopes on March 2nd. She is a favorite there too. Could Judi Dench for Philomena sneak up and steal her thunder? It’s happened before at BAFTA (being held February 16). That’s where Marion Cotillard made a late-inning run all the way to Oscar after losing to Julie Christie earlier in the season. Can Sandra Bullock turn around the Blanchett steamroller? Could be very tough right now. It looks like Cate’s year, and SAG just added more heat. Plus she delivers a great acceptance speech (“You’re giving me only 29 seconds after Matthew McConaughey was just up here talking about Neptune???”)
As for McConaughey (whose speeches also have been terrific), his film Dallas Buyers Club has yet to open in England even though it was eligible for BAFTA nominations. It didn’t get any, and so after taking the Globe, CCMA and now the all-important SAG Award — all this week — he’s got to wait until the Oscars to see if the momentum can continue. I would say his biggest rival right now is Leonardo DiCaprio, who is nominated for lead actor at BAFTA opposite Bruce Dern, a sentimental favorite for Nebraska who has lost to McConaghey three times this week (as have two other BAFTA nominees, Tom Hanks and Chiwetel Ejiofor). But DiCaprio did win on the comedy side at the Globes and CCMAs and has been gaining his own momentum. A BAFTA win could really help throw some added heat his way for The Wolf Of Wall Street. He wasn’t nominated at SAG primarily because Wolf was barely seen by the SAG nominating committee since it was finished so late in the SAG voting process. It was the only film that also did not send screeners. Wolf and DiCaprio were clearly victims of the insanely early voting deadlines SAG imposes on its members for nominating the best of the year (c’mon SAG, can’t you wait a couple of weeks like the other guilds?). It should be a cautionary note that last year’s Best Supporting Actor Oscar winner Christoph Waltz was not even nominated at SAG because his film Django Unchained just like Wolf this year was screened so late most on the SAG nom comm didn’t get a chance to see it. On the other hand, McConaughey is also helped by his brilliant cameo opposite DiCaprio near the beginning of Wolf, and there’s still residual fondness for his earlier 2013 release, Mud. It looks like it could be his year, but I am not ready to call this yet. Six weeks is an eternity in an Oscar race.
Related: SAG Awards Winners List
As for the American Hustle win over key rival 12 Years A Slave, it gives that film renewed momentum going into tomorrow night’s big Producers Guild awards, which are going to be very closely watched. The PGA has matched the Oscar-winning Best Picture the past six years in a row so it can’t be discounted. And don’t count out Hustle star Christian Bale, who landed an Oscar nom this week for Best Actor and is nominated in the same category at BAFTA. However he lost to DiCaprio at the Globes and CCMAs for Comedy Actor, so you have to consider that.
SAG cemented Leto as the clear Supporting Actor Oscar frontrunner, a postion he hasn’t ceded since Dallas Buyers Club was released at the beginning of November. And Slave’s Nyong’o has been building a nice head of steam following Thursday’s CCMA win. She’s in a see-saw battle with Globe and New York Film Critics Supporting Actress winner Jennifer Lawrence of Hustle. This, like Best Actor, is going to be a very interesting race to watch going forward. Both will be duking it out for the BAFTA in the same category.
So could these SAG wins tonight, as they often have been in the past 20 years, really be a preview of what we will see at the Oscars? Or with six long weeks left does the Academy have some surprises up its sleeve? The last time SAG and Oscar had a perfect match was 2010, when The King’s Speech took the Cast award and Colin Firth, Natalie Portman, Christian Bale and Melissa Leo were victorious at both shows.
On to the Producers Guild tomorrow night, which will really start to tell the tale. I think.
Awards Columnist Pete Hammond - tip him here.