The Screen Actors’ Guild (SAG) Awards, the first and most closely followed of the major guild ceremonies, were presented on the 18th of January. Although it is a smaller affair compared to ceremonies like the Golden Globes, the BAFTAs and the Oscars due to the focus on just the acting categories, it is still a crucial night. Particularly important is the fact that the SAG represents the largest voting bloc in the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, so a win here is a good indicator of Oscar glory.
There were only five categories that were awarded for films – accolades for leading roles for men and women, supporting roles for men and women, and the best on-screen ensemble. Given the overlap of the voting bodies, the acting awards have had a solid track record of predicting future Oscar winners. Of the nineteen years of awards given out prior to 2014, an overwhelming majority of winners went on to win at the bigger show later on.
The categories for Performance in a Supporting Role have had slightly less success, with “only” 11 male winners and 12 female winners going on to win the Oscar. In the Performance in a Leading Role categories, the winning rate has been even higher, with 15 common male and 13 common female winners. In addition to such a high incidence of SAG-Oscar double whammies, two performers won for the same film in different categories. Benecio Del Toro won the SAG’s lead category and the Oscar’s supporting category for Traffic, while Kate Winslet won the SAG’s supporting category and the Oscar’s lead category for The Reader.
Given its extraordinary ability to predict winners so successfully, especially for the main roles, it is no wonder then that Hollywood tends to give the SAGs such importance. As expected, Cate Blanchett won for Outstanding Performance in a Leading Role by a Female Actor and Jaret Leto won for Outstanding Performance in a Supporting Role by a Male Actor. Astonishingly, this was Blanchett’s 17th win for her work on Blue Jasmine and her SAG result should be a good omen; the last time she won here was for The Aviator, which led to her first Oscar win. Leto’s success similarly cemented his position as Oscar front-runner and, thankfully, his speech was a huge step up from the cringe-fest he delivered at the Golden Globes. Back then, he decided to talk about waxing his body hair; this time, he focused on the tragic circumstances faced by the trans* community and, while it was not pitch perfect, it was a good way to brush up for a potential Oscar victory speech.
It was a good night for Dallas Buyers Club as Matthew McConaughey scooped up the award for Outstanding Performance in a Leading Role by a Male Actor to go alongside Leto’s win. After having started the season as second best to fellow-SAG nominee Chiwetel Ejiofor, McConaughey suddenly looks like the hot favourite to win at the Oscars as well. Fans of the British actor can take solace from the fact that McConaughey is not nominated at the BAFTAs. Still, it is looking less likely that Ejiofor will pick up a significant win across the pond, which is an absolute shame.
Easily the most hotly contested category of the night was Outstanding Performance in a Supporting Role by a Female Actor. Jennifer Lawrence had won at the Golden Globes, but it was Ejiofor’s 12 Years a Slave co-star Lupita Nyong’o who came away with the win here. The result was met with roaring applause, Lawrence herself leading a standing ovation for the overwhelmed victor. Nyong’o’s speech was endearing too; she recounted to the audience how she had told her father she would be working with Brad Pitt, to which he responded, “I don’t know him personally but I’m glad you got a job!” The win makes the Kenyan born actress the slight frontrunner for the Oscars, but given the fact that she is the only SAG winner not to have won at the Golden Globes as well, her victory is not necessarily assured.
The award for Outstanding Performance by a Cast in a Motion Picture was perhaps the least indicative of Oscar success in the equivalent category of Best Picture. Unlike at other awards, which reward the overall quality of the film including its direction and production value, the SAG award focuses solely on the acting and its ensemble nature. This explains why Gravity was not nominated, for instance, as it only has two cast members who appear on screen for a significant amount of time. With that in mind, it was no surprise that American Hustle took home the trophy; the sheer talent of its cast was enough to guarantee it a win, never mind their actual performances.
With the SAGs wrapping up, the awards season will take a bit of a break now. There are still other guild awards to be given out, which the blog cover albeit in less detail, but the next big stop is not until the BAFTAs in February. Then again, the Golden Raspberry Award nominations were recently announced, so there is still plenty to write about.