Screen Actors Guild Awards offer clues on possible Oscar winners
By Eleanor Ringel Cater
Here’s the thing about something like the Screen Actors Guild Awards, which were handed out Sunday. Do you review the show itself or do you review the results and what they might bode for the Oscars, which happen on March 27?
Well, why not a bit of both…
The SAG Awards matter as an Academy Award prognosticator mostly because the Academy’s largest branch, by far, is comprised of actors. Sure, it’s nice if the Best Sound Editing folks like you (or, as Sally Field so famously said when she won her second Best Actress prize for “Places in the Heart” decades ago, “You really like me”). But the bottom line is numbers.
Or, as presenter Martin Short, who is either the best ad-libber in the business or the best faux ad-libber in the business, said, “Let’s get on with God’s work and give another actor an award.”
First up, Best Supporting Actor. Nominees: Ben Affleck (“The Tender Bar”), Bradley Cooper (“Licorice Pizza”), Jared Leto (“House of Gucci”), Kodi Smit-McPhee (“The Power of the Dog”)
The Winner: Troy Kotsur (“CODA”) who not only became the first deaf actor ever to win a SAG, but also jumped to the head of the Oscar race. The cynical response is that Hollywood has found its new minority. The non-cynical response is that Kotsur is quite good. I’m thinking Oscar should go ahead and line up someone who’s an expert at translating sign language.
Best Supporting Actress. Nominees: Catriona Balfe (“Belfast”), Ruth Negga (“Passing”), Cate Blanchett (“Nightmare Alley”), Kirsten Dunst (“The Power of the Dog”)
The Winner: Ariana Debose (“West Side Story”). In any other year, she’d have the minority slot sewn up (she describes herself as an “Afro-Latina queer woman of color”). She is also, like Kotsur, really good. She’s been an early favorite since the Oscar nominees were announced. Her SAG win just continues the momentum.
Best Actress. Nominees: Olivia Colman (“The Lost Daughter”), Lady Gaga (“House of Gucci”), Jennifer Hudson (“Respect”), Nicole Kidman (“Being the Ricardos”)
The Winner: Jessica Chastain (“The Eyes of Tammy Faye”). Here’s a win that actually matters. Oscar’s Best Actress race hasn’t really had a clear front-runner. “Tammy Faye” probably isn’t Chastain’s finest work, but she’s been doing fine work for years. And she’s always been an outspoken advocate for the treatment of women in the industry.
Best Actor. Nominees: Javier Bardem (“Being the Ricardos”), Benedict Cumberbatch (“The Power of the Dog”), Andrew Garfield (“Tick, Tick…Boom”), Denzel Washington (“The Tragedy of Macbeth”)
The Winner: Will Smith (“King Richard”). He’s been sort of neck and neck with Cumberbatch, so a win here has weight. Oscar-winning weight. Plus, sitting at his table was a real heavyweight – none other than Venus Williams herself. Now that’s a photo opp that Oscar would find very hard to resist.
Best Ensemble. Nominees: “Belfast,” “Don’t Look Up,” “House of Gucci,” “King Richard”
The Winner: “CODA.” The title stands for children of deaf adults. The movie is genuinely feel-good. The major Oscar competition – this is SAG’s equivalent of Best Picture – is “The Power of the Dog” which, oddly, wasn’t even nominated. Your guess is as good as mine. Probably better.
And the show itself? After a two-year pandemic-imposed moratorium (more or less) on awards shows, it was somewhat breathtaking to be reminded just how gaudily self-infatuated Hollywood is. Not that there weren’t the usual political statements (Ukraine edged out trans-gender rights), but the sheer show-biz glitz was a bit startling, if only because we haven’t seen it in a while.
“I’m living. I’m dying. I’m gasping,” Laverne Cox told one nominee during the red-carpet pre-show.
If memory serves, she was talking about the woman’s dress, not the Ukraine.