At the risk of repeating myself year after year, screeners are the most important factor at the Screen Actors Guild. It’s practically right in the name. Even in this extended eligibility season, there are a handful of films coming out in February just under the deadline. Now, that’s really no different than a normal year when December is the late-breaking month. But visibility is still always going to be key. Films like Judas and the Black Messiah (which just world premiered at the Sundance Film Festival last night), Malcolm & Marie, Land (also a Sundance premiere) and The United States vs Billie Holiday didn’t have a fall festival run like other February releases – French Exit, The Father, Nomadland, Minari – did. What that also meant is that first batch of films didn’t get to benefit from the runway of critics’ awards from December and January. We could possibly see some of those high profile films and performances miss out this week.
The early, or late, screener is something we see in full effect at SAG more than any other group. Eventual Oscar winners like Regina King (If Beale Street Could Talk) and Christoph Waltz (Django Unchained) weren’t seen by enough of the scattered SAG nominating committee, approximately 2,000 members of SAG-AFTRA out of nearly 200,000, and weren’t even nominated. It’s also what gives us SAG-only type nominations like Sarah Silverman in I Smile Back or Naomi Watts in St. Vincent.
SAG’s main award, Outstanding Performance by a Cast in a Motion Picture, used to be the must-have if you wanted to win Best Picture at the Oscars. For two decades only one film missed there and still won BP – 1995’s Braveheart, in the first year of this award. When La La Land missed here in 2016 many of us took that as a sign that Moonlight (who was nominated) could win the Oscar, which it did. But then for two years in a row the eventual Best Picture Oscar winner missed here at SAG, 2017’s The Shape of Water and 2018’s Green Book. So that old stat is out the window. Probably a good thing for Nomadland, which could be our Best Picture Oscar winner but has a small chance of getting in here with just two name actors and everyone else essentially playing extensions of their real nomad lives.
SAG, being one of the youngest awards bodies in the industry, often finds a place for older actors they’ve never been able to reward before. While that’s usually in the winners circle, we do also see it in nomination form and one I could see benefitting is Glynn Turman in Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom. An Emmy winner, Turman has never been SAG-nominated and just earned a Spirit Award nomination on top of his LAFCA win.
Over in my Golden Globe predictions for Actress in a Musical or Comedy, I posited that Meryl Streep could earn dual nominations in that category (for The Prom and Let Them All Talk). For Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Leading Role at SAG, she’s a real threat for a nomination for The Prom as an early release film and because SAG, like every awards body, loves Streep. Here’s the thing; if she gets in both – Golden Globes and SAG – for The Prom, she becomes a near lock for an Oscar nomination. Only one time ever has Streep earned both Globe and SAG nominations and missed out on an Oscar nomination, for 1994’s The River Wild. While it might seem that The Prom isn’t going to make too much of an Oscar impact, I’m just saying watch out.
I feel good about Da 5 Bloods making it in Cast, Lead and Supporting Actor. As one of the few early releases of 2020 to hold its own through critics’ season, and SAG does like its summer films, the film won NBR and Delroy Lindo and Chadwick Boseman both won at NYFCC. Lindo also secured NSFC among his eight Best Actor wins. Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom surprised this critics’ season, not for Chadwick Boseman’s Best Actor wins, but for being the dominant player in ensemble wins, even over its Netflix counterpart The Trial of the Chicago 7.
Speaking of Netflix, I don’t think any film in their extraordinary slate this year has cratered quite like Mank. With an impeccable pedigree, it’s the kind of film that is one of those ‘on paper’ super early predictions that makes a lot of sense. But the film has been lapped not only by other films from other studios, but by its own in house competition. There is a legitimate scenario in which only Amanda Seyfried gets in SAG and even Gary Oldman misses.
Which brings me to the place where The Way Back‘s Ben Affleck’s comeback trail could begin…and possibly end. He’s probably the biggest threat to Oldman, and to anyone who isn’t named Chadwick Boseman, Anthony Hopkins, Riz Ahmed or Delroy Lindo. On the flip side, all the efforts by Warner Bros to get Affleck in could fall with the SAG nom comm and the Globes going hard for Mank.
I don’t usually do a lot of NGNG picks but with SAG, but lots of things can happen here and one that I think could…is Amy Adams in Hillbilly Elegy. Glenn Close should still be able to muster a nomination here and has come out mostly unscathed from the film’s initial release and reactions but as a 9-time SAG nominee (and a winner as a part of the cast of American Hustle) she could be an easy name-check for a group that loves her. That said…watch out for Elisabeth Moss in The Invisible Man. Another huge SAG favorite, her film was one of the few spring blockbusters before the pandemic shut down theaters across the U.S. If we don’t get an obvious five in that category, it will be one of these two that show up.
The nominations for the 26th Screen Actors Guild Awards will be on Thursday, February 4 from the SAG Instagram live page.
Here are my predictions in all motion picture categories.
Outstanding Performance by a Cast in a Motion Picture
Da 5 Bloods
Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom
One Night in Miami
The Trial of the Chicago 7
Watch out for: Judas and the Black Messiah, Mank, Promising Young Woman
Outstanding Performance by a Male Actor in a Leading Role
Ben Affleck, The Way Back
Riz Ahmed, Sound of Metal
Chadwick Boseman, Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom
Anthony Hopkins, The Father
Delroy Lindo, Da 5 Bloods
Watch out for: Tom Hanks, News of the World; Gary Oldman, Mank; Steven Yeun, Minari
Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Leading Role
Amy Adams, Hillbilly Elegy
Viola Davis, Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom
Vanessa Kirby, Pieces of a Woman
Frances McDormand, Nomadland
Carey Mulligan, Promising Young Woman
Watch out for: Elisabeth Moss, The Invisible Man; Meryl Streep, The Prom
Outstanding Performance by a Male Actor in a Supporting Role
Sacha Baron Cohen, The Trial of the Chicago 7
Chadwick Boseman, Da 5 Bloods
Daniel Kaluuya, Judas and the Black Messiah
Leslie Odom Jr, One Night in Miami
Glynn Turman, Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom
Watch out for: Bill Murray, On the Rocks; Paul Raci, Sound of Metal
Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Supporting Role
Ellen Burstyn, Pieces of a Woman
Olivia Colman, The Father
Glenn Close, Hillbilly Elegy
Amanda Seyfried, Mank
Youn Yuh-jung, Minari
Watch out for: Maria Bakalova, Borat Subsequent Moviefilm; Candice Bergen, Let Them All Talk
Outstanding Performance by a Stunt Ensemble in a Motion Picture
The Old Guard
Watch out for: Birds of Prey, Wonder Woman 1984