How Do Producers Guild & Screen Actors Guild Winners Impact Oscars?
by Joey Magidson
January 20, 2014
Hot on the heels of the 86th Academy Award nominations, the Screen Actors Guild (SAG) handed out their prizes at the annual awards show, hoping to influence their cohorts that vote for the Oscars, followed quickly by the Producers Guild of America (PGA). Considering that the actors' branch of the Academy is the single largest voting branch and producers often are Best Picture bellwethers, these are influences worth considering While SAG doesn't make or break anyone in the race, it can help boost an already strong contender to a winner. However, the PGA does often predict a surefire Best Picture winner. More below!
Of course, the nominees themselves at SAG don't completely reflect what Oscar nominated, so it's not always a perfect correlation on hand, while the PGA tends to match the lineup more closely. The one thing you need to know before we get started is that these awards were voted on before the Academy members finished turning in their ballots, so PGA and SAG voters didn't know who Oscar voters had nominated. I say this so you don't think that this was any sort of reaction to the Academy Award nominations. With that quick bit of information, let's move on see how the shows went down and what this means for the Oscars.
On the SAG side of things, Best Supporting Actor was our initial slam dunk of the evening, as Jared Leto withstood a potential sympathy vote upset for James Gandolfini and took the award. Gandolfini and Daniel Bruhl were nominated here but not at the Oscars, which means that Bradley Cooper and Jonah Hill had no chance to increase their odds. They represent the only ones who can beat Leto (Cooper more than Hill, I think), especially after Barkhad Abdi and Michael Fassbender lost here. Still, it's more or less Leto in a landslide, barring some kind of shocking development, which like won't happen.
In Best Supporting Actress, we saw Lupita Nyong'o hold off the up until now surging Jennifer Lawrence. They still are only ones who can win here, especially since the one time frontrunner Oprah Winfrey wasn't even nominated by Oscar. She lost here though, so it wouldn't have mattered much. Sally Hawkins was the one who couldn't help herself here since she wasn't nominated, so she remains a longer shot dark horse of sorts, leaving Julia Roberts and June Squibb as the ones who saw their slim hopes fade. I still think that Lawrence can definitely win, but Nyong'o just got a much needed boost here, so it's almost a coin flip right now.
With Best Actor, we basically saw Matthew McConaughey solidify his newfound lead in the Oscar race for this category. What was once a wide open race is now McConaughey's to lose, especially since Chiwetel Ejiofor hasn't been able to get a big win all season, with the same going for Bruce Dern. Of course, we know that Tom Hanks was snubbed by Oscar (he also obviously lost here), while Forest Whitaker was nominated here but not by the Academy. As for the main threat to McConaughey, that would be Leonardo DiCaprio and since he wasn't nominated here, he's kind of stuck in stasis. Still, he's a ways behind McConaughey right now, so we might be hearing a certain catchphrase once again come Oscar night.
Best Actress was the other slam dunk from SAG, as Cate Blanchett easily took the prize. Without her main competition of Amy Adams in the running here at this particular show, this doesn't increase her Oscar odds that much, but a loss here would have been crippling. She didn't lose though, so the women that could have made a play for an upset (Sandra Bullock and Judi Dench, namely) are fading fast. Meryl Streep for once isn't a threat in this category, and Emma Thompson saw her year end with a loss here, since she wasn't nominated by the Academy. It's Adams vs Blanchett now for all the marbles, with the former hoping that a surge of love for her film can push her to a win over the latter.
Of course, the big one of the night was Best Ensemble, which functions as SAG's version of a Best Picture award. Basically a choice between 12 Years a Slave and American Hustle, voters chose the latter, which gives it a leg up in the Oscar race. Two of the other Ensemble nominees weren't nominated by Oscar for Best Picture (August: Osage County and Lee Daniels' The Butler), while Dallas Buyers Club was just happy to be nominated, both here and with the Academy (though by now we all know that it did better than expected with Oscar). It was always a 12 Years against Hustle race here, just like it is now for Oscar, along with Alfonso Cuaron's Gravity, as I'll get into momentarily. The edge ever so slightly seems to still be with David O. Russell's crowd pleaser, though Steve McQueen's hard hitting film is right there with it.
Now, with the PGA award, they essentially had that aforementioned three way race to try and decide. Had they chosen 12 Years a Slave, American Hustle, or Gravity directly, it would have been a huge boost. In the case of American Hustle, it would have all but locked up Best Picture, while a 12 Years a Slave win would have made it the prohibitive frontrunner. A similar but less conclusive statement would also work for a Gravity win. The one thing we basically knew going in was that the fellow nominees Blue Jasmine, Captain Phillips, Her, Nebraska, Saving Mr. Banks, Dallas Buyers Club, and The Wolf of Wall Street had no shot, unless the guild was seeking to shock everyone.
But what the PGA did was almost equally as shocking, and made my job even harder. The PGA gave out their first tie in history, opting to reward both 12 Years a Slave and Gravity. They stopped American Hustle from gaining any momentum, but dulled the impact that a win would have had for either of the other movies by having them share the honor. What a mess.
So, what did we learn here from the two guilds? Basically, the Oscar race is more or less how I saw it before this, namely an incredibly close race, though Best Supporting Actress and Best Picture are now shaping up to be even tighter than we already saw them to be. There were no shocking wins here or stunning losses (besides the tie), so Academy voters didn't have anything major to chew on. They still have to make their decisions between now and March. They clearly love both 12 Years a Slave and American Hustle, so in those particular categories especially where they're facing off, we'll just have to wait and see which they like most of all. The big one just now has the specter of Gravity hanging over it as well.
All in all, a lot is still to be decided. I know I say that a lot, but it remains the truth. Especially with this being the first year in history that PGA and SAG have rewarded three different films (obviously due to the tie). In the next few weeks we'll learn a lot and be able to get a better sense of how the Oscars might go down, but for now we're still doing a fair bit of guessing. Those guesses are fast coming to an end though, so stay tuned to see what happens. It'll be interesting, I can assure you of that! Thoughts?