Oscar Predictions: Round 7 - The SAG Awards (Plus the PGA)

Richard Parker, like Uggie, received no love from the SAG.

I am completely directionless this Oscar season and I kind of like the feeling. Like Pi, I am stranded, hopelessly adrift with little more than a prayer and a hungry feline in my lifeboat as we float towards the Oscars. Life of Pi could very well be the film to beat now that Argo may not be the front-runner. On the other hand, an all-important precursor—The Screen Actors’ Guild Awards—can give a boost to virtually any of the top contenders except for Pi when the awards are handed out on Sunday night. Pi, however, isn’t really an actors’ showcase. The best performance in the film comes from a motion capture tiger, and since awards bodies emphasized that they would not throw Uggie a bone last year for his award-worthy work in The Artist, Richard Parker can’t help Life of Pi get a boost from the actors.

Actually, SAG can’t help Best Picture nominees Beasts of the Southern Wild (ineligible), Django Unchained (screeners didn’t make it in time), or Amour (snubbed), either. Argo, Lincoln, Silver Linings Playbook, and Les Misérables, however, could all stand to capitalize on a Best Ensemble win at the SAG awards and create an Oscar-race turning-point à la Crash or The King’s Speech (whose trouncing of The Social Network didn’t seem all that possible until this point in the race two years ago). As The Help showed us last year, though, the acknowledgement of great acting doesn’t necessary translate into a vote for the film itself. It might not be a prize for Best Film, but SAG counts simply because it represents the largest voting body at the Academy Awards.

If Argo takes the top prize on Sunday night, which it very well could, then Ben Affleck’s Best Director snub will be even more baffling. As someone who is in the group that has been predicting Argo to win Best Picture, I’m all but ready to throw up my hands and yell “Argo f*ck yourself!” with this bizarrely unpredictable awards race. I’m not quite ready to ditch Argo from my predictions, but I’m getting there.
Will the big cast of Lincoln take it all the way to Best Picture?
Sunday’s SAG ceremony could have me switching my bet to Lincoln. With a whopping twelve nominations, an appealing blend of support from both press and industry, and an unusually large box-office take for a long talky drama, Lincoln has all the right check marks for an Oscar winner. If one adds to this list the increased resonance of the film in light of President Obama’s second inauguration, Lincoln has the extra substance to make it a worthy film to define 2012. Lincoln, clearly, is also an “actor’s movie.” It has four nominations from the Screen Actors’ Guild—Ensemble, Actor (Daniel Day-Lewis), Supporting Actor (Tommy Lee Jones), and Supporting Actress (Sally Field)—and a heavy roster of stars whose work has been acknowledged by their peers in the past (see: James Spader, Hal Holbrook, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, et al.). If there is any corner of the industry that can make or break Lincoln, SAG could be it. [Interesting note: The Film Experience reports that Lincoln sent out a last minute blast of screeners to SAG members. Does this mean it's shaky, or that it can win some eleventh hour votes? Also, the Lincoln team has apparently been sending out Lincoln cookbooks. Random, but I haven't been able to think of a Lincoln-themed food item for an Oscar party, besides a ham named Sally Field.]

Lincoln has a near-guaranteed win for Daniel Day-Lewis’s commanding presence in the Best Actor category, and it stands a good chance of winning for Tommy Lee Jones’s performance in the Best Supporting Actor category since Golden Globe winner Christoph Waltz (Django Unchained) didn’t make the cut. Sally Field, however, probably will not win, since Anne Hathaway seems sure to triumph. Hathaway’s win could serve as a consolation prize for Les Misérables, just as a win for Daniel Day-Lewis could be seen as a fitting acknowledgment for Lincoln. Les Misérables, which has four nominations (also: Ensemble, Actor, Stunts), could just as easily topple Argo in the awards race if it wins at SAG since it also came out with the biggest haul at the Golden Globes. However, like Argo, Les Misérables lacks a Best Director nomination at the Oscars, which Spielberg has for Lincoln. Therefore…

Lincoln needs a victory on Sunday to take control of the Oscar race. If it does win, then Lincoln might seem like a viable choice for voters who have an unusually long period to reconsider the films and change their minds between casting ballots for nominations and casting votes for winners. If Lincoln doesn’t win, though, then it might deflate in the Best Picture race and see the top prize going to Argo or Zero Dark Thirty and the Best Director prize going to, say, Ang Lee. The same split could go to Argo and Spielberg just as easily, but we need the actors to give us some direction.

The other film that could benefit strongly from the actors’ branch is Silver Linings Playbook. Like Lincoln and Les Mis, Silver Linings has four nominations: Best Ensemble, Best Actress (Jennifer Lawrence), Best Actor (Bradley Cooper), and Best Supporting Actor (Robert De Niro). All three are nominated at the Oscars, as is surprise contender Jacki Weaver. Since Silver Linings Playbook is the first film in thirty years to be recognized in all four acting categories, too, it presumably has a lot of support from the actors. The performances in Silver Linings Playbook are also far less divisive than are the over-the-top turns by Jones and Field in Lincoln. More criticisms of SLP fall on the characters, rather than the performers themselves, so one could also argue that it’s the strength of the acting that makes the film work. On the other hand, Lawrence (a SAG win for her would be a big push for the film), Cooper, and De Niro could lose to Jessica Chastain, Daniel Day-Lewis, and Tommy Lee Jones, respectively, but then enjoy the silver lining of an ensemble prize. Everyone’s a winner in this scenario, which leaves awards fans both happy and screwed.

This year’s SAG awards ceremony is doubly interesting, too, because the voters had an unusual amount of time following the Oscar nominations. Could this year’s guild awards become consolation prizes? I.e.: a voter might say, “I give this one to Javier Bardem, but I’ll give Tommy Lee Jones the Oscar.” Likewise, votes for someone who didn’t land an Oscar nomination (ex: Nicole Kidman or Maggie Smith) could be thrown to a second choice like Helen Hunt. That seems like over-thinking it, in my opinion, but the only explanation for this strange season is mass conspiracy. For all the weirdness and frustration of this award-season, though, I haven’t enjoyed an Oscar race this much in years.

In addition, the Producers Guild Awards will be named on Friday, so any of these films could gain another valuable win. I think that Life of Pi will be the PGA winner thanks to its ground-breaking special effects, its attempt to film the unfilmable, and its universal box-office success. (A good case could be made for Lincoln, too.) With so many high-grosses among the Best Picture nominees, it’s anyone’s game, really. The PGA could even give Argo another valuable endorsement. Argo, after all, is a movie about a film production that created a defining moment in American history. And, wouldn’t you know it, it’s the producer played by Alan Arkin who delivers the oft-quoted line, “Argo fuck yourself.”

In short: Lincoln or Silver Linings Playbook could create a turning point in the Oscar race with a SAG win, but it's still an open field. The Producers could swing favour to any film, really. Without further ado, here are predictions for this weekend’s SAG awards and PGA awards. 

★ Will win
If I picked the winner

Please feel free to share your hunches on either of these races.
Is mass conspiracy the answer?!


Outstanding Performance by a Cast in a Motion Picture:

The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel
Les Misérables
Silver Linings Playbook

Outstanding Performance by a Male Actor in a Leading Role:

Bradley Cooper for Silver Linings Playbook
★ Daniel Day-Lewis for Lincoln
John Hawkes for The Sessions
Hugh Jackman for Les Misérables
Denzel Washington for Flight

Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Leading Role:

Jessica Chastain for Zero Dark Thirty
Marion Cotillard for Rust and Bone
★ Jennifer Lawrence for Silver Linings Playbook
Helen Mirren for Hitchcock
Naomi Watts for The Impossible

Outstanding Performance by a Male Actor in a Supporting Role:

Alan Arkin for Argo
Javier Bardem for Skyfall
Robert De Niro for Silver Linings Playbook
Philip Seymour Hoffman for The Master
★Tommy Lee Jones for Lincoln

Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Supporting Role:

Sally Field for Lincoln
★ Anne Hathaway for Les Misérables
Helen Hunt for The Sessions
Nicole Kidman for The Paperboy
Maggie Smith for The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel

Outstanding Action Performance by a Stunt Ensemble in a Motion Picture:

The Amazing Spider-Man
The Bourne Legacy
The Dark Knight Rises
Les Misérables

Outstanding Performance by an Ensemble in a Comedy Series:

"30 Rock"
"The Big Bang Theory"
★ "Modern Family"
"Nurse Jackie"
"The Office"

Outstanding Performance by an Ensemble in a Drama Series:

"Boardwalk Empire"
"Breaking Bad"
"Downton Abbey"
★ "Homeland"
"Mad Men"

Outstanding Performance by a Male Actor in a Comedy Series:

★ Alec Baldwin for "30 Rock"
Ty Burrell for "Modern Family"
Louis C.K. for "Louie"
Jim Parsons for "The Big Bang Theory"
Eric Stonestreet for "Modern Family"

Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Comedy Series:

Edie Falco for "Nurse Jackie"
Tina Fey for "30 Rock"
Amy Poehler for "Parks and Recreation"
Sofía Vergara for "Modern Family"
★ Betty White for "Hot in Cleveland"

Outstanding Performance by a Male Actor in a Drama Series:

Steve Buscemi for "Boardwalk Empire"
Bryan Cranston for "Breaking Bad"
Jeff Daniels for "The Newsroom"
Jon Hamm for "Mad Men"
★ Damian Lewis for "Homeland"

Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Drama Series:

★ Claire Danes for "Homeland"
Michelle Dockery for "Downton Abbey"
Jessica Lange for "American Horror Story"
Maggie Smith for "Downton Abbey"
Julianna Margulies for "The Good Wife"
--> This is a tough one to call!

Outstanding Performance by a Male Actor in a Television Movie or Miniseries:

★ Kevin Costner for "Hatfields & McCoys"
Woody Harrelson for Game Change
Ed Harris for Game Change
Clive Owen for Hemingway & Gellhorn
Bill Paxton for "Hatfields & McCoys”

Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Television Movie or Miniseries:

Nicole Kidman for Hemingway & Gellhorn
★ Julianne Moore for Game Change
Charlotte Rampling for Restless
Sigourney Weaver for "Political Animals"
Alfre Woodard for Steel Magnolias

Producers' Guild Awards:

Feature Film:

Beasts of the Southern Wild
Django Unchained
Les Misérables
Life of Pi
Moonrise Kingdom
Silver Linings Playbook
Zero Dark Thirty

Animated Film:

Rise of the Guardians
Wreck-It Ralph

Documentary Film:

A People Uncounted
The Gatekeepers
The Island President
The Other Dream Team
Searching for Sugar Man

Best Picture

Best Director
Michael Haneke, Amour
Ang Lee, Life of Pi
David O. Russell, Silver Linings Playbook
Steven Spielberg, Lincoln

Best Actor
Bradley Cooper, Silver Linings Playbook
Daniel Day-Lewis, Lincoln
Hugh Jackman, Les Misérables
Joaquin Phoenix, The Master
Denzel Washington, Flight

Best Actress
Jessica Chastain, Zero Dark Thirty
Jennifer Lawrence, Silver Linings Playbook
Emmanuelle Riva, Amour
Quvenzhané Wallis, Beasts of the Southern Wild 
Naomi Watts, The Impossible

Best Supporting Actor
Alan Arkin, Argo
Robert De Niro, Silver Linings Playbook
Philip Seymour Hoffman, The Master
Tommy Lee Jones, Lincoln
Christoph Waltz, Django Unchained

Best Supporting Actress
Amy Adams, The Master
Sally Field, Lincoln
Anne Hathaway, Les Misérables
Helen Hunt, The Sessions

Best Original Screenplay
Amour, Michael Haneke  
Django Unchained, Quentin Tarantino
Flight, John Gatins
Moonrise Kingdom, Wes Anderson, Roman Coppola 
Zero Dark Thirty, Mark Boal

Best Adapted Screenplay
Argo, Chris Terrio
Beasts of the Southern Wild, Benh Zeitlin & Lucy Alibar
Life of Pi, David Magee   
Lincoln, Tony Kushner
Silver Linings Playbook, David O. Russell

Best Editing
Argo, William Goldenberg
Life of Pi, Tim Squyres
Lincoln, Michael Kahn
Zero Dark Thirty, William Goldenberg and Dylan Tichenor

Best Cinematography
Anna Karenina, Seamus McGarvey
Django Unchained,Robert Richardson  
Life of Pi, Claudio Miranda
Lincoln, Janusz Kaminski
Skyfall, Roger Deakins

Best Production Design  
Anna Karenina

Best Costumes  
Anna Karenina, Jacqueline Durran
Les Misérables, Paco Delgado
Lincoln, Joanna Johnston
Mirror Mirror, Eiko Ishioka

Best Score
Argo, Alexandre Desplat
Anna Karenina, Dario Marianelli
 Life of Pi, Mychael Danna
Lincoln, John Williams
Skyfall, Thomas Newman

Best Foreign Language Film
Amour – Austria
Kon-tiki – Norway
A Royal Affair – Denmark
No – Chile
Rebelle – Canada

Best Documentary
The Gatekeepers
How to Survive a Plague
Skyfall” from Skyfall
Suddenly” from Les Misérables

Best Sound Editing
Argo Zero Dark Thirty

Best Sound Mixing 
 Les Misérables
Life of Pi

Best Hair and Make-up

Best Visual Effects

Best Animated Feature
Pirates: Band of Misfits
Wreck it Ralph

Best Short Film - Live Action
Buzkashi Boys
Death of a Shadow

Best Short Film - Animated
Adam and Dog
Fresh Guacamole  (watch)
Head Over Heels
Maggie Simpson in 'The Longest Daycare'
Paperman (watch)

Best Documentary Short
Kings Point
Mondays at Racine
Open Heart