After two weeks off for everyone to recover from the Critics Choice Awards and Golden Globes, we’re right back into the awards season fray with the announcement of the annual awards by the Producers Guild of America (PGA) and the Screen Actors Guild (SAG). As you probably know, Ben Affleck’s Argo won the top prize from both groups.
Let’s face it. As I predicted, Ben Affleck’s Argo has gained a groundswell of support in recent weeks after Affleck was snubbed for his direction at the Oscars and that’s helped to influence voters in the guilds. Because of this, winning the PGA’s top prize wasn’t too surprising. Argo was a successful box office coup after all. Winning the SAG Ensemble, on the other hand, was even bigger because that shows a support for the movie among actors, which makes up the biggest percentage of Oscar voters.
To be honest, I thought that win wasn’t really deserved. Sure, Argo has a big cast and some decent performances, but I didn’t think that the overall performances came even close to the acting in Tom Hooper’s Les Misérables, Steven Spielberg’s Lincoln, David O. Russell’s Silver Linings Playbook, or even Kathryn Bigelow’s Zero Dark Thirty, which wasn’t even nominated in that category.
In fact, when you think about it, Argo only received one other SAG nomination, for Alan Arkin, and you would think that if a movie receives two or more SAG nods for acting performances then it’s a movie with strong enough acting to win Ensemble. Those other movies mentioned had much stronger and more consistent performances in my opinion. You couldn’t get any more proof than the other SAG awards winners as three of the five other movies nominated in the SAG Ensemble category won in individual acting categories last night with Lincoln receiving two SAG awards for Daniel Day-Lewis and Tommy Lee Jones.
The first of those was expected, but the second of those creates a really interesting race for supporting actor because literally every single Oscar precursor group has gone with someone different. The Critics Choice went with Philip Seymour Hoffman, the Golden Globe went to Christoph Waltz, and earlier awards such as NBR went to Leonardo DiCaprio for Django Unchained (which didn’t receive a single SAG nominations) and the New York Film Critics Circle gave their Supporting Actor award to Matthew McConaughey. There is absolutely no consensus in terms of which actor deserves to win this year, which is the complete opposite of Supporting Actress which has had Anne Hathaway winning every step of the way.
The only other significant win at the SAG Awards last night was Jennifer Lawrence winning Best Actress for Silver Linings Playbook over Jessica Chastain, which gives her a slight leg up at the Oscars. The two second-time nominees have been going neck and neck all season as they split awards at the Golden Globes and Critics Choice Awards. Winning the SAG might give Lawrence the advantage if SAG had any sort of strong track record, but they don’t really. Last year’s winner Viola Davis lost on Oscar night to Meryl Streep. Streep herself won the SAG Actor for Doubt in 2008 while losing on Oscar night to Kate Winslet for The Reader. (Winslet was nominated by SAG for that movie in the supporting category, which she won.) Julie Christie took the SAG Actor the year before while Marion Cotillard won the Oscar. There are other examples as well, although there have been other years (like Helen Mirren’s year as The Queen) where SAG was consistent with others. Either way, it’s still a tight race in the Lead Actress and either Chastain or Lawrence’s name might be called on Oscar night.
But going back to the Best Picture race, the SAG Ensemble win essentially puts Argo in a reasonably similar boat to Quentin Tarantino’s Inglourious Basterds, which also received only one other SAG nomination, for Christoph Waltzwho won the Actor for his supporting performance in a long run to Oscar night. Even though Tarantino’s movie won the SAG Ensemble, it never was even thought to be a Best Picture contender over movies like The Hurt Locker and James Cameron’s Avatar, although winning the PGA’s award does give Argo an advantage.
Mind you, SAG Ensemble has gone to a different movie than the one that won Oscar Best Picture more often than not, similar to the Golden Globes, but if Affleck’s snub has suddenly gained a lot of support, which it seemingly has, Argo‘s recent wins are just going to push more Academy members to put it as their top choice for Best Picture when they receive their ballots.
What’s crazy is how quickly things can change even over the course of a matter of weeks. Before the 1st of the year, very few Oscar pundits were behind Argo since it had seemingly lost much of its thunder and momentum to Zero Dark Thirty while everyone assumed that Spielberg’s Lincoln would get more support across the board. That no longer seems to be the case and the Affleck directing snub could have been the best thing going for Argo since now everyone feels that voting for it might help what once was considered an underdog.
The Directors Guild (DGA) announces their winner on Saturday, February 2, the Writers Guild (WGA) on February 17, and then all we have left is Oscar night on February 24.