Sunday, December 10, 2023

All Eyes Are On SAG

As in the past, this year’s four acting categories remain some of the most competitive and (seemingly) high-stakes categories of the biggest night in Hollywood coming up on March 12th at the 95th Academy Awards. With several months of precursors and some still to come, all eyes are on Sunday night’s Screen Actors Guild (SAG) awards to offer the (probably) final verdict on the most likely winners of the individual awards at the Oscars and perhaps shake things up with the ensemble prize for Best Picture. The two most prominent players going into this year’s SAG ceremony are “Everything Everywhere All At Once” and “The Banshees Of Inisherin.” Both have their noted defenders and dissenters and are tied for the most amount of nominations this year, with five each. Notably, no film that has received this amount of nominations has ever left the awards show empty-handed. It is possible that both films may share the wealth or that one may go home massively disappointed.

In the Outstanding Ensemble category, the nominees are: “Babylon,” “The Banshees Of Inisherin,” “Everything Everywhere All At Once,” “The Fabelmans,” and “Women Talking.” As previously stated, “The Banshees Of Inisherin” and “Everything Everywhere All At Once” are by far the biggest threats to taking home this prize, but “The Fabelmans,” with Spielberg as its director and a cast of highly respected actors, is not entirely out of the picture. In a completely unpredictable turn of events, SAG voters could decide to give the woefully underrepresented “Women Talking” their main prize as a sort of compensation for its brilliant ensemble, which has largely been overlooked for individual nominations due to there being no clear consensus about a single standout. Should anything other than the predicted winner, “Everything Everywhere All At Once,” prevail here, it will cast a shadow of doubt over its chances to win Best Picture at the Oscars, especially if that film (such as “The Fabelmans” or “The Banshees Of Inisherin“) wins the PGA Award the night before. However, if “Everything Everywhere All At Once” wins here as expected, it’ll be closer to solidifying its Best Picture chances.

A few months ago, the battle for Best Actress seemed evenly split between Michelle Yeoh for “Everything Everywhere All At Once” and Cat Blanchett for “Tár.” Now only a few weeks before the Oscars, the scales seem to be weighing more in Blanchett’s favor. Narratively, the two women’s paths have been totally different. Blanchett is no stranger to the awards circuit, having already won two Oscars and three SAG awards (among others). While Yeoh received a BAFTA nomination for her work in “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon” and a SAG nomination along with the ensemble of “Crazy Rich Asians,” this year has marked a significant turning point in her recognition by international awards bodies. Both women won awards at the Golden Globes this year (Yeoh for comedy and Blanchett for drama), but Blanchett has the current advantage, having won both the Critics Choice Award and BAFTA. Her SAG win is almost guaranteed, which would further strengthen her bid for her third Oscar. However, if Michelle Yeoh wins here, coupled with how much the Academy and the industry seem to like “Everything Everywhere All At Once,” she may be able to pull off a last-minute win over Blanchett and make history as the first openly Asian woman to win Best Actress.

The race for Best Actor is closer to a three-way tie. Still, given Colin Farrell’s loss at the BAFTAs (despite the love the British Academy showed toward “The Banshees Of Inisherin“), the battle for SAG has apparently been whittled down to Austin Butler for “Elvis” vs. Brendan Fraser for “The Whale.” Compared to their female counterparts, the films these two men starred in have been less universally embraced, with some begrudging “Elvis” for its audacious aesthetic and “The Whale” for its bizarre script choices. In Butler’s camp is his status as the “bright young thing,” dominating the awards circuit and masterfully working his campaign. He is undeniably charming and has shown the makings of a true blue movie star. SAG and the Academy both have a history of awarding actors for portraying historical figures under pounds of prosthetics (which Butler is thankfully spared for most of the film). However, his stunning performance as the King of rock and roll is widely believed to have transcended this categorization. Brendan Fraser’s praise for “The Whale” has largely been celebrated by those enthusiastic to see the beloved actor recognized by Hollywood, while the film itself has been called everything from “bad” to “evil” by critics and audiences. Despite the film’s lacking performance, Fraser’s universal adoration may be enough for him to earn another award from his peers after a Critics Choice victory. Still, even if Fraser does win at SAG, it is not guaranteed that he will go on to win the Oscar as “The Whale” does not have a Best Picture nomination like “Elvis” and “The Banshees Of Inisherin” do. After shockingly losing the BAFTA to Butler, could Colin Farrell shock us once again? Only this time in his favor with a victory. That would certainly be an exciting development as we head into Oscar night. Nothing will be known until the envelope is opened except for one scenario: if Butler repeats his Golden Globe and BAFTA wins with a win here at SAG. He will be virtually unstoppable with three out of the four televised awards and a Best Picture nomination. It will make this race very predictable, whereas any other winner will generate excitement for Oscar night regarding how this three-horse race will end.

While two acting Oscars have previously been won by two men playing different versions of DC’s Joker, no Marvel Cinematic Universe performance has gone as far as Angela Bassett’s for “Black Panther: Wakanda Forever.” Having won the Golden Globe and Critics’ Choice Award, Bassett is still believed to be the front-runner for Best Supporting Actress at the Oscars, but the SAG award is what will determine the end result. It is easy to understand why Bassett did not win the BAFTA over Kerry Condon. “The Banshees Of Inisherin” is a British/Irish film beloved by BAFTA voters. At the same time, “Black Panther: Wakanda Forever” is steeped in American blockbuster culture and lacks the “prestige” typically awarded to BAFTA winners. While her performance has undoubtedly been more celebrated in America, it lacks the accompanying Best Picture nomination that Condon has. Ultimately, whichever woman wins the SAG Award will determine who walks away with the Oscar.

Until last week, Ke He Quan’s Best Supporting Actor Oscar win for “Everything Everywhere All At Once” seemed to be the year’s most undeniable, predictable win. Then the BAFTAs happened, and Barry Keoghan surprisingly won for his performance in “The Banshees Of Inisherin.” While it was endearing to see the talented young actor win such a major award, the hearts of American voters are likely still behind Quan, who, like Fraser, has arrived on the scene with a heartwarming “comeback” story. In addition to his many precursor wins, fans have been delighted by his noticeable excitement at the awards experience and his peers’ appreciation. While Keoghan’s BAFTA win may be the only real threat to Quan’s probable SAG and Oscar success, it is unlikely that Quan’s path to victory will be blocked so easily. Of all the names to be called on February 26th and then on March 12th, his appears to be the most guaranteed.

What do you think will happen this Sunday at the SAG Awards? Please let us know in the comments section below or on our Twitter account, be sure to check our latest Oscar predictions here. Be sure to check out the 29th annual Screen Actors Guild Awards on Sunday, February 26 at 8 p.m. EST on Netflix’s YouTube channel.

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Eve O’Dea
Eve O’Dea
M.A. student of film preservation. Contributor to In Session Film. Old Hollywood enthusiast.

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