Let’s face it: fewer people, excluding the actors themselves, actually care about the Screen Actors Guild awards. With it having less flash and fanfare, some casual award-show fans may not even know what the SAG is. It’s not even as long running as its esteemed cousins, the Emmy Awards, the Oscars and, yes, even the Golden Globes. But the SAG awards are an inexplicable game-changer on the long road to Academy Awards.
Broadcast first in 1995, actors and actresses vie for statues of a naked man holding comedy and tragedy masks, affectionately titled “The Actor,” which are awarded by two committees — one for film and one for television. While the Oscars and the Emmys are considered the crème de la crème of film and television respectively, a SAG award is a uniquely meaningful accomplishment for an actor, because randomly selected members of the actor’s union award it to them. Strictly performers are honored with an “Actor,” the epitome of acknowledgement among an actor’s peers, and this provides many the opportunities to win accolades for roles in otherwise underappreciated works.
However, the SAG awards aren’t just a pat on a performer’s back from their friends and esteemed colleagues. This important award show not only follows some of the trends from earlier shows, but it sets the stage for the Oscar front-runners. It has consistently been a huge indicator as to who will take home Academy Awards, but like the Globes, the Screen Actors Guild Awards have been known to throw curve balls.
If it follows history, the last major award-show honoring both film and television this season will prove to be generally tame with few surprises, gearing us up for what could be an uncharacteristically surprising Oscars night.
Lifetime Achievement Award
Winner: Carol Burnett
Outstanding Performance by a Male Actor in a Television Movie or Miniseries
Nominees: Idris Elba (Luther); Ben Kingsley (Tut); Ray Liotta (Texas Rising); Bill Murray (A Very Murray Christmas); Mark Rylance (Wolf Hall)
Should Win: Mark Rylance
Although the idea of Elba or even Murray winning this category seems logical, the fact that a) Rylance is a highly respected stage actor and b) Wolf Hall won a few Globes gives him and his new show a bit of an edge.
Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Television Movie or Miniseries
Nominees: Nicole Kidman (Grace of Monaco); Queen Latifah (Bessie); Christina Ricci (The Lizzie Borden Chronicles); Susan Sarandon (The Secret Life of Marilyn Monroe); Kristen Wiig (The Spoils Before Dying)
Should Win: Queen Latifah
HBO shows have dominated categories such as this, and so Latifah’s portrayal of blues singer Bessie Smith will win most likely. These categories like actors with established film careers, but even though Kidman’s an award-show darling, watching Grace of Monaco was like watching paint dry. The next most likely winner would be Ricci for her role as the axe-wielding Lizzie Borden.
Outstanding Performance by a Male Actor in a Drama Series
Nominees: Peter Dinklage (Game of Thrones); Jon Hamm (Mad Men); Rami Malek (Mr. Robot); Bob Odenkirk (Better Call Saul); Kevin Spacey (House of Cards)
Should (Will) Win: John Hamm
These award shows are extremely sentimental, and the end of Mad Men might prove to be too much for the voters. Either Malek or Odenkirk winning this category would be a bold move for the voters, as these actors haven’t won many awards for their acclaimed performances yet.
Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Drama Series
Nominees: Claire Danes (Homeland); Viola Davis (How to Get Away With Murder); Julianna Margulies (The Good Wife); Maggie Smith (Downton Abbey); Robin Wright (House of Cards)
Should Win: Viola Davis
In her role on How to Get Away With Murder, Davis has been redefining what it means to be a black actress in a profession that has limited roles for people of color. The SAG was ahead of the curve last year when they (and the Emmys) awarded her Best Actress in a Drama TV Series, and they may very well keep up the trend this year. But seasoned vets Smith, Danes and Margulies have their own devoted camps, and the “Actor” could just as easily go to one of them.
Outstanding Performance by a Male Actor in a Comedy Series
Nominees: Ty Burrell (Modern Family); Louis C.K. (Louie); William H. Macy (Shameless); Jim Parsons (The Big Bang Theory); Jeffrey Tambor (Transparent)
Should Win: Jeffrey Tambor
One of the great disappointments of the 73rd Golden Globes was when Tambor did not win for Best Actor in a Comedy Series. After his memorable Emmy win last year, here’s to hoping the SAG awards can get it right.
Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Comedy Series
Nominees: Uzo Aduba (Orange Is the New Black); Edie Falco (Nurse Jackie); Ellie Kemper (Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt); Julia Louis-Dreyfus (Veep); Amy Poehler (Parks and Recreation)
Should Win: Uzo Aduba
This is one of ‘those’ categories — the kind with a bunch of great actors but none that separate themselves from the pack. If we’re guessing, we’d say it’s between Louis-Dreyfus and Aduba. The former has won a few SAG awards — not to mention everything else — so it would be nice to see someone else win, even if it’s not Aduba.
Outstanding Performance by an Ensemble in a Drama Series
Nominees: Downton Abbey; Game of Thrones; Homeland; House of Cards; Mad Men
Should Win: Game of Thrones
HBO’s Game of Thrones is masterful, and in a lot of ways it’s only getting better. It won the big prize of Best Drama Series at the Emmys, a shocker, and this could mean a big win on Saturday. But Downton Abbey, a more conventional award show choice, aired its final season last year. Despite the lackluster storylines, sentiment could carry it to a win.
Outstanding Performance by an Ensemble in a Comedy Series
Nominees: The Big Bang Theory; Key & Peele; Modern Family; Orange Is the New Black; Transparent; Veep
Should Win: Transparent
Orange Is the New Black appeals for its massive list of cast members, and Modern Family is one of those ‘everyone loves it so much its sickening’ shows with a cast that sucks up the air in the room—case in point, Modern Family wins too often. So it’s safe to say the Actor should go to one of the remaining shows; our money’s on Transparent, but The Big Bang Theory or Veep could steal it.
Outstanding Action Performance by a Stunt Ensemble in a Comedy or Drama Series
Nominees: The Blacklist; Game of Thrones; Homeland; Marvel’s Daredevil; The Walking Dead
Should Win: Game of Thrones
So, all we have to do is look at the last few SAG awards to see that GoT always wins this category. ‘Nuff said.
Follow Sara Snoddy on Twitter at @Sara_Snoddy.
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