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Screen Actors Guild Awards Generate Oscar Buzz

January 25, 2009
By James L. Hirsen, J.D., Ph.D.
contributor to

Following the predictable pattern, Oscar buzz got louder after the Golden Globe Awards were handed out.

But actually a more important ceremony for projecting Academy Award-winners is the Screen Actors Guild (SAG) Awards.

Although the SAG Awards don’t deal with writers, directors, and producers as the Academy Awards do, they nevertheless award categories, which frequently parallel the Oscars for best actor and best picture.

The SAG ensemble prize tends to be a predictor for the Best Picture Oscar.

Twenty-two percent of the voting members of the academy are actors, the biggest branch in the organization. Consequently, a poll of actors provides a large sample with which to gauge the opinions of the 5,800 voting academy members.

The ensemble award has led to two upset Best Picture Oscars being awarded for “Shakespeare in Love” and “Crash.”

Last year’s SAG ensemble winner was the “Slumdog Millionaire” cast, and “Slumdog” also won Best Picture at the Academy Awards.

This would seem to suggest that director Quentin Tarantino's “Inglourious Basterds” is now a favorite to win since it snagged the SAG ensemble prize.

However, neither “Avatar” nor “Up in the Air,” two top best picture Oscar contenders, were nominated for the SAG award and both films are arguably still solidly in the running.

The SAG awards are significant indicators for those seeking acting Oscars as well. Three of the acting Academy Awards last year were given to SAG award winners, Sean Penn for “Milk,” the late Heath Ledger for “The Dark Knight,” and Kate Winslet for “The Reader.” SAG gave Winslet the award for a supporting role, while the Academy honored her for being a lead actress.

This year’s SAG winners, Mo'Nique, Jeff Bridges, Sandra Bullock, and Christoph Waltz have increased their odds of securing an Oscar.

Mo'Nique won for her supporting role in which she played a brutally abusive mother in “Precious: Based on the Novel ‘Push’ by Sapphire.” The comedienne also took home a Golden Globe.

Similarly Bullock, who was awarded a Globe for “The Blind Side,” won a SAG award for Best Actress, while Bridges also took home a Globe and a SAG for his acting in “Crazy Heart.”

Another surprising double winner was Kevin Bacon for the outstanding pro-military HBO television movie, “Taking Chance.”

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James L. Hirsen, J.D., Ph.D.
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