The 88th Academy Awards will take place on Feb. 28, 23 days from today.

SAG awards results

The 22nd annual Screen Actors Guild awards were held on January 30 and were largely awarded to the presumed Oscar favorites. Leonardo DiCaprio took home Best Actor, Brie Larson won Best Actress and Alicia Vikander took the Best Supporting Actress award. Idris Elba, who was not even nominated for an Oscar, won Best Supporting Actor, which is okay because the man many expect will win the Oscar, Sylvester Stallone, was not even nominated for a SAG award.

SAG does a remarkably good job at predicting who will win the respective acting Academy Award. According to the Hollywood Reporter, “The individual acting awards tend to be very prescient. Each of the last three years, all four SAG Awards winners went on to win at the Oscars, as well. And in the 21 previous years in which those awards have been presented, the Academy differed on best actor only four times; best actress only six times; best supporting actor only eight times; and best supporting actress only seven times.” It’s even more impressive when you look at recent history: The last 11 SAG Best Actor winners and the last seven Best Supporting Actress winners won the Oscar.

(In case you are curious, here is what the winners said backstage. Brie Larson recommends that you take naps.)

SAG also gives an ensemble award, which is its closest equivalent to Best Picture. This went to Spotlight. It is not nearly as predictive as the PGA award, which went to The Big Short the week before (only half the SAG ensemble winners have won Best Picture; recent losses have included 2006’s Little Miss Sunshine, 2009’s Inglourious Basterds and 2011’s The Help), but it definitely stalled the momentum loss that hit Spotlight after its PGA defeat. The Big Short was shut out completely; only four films have won Best Picture without winning any of their SAG nominations: The English Patient, Gladiator, The Hurt Locker, and The Departed.

The conversation is increasingly The Big Short vs. Spotlight, with other contenders (like The Revenant, Mad Max and The Martian) falling into the background a bit. Here is a great look at the respective strengths and weaknesses of The Big Short and Spotlight, explaining historically why each is better positioned in certain ways to win the Oscar. (For example, Spotlight has more acting nominations and a SAG award, The Big Short has won PGA, made more money and won the ACE Eddie editing award.) It’s both a game of statistics and a guessing game.

DGA preview

It is possible that the Directors Guild of America awards, taking place on February 6, will help clear up the debate. But, bizarrely, that’s unlikely.

Out of the 13 experts on GoldDerby, only one predicts that either Adam McKay (the director of The Big Short) or Tom McCarthy (the director of Spotlight) will win the top prize. Only five experts have either director in their top three. The men expected to take home the DGA award are George Miller (Mad Max), Alejandro Inarritu (The Revenant) or, perhaps, Ridley Scott (The Martian), the only one of the bunch to miss a respective Oscar nomination.

It’s a very strange situation when the directors from the Best Picture favorites are out of the picture entirely. Last year, for example, the DGA was between Inarritu (Birdman) and Richard Linklater (Boyhood); the year before it was down to Alfonso Cuarón (Gravity) and Steve McQueen (12 Years a Slave). Since 2009, the eventual Best Picture winner won the DGA in all but one case (Cuarón over McQueen), making the lack of love for McKay and McCarthy even stranger.

Sasha Stone wrote up an interesting DGA preview, citing the trends that may be broken if any of the five men win. This is a bad year for statistics in general, no matter what happens in the Oscar race.

Letting a NYTimes article recap what has happened so far: “The early favorite, Spotlight, lost the Golden Globe for best dramatic feature to The Revenant, which went on to land the most Oscar nominations of the lot. Then The Big Short won the Producers Guild Award, a telltale victory because it was bequeathed by industry folks. And the American Cinema Editors named Mad Max: Fury Road best edited dramatic film — another bellwether because winners in that category often go on to land best picture. (The Big Short won for comedy.) Last weekend, at the Screen Actors Guild Awards, another strong predictor, Spotlight was anointed best ensemble cast. The Directors Guild of America is holding its ceremony on Saturday, which might finally clear things up. Or not.”

Other News

  • Black Oscars (past): A relatively unsettling Hollywood Reporter chart shows that all black Oscar winners play either a sports figure, con artist, tyrant, diva, drug addict, domestic help, musician, single parent, slave, unemployed or violent character (or some combination of the above). 
  • Black Oscars (future): Vanity Fair looks into 30 movies that could make next year’s Oscar race less white. While some of the possibilities are almost laughably unlikely, there does seems to be a fair amount of potential (that doesn’t fall into the above stereotypes).
  • Everybody’s a critic: In a NYTimes news analysis, critic A.O. Scott talks about how, because of the Internet, “the days of the all-powerful critic are over.”
  • Pope Francis: In a brilliantly titled Vulture article (“Pope Francis Is Shamelessly Hunting for an EGOT”), Nate Jones discusses the pontiff’s upcoming movie plans. (The first sentence, “Did you know that, in the 1,983-year history of the papacy, no sitting pope has ever been awarded an Emmy, Grammy, Oscar, and a Tony?” is also amazing.)

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