This morning the SAG category for best film ensemble acting turned out to be a shockeroo. There's a widespread belief that the category is a great predictor of what will win best picture at the Oscars. However, only one of the films widely presumed to be a current frontrunner made the race — "No Country for Old Men." Missing were "Atonement," "Sweeney Todd," "There Will Be Blood," "Michael Clayton" and "Juno." Instead, the other four contenders turned out to be "3:10 to Yuma," "American Gangster," "Hairspray" and "Into the Wild" — all best-picture possibilities, yes, but not the odds-on-fave.
What gives? One possibility is that Oscarologists are wrong about this year. Another is that the ensemble prize really isn't an Oscar best-pic crystal ball. I tend to believe the latter. After all, only 5 of the past 12 SAG ensemble winners claimed the top Oscar. The fact that "Crash" was one of them has fueled the crystal-ball myth since that victory turned out to be a hint that a movie virtually shut out at the Golden Globes was on its way to Oscar glory. Last year's SAG winner, "Little Miss Sunshine," got bumped off by "The Departed." Three years ago "Sideways" beat Oscar champ "Million Dollar Baby" and Globes victor "The Aviator."
"Into the Wild" probably got a boost today from the actors because it was directed and co-written by one of their peers: Sean Penn. The snub of "Juno" may be explained away by the secret snobbism of SAG members who claim to respect television as an art form as much as film, but they really, look down on boob-tube players. The cast of "Juno" is comprised chiefly of TV actors: Jennifer Garner ("Alias"), Allison Janney ("The West Wing"), J.K. Simmons ("The Closer"), Rainn Wilson ("The Office") and Jason Bateman and Michael Cera ("Arrested Development").