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SAG vs. Oscars: Can Ruby Dee repeat?

January 29, 2008 | 10:05 am

When sizing up Ruby Dee's chances of duplicating her SAG victory at the Oscars, it's important to weigh the history of the two awards, which have only co-existed since 1994. They've agreed 8 times in 13 years, but 5 of those were in the past 5 years.


Note that the extraordinary amount of recent agreement between SAG and Oscar can be seen among nominees, too: in 2005 and 2006 the lists in the supporting-actress race were the same. This year the nominee overlap was 4 for 5, with Saoirse Ronan ("Atonement") replacing SAG contender Catherine Keener ("Into the Wild") at the Oscars.

Remember, there used to be a lot more time in between these two awards, but when the Oscars moved up on the calendar four years ago, SAG moved up, too. Now they're scrunched much closer in time. Also keep in mind that the two groups share many of the same voters. All 1,300 members of the academy's acting branch belong to SAG. There are a lot more guild members, of course (more than 100,000 total; 2,100 are on SAG's nominating committee), but they're all like-minded people. Heck, if Gallup and Harris can get an accurate take on the national opinions of 300 million Americans by polling 1,500 people, then it's logical to assume that the views of SAG and AMPAS overlap a great deal despite the gap in numbers.

Here's a look back on this SAG race since 2000:

X - "Jennifer Hudson, "Dreamgirls"
Adriana Barraza, "Babel"
Rinko Kikuchi, "Babel"
Abigail Breslin, "Little Miss Sunshine"
Cate Blanchett, "Notes on a Scandal"
NOTE: All five nominees lined up.

X - "Rachel Weisz, "The Constant Gardener"
Michelle Williams, "Brokeback Mountain"
Catherine Keener, "Capote"
Amy Adams, "Junebug"
Frances McDormand, "North Country"
NOTE: All five nominees lined up.

X - "Cate Blanchett, "The Aviator"
Sophie Okonedo, "Hotel Rwanda"
Laura Linney, "Kinsey"
Virginia Madsen, "Sideways"
Cloris Leachman, "Spanglish"
NOTE: At the Oscars, Natalie Portman ("Closer") replaced SAG nominee Cloris Leachman.


X - "Renée Zellweger, "Cold Mountain"
Holly Hunter, "Thirteen"
Patricia Clarkson, "Pieces of April"
Keisha Castle-Hughes, "Whale Rider"
Maria Bello, "The Cooler"
NOTE: At the Oscars, Castle-Hughes was nominated in the lead race and Bello wasn't nominated at all. Instead, "Marcia Gay Harden ("Mystic River") and Shohreh Aghdashloo ("House of Sand and Fog") filled out this lineup.

X - "Catherine Zeta-Jones, "Chicago"""
Queen Latifah, "Chicago""
Julianne Moore, "The Hours""
Kathy Bates, "About Schmidt"
Michelle Pfeiffer, "White Oleander"
(NOTE: Pfeiffer wasn't nominated at the Oscars. Instead, "Adaptation" star Meryl Streep took her place.)

X - "Helen Mirren, "Gosford Park"
Cate Blanchett, "Bandits"
Dakota Fanning, "I Am Sam"
Judi Dench, "The Shipping News"
Cameron Diaz, "Vanilla Sky"
NOTE: Mirren was nominated at the Oscars, but got usurped by Jennifer Connelly ("A Beautiful Mind") who was placed in the lead race by SAG nom com. The other four SAG nominees did not make the Oscar list. Instead, academy contenders were: Maggie Smith ("Gosford Park"), Kate Winslet ("Iris") and Marisa Tomei ("In the Bedroom").

X - "Judi Dench, "Chocolat"
Kate Hudson, "Almost Famous"
Frances McDormand, "Almost Famous"
Julie Walters, "Billy Elliot"
Kate Winslet, "Quills"
NOTE: Here's the notorious year where a star won at the Oscars after not being nommed by SAG — the only time that's ever happened. Yeah, we're talking Marcia Gay Harden ("Pollock"). The only SAG nominee who didn't make the Oscar list was "Quills" star Winslet.

The comments to this entry are closed.


Cate Blanchett is going to win. This is a no brainer. Dee was a sentimental choice.

Everyone is forgetting that Ruby Dee is BELOVED. Think when Sally Field won the Emmy after everyone was predicting Kyra Sedwick. When a star is beloved, many people just check off the name without even thinking about it. Especially since people want Cate Blanchett to win something in lead and Amy Ryan is so new on the awards scene, I think Dee will win the Oscar (making it American Gangster's only award).

As revered as Ms. Dee is as an Actor, hasn't anyone remembered the hoopla over another legendary aging actress that came back to popular acclaim and many pundits said she's due, both SAG & Golden Globe concurred but at Oscar time, a huge upset proved wrong...LAUREN BACALL in 1996. Could it be possible here with Ms. Ruby Dee...hmmm. Look, recently a few other notable mature actresses in the last 10 years have been nominated were passed by for other performances i.e. Gloria Stuart, Maggie Smith, Vanessa Redgrave, Judi Dench...what makes us think Ms. Dee won't be any acception. Just something to think about. Otherwise, it's either new talent seeker Amy Ryan (who would definitely benefit from a win) to most sought after new character actress and put her in the big league of parts or the much beloved Ms. Blanchett (this decades new MERYL STREEP of sorts). I think though she will have to wait for a win in another year for Lead.

Doesn't anyone consider Tilda Swinton a chance? You may not like 'Michael Clayton' but she was fantastic as the evil face of corporate America and I know a lot of actors who thought the performance was spot-on.

We probably all should have seen Ruby Dee's victory coming.

In 2000, she received the SAG Lifetime Achievement Award (which was given to Charles Durning this year). That shows the love the SAG members have for her. Giving her the win this year validates their choice, as if to say, "Hey, this shows we were right back then."

The same dynamics aren't at play in the Oscars. I think people will think she got her recognition for a tiny role by receiving the SAG awards, but the Oscar should go to someone who had a meatier role.

In best supporting actress, it was looking for awhile that Amy Ryan would win for "Gone Baby Gone," after prevailing from National Board of Review, Los Angeles Film Critics Association, and New York Film Critics Circle.

But National Society of Film Critics said no to Ryan and yes to fellow Oscar contender Cate Blanchett in "I'm Not Here."

The Golden Globe award was voted to Blanchett.

So does that mean Blanchett will upset Ryan?

I'm thinking Cate Blanchett is going to end up with a second Oscar to go with her 2004 best supporting actress win for "The Aviator." But since Blanchett is so revered as a leading lady, I'd hold off in predicting her to win as 2007's best supporting actress; I'd bet on her second victory being in the lead-actress race.

So this really opens up the chance for 83-year-old acting legend Ruby Dee to become the oldest Oscar-winning performer. In "American Gangster," her screen appearance in small, but we've seen two ladies prevail in year's past for under-10 minutes: Beatrice Straight in "Network" (1976), Judi Dench in "Shakespeare in Love" (1998).

Also worth considering is Tom O'Neil's observation that supporting actor has been a category we've seen veterans win: James Coburn in "Affliction" (1998), Alan Arkin in "Little Miss Sunshine" (2006).

Whose to say it's only the male supporting prize for which we should be on the look? With Javier Bardem ("No Country for Old Men") appearing unstoppable in best supporting actor -- leaving first-time, 82-year-old nominee Hal Holbrook ("Into the Wild") unlikely -- I'd bet on supporting actress being the one category that celebrates for the first time that veteran's Oscar. (P.S. Holbrook and Dee's late husband, Ossie Davis, were series regulars on the 1990-94 CBS, Burt Reynold comedy "Evening Shade.")

It's possible she'll win the Oscar, but stats are there to be disproven, so I'm not reading too much into them.

The SAGs are always more sentimental than the Oscars, especially in the supporting categories, where veterans Gloria Stuart, Robert Duvall and Judi Dench all won for perfs that received comparatively little acclaim. None of them repeated at the Oscars.

If Ruby Dee's role was more of a slam-dunk (or even a few minutes longer), I'd rate her chances more. As it stands, I'm sticking with Amy Ryan - I think it's the performance that'll resonate most with the voters. I think people are underestimating Saoirse Ronan's chances too - remember Anna Paquin, people...

Tom, There's a big difference with the previous four years: Three of the four women who won had previously been awarded at the Golden Globes (the exception being Portman winning in 2004 - and she didn't make the SAG ballot).

There was some momentum for Hudson, Weisz and Zellweger heading toward SAG (which seems to always parrot the Globes or give away de facto lifetime achievement awards).

Dee is an outlier, as she has not been honored so far. Sure, she could turn her win at SAG into an Oscar win, but there isn't momentum for her like the others. It feels like a three-way race -- Ryan won the critics prizes (but is more unknown), Blanchette won the Globe and had the most transformative role (though, didn't she virtually play a man when she won in 2004?), and Dee is the universally respected veteran who has never won an award.



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