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Screen Actors Guild Awards nominations: Early primer and predix

December 17, 2008 |  3:46 pm

When the Screen Actors Guild nominations are announced tomorrow (Thursday) morning at 6 a.m. PT/ 9 a.m. ET, the Oscars derby will become a lot clearer.

Academy Award nominees, remember, are chosen by peer group. Therefore, only actors are deciding both bunches of nominations, so Oscar and SAG tend to line up more closely than other kudos comparisons. Yes, there only about 1,200 actors in the motion picture academy compared with 2,100 members of the Screen Actors Guild nominating committee, but they share many of the same voters and, where they don't, both are groups are still comprised of like-minded people.


Two years ago SAG and Oscar agreed on 19 out of 20 nominations! Amazing! In 2004, 16. In 2005, 17. Last year they only overlapped on 15 out of 20, but results were still illuminating. Ruby Dee ("American Gangster") had been snubbed by the Golden Globes, Critics' Choice and other journo awards early in the season, but when we saw her pop up on SAG's list, we weren't surprised to see her in the Oscar derby later. The same thing could happen next for, say, Debra Winger ("Rachel Getting Married"), who gives an equally brief but impactful performance. In fact, I think it will.

Last year Angelina Jolie ("A Mighty Heart") was snubbed by Oscar, but she got nommed by SAG, so there's good reason to believe she'll make tomorrow's list for "Changeling" too. Maybe Richard Jenkins ("The Visitor") has a better shot at SAG than Oscar this year. SAG voters like to hail standout stars of indie pic like two nominees last year — Ryan Gosling ("Lars and the Real Girl") and Emile Hirsch ("Into the Wild") — who got bumped at the Oscars by established thesps with more star power: Johnny Depp ("Sweeney Todd") and Tommy Lee Jones ("In the Valley of Elah"). Tommy Lee Jones also got nommed in the supporting slot for "No Country for Old Men" at SAG, but not at the Oscars.

Here are my gutsy SAG predix:

Leo DiCaprio, "Revolutionary Road"
Richard Jenkins, "The Visitor"
Frank Langella, "Frost/Nixon"
Sean Penn, "Milk"
Mickey Rourke, "The Wrestler"

Rourke, Penn and Langella are locks, of course. SAG voters love Leo so much that they nominated him twice two years ago: in lead for "Blood Diamond" and in supporting for "The Departed." At the Oscars he only got noticed for "Blood Diamond." I'm not including Clint Eastwood ("Gran Torino") because SAG snubbed him the year that he got an acting bid at the Oscars for best picture champ "Million Dollar Baby." Brad Pitt ("The Curious Case of Benjamin Button") could also pop up here.

Anne Hathaway, "Rachel Getting Married"
Sally Hawkins, "Happy-Go-Lucky"
Angelina Jolie, "Changeling"
Meryl Streep, "Doubt"
Kate Winslet, "Revolutionary Road"

I'm doing something very foolish here. I'm leaving out Cate Blanchett, who is so beloved by SAG that she got two noms last year, just like she did at the Oscars, for films most viewers didn't like: "Elizabeth: The Golden Age" and "I'm Not There." Ah, well, there just isn't room. Hathaway, Streep and Winslet are locks. I'm taking a flier on Hawkins because SAG likes Mike Leigh's actresses. Imelda Staunton ("Vera Drake") and Brenda Blethyn ("Secrets and Lies") got nommed. Hawkins has shown extraordinary support at the film critics' awards, so I think that bodes well for her here. Other possibilities: Kristin Scott Thomas ("I've Loved You So Long") and Melissa Leo ("Frozen River"). There's no chance that Kate Winslet could be nommed for lead for "The Reader" because, at SAG, contenders decide their own category placement. It's not like at the Golden Globes where there's an eligibility committee or at the Oscars where voters can put you wherever they want (and often switch you around willy nilly).

Josh Brolin, "Milk"
Robert Downey Jr., "Tropic Thunder"
Philip Seymour Hoffman, "Doubt"
Heath Ledger, "The Dark Knight"
Dev Patel, "Slumdog Millionaire"

Other strong contenders: Michael Shannon ("Revolutionary Road"), Eddie Marsan ("Happy-Go-Lucky"), Ralph Fiennes and David Kross ("The Reader") and James Franco and Emile Hirsch ("Milk").

Penelope Cruz, "Vicky Cristina Barcelona"
Viola Davis, "Doubt"
Marisa Tomei, "The Wrestler"
Debra Winger, "Rachel Getting Married"
Kate Winslet, "The Reader"

Other strong contenders: Taraji Henson ("Benjamin Button"), Rosemarie DeWitt ("Rachel Getting Married") and Amy Adams ("Doubt").