Hey, where's Robert "Rob L" Licuria? He hasn't responded to my challenge to take on fellow forums moderator Chris "Boomer" Beachum in a new matchup to predict who'll win the Screen Actors Guild Awards this Sunday night. Recently, Boomer whacked Rob in a clash over predicting the most Oscar nominations, but, hey, he was just evening the score. Back in September Rob crushed Boomer when they went at it over who'd win the Primetime Emmys. Hey, Rob — you finally battle weary?
OK, I'll take ya on, Boomer! Unfortunately, for the sake of drama — and isn't that what showbiz is all about? — we don't disagree on many categories, but I'll come out swinging where I see a weak spot. We must, after all, keep Derbyites entertained as well as informed.
See a list of gutsy SAG AWARDS predix from other top pundits who shared their views with Gold Derby. Also, check out this a list of celebrities appearing as SAG Awards presenters.
BOOMER'S COMMENTARY — After the Globe win, it just seems like Rourke is on a roll picking up trophies for this performance. I think SAG Awards voters will especially identify with his story of a fallen actor making his comeback. Remember, though, that longtime respected actor Sean Penn has never won a SAG Award (he was upset by Johnny Depp the year he won his Oscar), so he is still a threat here. If a veteran character actor like Frank Langella can pick up an upset win this Sunday, he would definitely boost his Oscar chances in late February.
TOM'S COMMENTARY — You're right about one thing, Boomer. Whoever wins here will get a hefty push in the Oscars derby considering the academy is mailing out final ballots three days later. But it won't be Rourke. "The Wrestler" ($6.8 million U.S. box office) wasn't as widely seen as "Milk" ($20 million) by the 100,000 members of SAG who didn't get DVD screeners of either. Yes, guild members obviously have issues with the smug Mr. Penn as evidenced by his snub for "Mystic River," but "Milk" is about a subject of extraordinary, passionate interest to members of the acting community: gay rights. I think Penn gets a free ride thanks to that.
BEST FILM ACTRESS
Meryl Streep, "Doubt" - Boomer, Tom
BOOMER'S COMMENTARY - Streep has a SAG Award in a television category for "Angels in America," but has never won here for her film work. Now is the time.
TOM'S COMMENARY - I agree that Streep wins. Imagine yourself as an actor who takes the "craft" very, very seriously. You're looking over your ballot with the list of contenders here and Streep's name demands to be checked off. Sister Aloysius is Streep's flashiest, most heavenly performance in years and, besides, if you don't bow in reverence, she'll crack your knuckles good with a ruler. Hey, she's also mother superior. She outranks the mere novitiates among rivals, but two pose devilish threats: Anne Hathaway and Kate Winslet.
BOOMER'S COMMENTARY - No question at all about this category. Ledger will pick up a well-deserved award in an emotional moment Sunday night.
TOM'S COMMENTARY - While I agree with your conclusion, Boomer, I take aim at your strong assertion that there is "no question" here. Forget the journalists' awards like Los Angeles Film Critics Association and Golden Globes for a sec. SAG is our first view of how the movie industry will vote on a posthumous contender. History shows that these voters have often tossed out the dead rather mercilessly in the past. Only one deceased star has ever won an Oscar out of six previous nominees (Peter Finch, "Network") and none at the SAG Awards where only one has been nominated (Massimo Troisi, "Il Postino"). The Screen Actors Guild has been bestowing competitive prizes since 1994.
However, things are a bit different in SAG's TV races where there were two posthumous nominees, both of whom won: Jaul Julia ("The Burning Season") and Jerry Orbach ("Law & Order"). So that bodes well for Ledger.
BEST SUPPORTING FILM ACTRESS
Kate Winslet, "The Reader" - Boomer, Tom
BOOMER'S COMMENTARY - Yes, she is nominated in a different category at the Oscars, but I think Winslet will win this SAG supporting award Sunday on a path to picking up the lead acting Academy Award next month. This has happened before when Benicio del Toro won lead at SAG but supporting at the Oscars for his role in "Traffic".
BEST ENSEMBLE CAST
"Milk" - Boomer
"Doubt" - Tom
BOOMER'S COMMENTARY - This is a tough category to predict. "Slumdog Millionaire" is the overwhelming favorite to win the best picture award at the Oscars, but it is such an unknown cast that it probably will not win this ensemble category. "Benjamin Button" seems more of a technical achievement than one for its ensemble. Don't count out "Doubt" (which has all 4 actors also nominated individually) or the well-known actors from "Frost/Nixon," but I think this is the spot for "Milk" to win one last big award this season.
TOM'S COMMENTARY - The huge gay vote within SAG could swing this to "Milk," but I think there are even more snobs within the guild. "Doubt" is based upon a Tony Awards-sweeping Broadway play. It showcases the talents of such industry gods as Streep and Hoffman mugging to the max. It would be sacrilege to vote against it
BEST ACTOR IN A TV MOVIE/MINI
Paul Giamatti, "John Adams" - Boomer, Tom
BEST ACTRESS IN A TV MOVIE/MINI
Laura Linney, "John Adams" - Boomer, Tom
BOOMER'S COMMENTARY - Just don't go against anybody from "John Adams" when predicting these two categories. For that reason, it is interesting that both Paul Giamatti and Tom Wilkinson are finally up against each other for this miniseries. I'll go with Giamatti, though, since the entire project is about his character.
BEST ACTOR IN A TV DRAMA SERIES
Michael C. Hall, "Dexter" - Boomer
Jon Hamm, "Mad Men" - Tom
BOOMER'S COMMENTARY - With "Dexter" getting a somewhat surprising ensemble nomination, I think the time is right to honor Hall for his individual work on the show. Hugh Laurie or Jon Hamm would certainly not be a surprise.
TOM'S COMMENTARY - As much as I'd love to see Hall prevail, he can't. Not enough voters have seen "Dexter" on pay TV channel Showtime. He got nominated because of the difference between how SAG chooses nominees and winners. Let's recall Gold Derby's exclusive report back in November when we showed you the DVD campaign box sent by Showtime to the 2,100 members of the SAG nominating committee.
There's your proof that they had access to seeing the show and Hall's subtle performance, which is deserving of loud kudos notice. But DVDs weren't shipped to the guild's full voter base. That's why either Jon Hamm or Hugh Laurie will win instead.
Hamm lost last year while guild members gave a farewell hug to that thug Tony Soprano (James Gandolfini). Laurie won two years ago. Now it's Hamm's turn.
BEST ACTRESS IN A TV DRAMA SERIES
Sally Field, "Brothers and Sisters" - Boomer, Tom
BOOMER'S COMMENTARY - This is just a gut feeling based on Field's long film and television career. The rest of the category is not all that strong with Glenn Close sitting out a year and recent Globe winner Anna Paquin not even nominated.
TOM'S COMMENTARY - Scoot over a bit on this thin limb, Boomer. I'm shimmying out there with you. All of Gold Derby's other pundits are picking either Kyra Sedgwick ("The Closer") or Elisabeth Moss ("Mad Men"). Why should we think Sedgwick could finally win this year after three previous losses? Come on, that show is a crime procedural. Sometimes stars can rise above the kudos curse against that TV genre, but not now, not here. Personally, I think the only award Sedgwick should win is for Worst Southern Accent, although she'd get some serious competition this year if combined into one jumbo TV and film race with Cate Blanchett "Curious Case of Benjamin Button."
Sally Field was nominated only once earlier for her Emmy-winning role on "Brothers and Sisters" — last year when there was no getting around Edie Falco taking her farewell bow for "The Sopranos." With Falco off stage, now it's Field's overdue turn. She's an esteemed veteran who voters of showbiz awards "really, really like," as we know. She keeps winning them decade after decade, both in film and TV.
BEST ENSEMBLE TV CAST - DRAMA
"Mad Men" - Boomer, Tom
BOOMER'S COMMENTARY - The show didn't win last year since it was a farewell award for "The Sopranos." This show is the very definition of ensemble work and has a stellar cast. I can't really see anything beating "Mad Men" for this award Sunday night.
BEST ENSEMBLE TV CAST - COMEDY
"30 Rock" - Boomer, Tom
BEST ACTOR IN A COMEDY TV SERIES
Alec Baldwin, "30 Rock" - Boomer, Tom
BEST ACTRESS IN A COMEDY TV SERIES
Tina Fey, "30 Rock" - Boomer, Tom
BOOMER'S COMMENTARY - I have learned not to go against anything related to "30 Rock" these days. Baldwin and Fey should certainly repeat their victories from last year. Remember that "30 Rock" has not won this ensemble category before — "The Office" has won two in a row. That should change this weekend.
Photos: Focus Features, Showtime, Fox Searchlight, AMC