Viola Davis is probably going to win her first Best Actres Oscar this year. Like the Academy, SAG really likes Streep — indeed, she has scored more nominations from both groups than any other woman in history (eight from SAG, 17 from the Academy) and won two awards from each, as well. This year, however, SAG opted for Davis, for the same reasons that I believe the Academy will: all voters received screeners of both The Help and The Iron Lady; they clearly preferred The Help (which scored multiple nominations, including the top one) to The Iron Lady (which was represented by just Streep); they knew that Streep had won before, whereas Davis had not (they like to spread the love around); and many of them were undoubtedly attracted to the unfortunately rare opportunity to reward a person of color previously, the only black person to win the best actress SAG Award or Oscar was Halle Berry a decade ago.
Octavia Spenser will win the best supporting Oscar. Spencer has already managed to win the three principal Oscar-precursor awards — the Critics’ Choice Award, the Golden Globe Award, and now the SAG Award — despite competing with Chastain in the same category, I’m inclined to believe that she will do the same at the Oscars.
The Screen Actors Guild has existed since 1933, but has only been handing out end-of-the-year awards since 1995. Over the years since then, the SAG Awards’ acting nominees and winners have predicted the Academy’s acting nominees and winners better than any of the other many awards that collectively constitute the “Oscar season.”
So why is SAG, which is composed of 120,000 actors from around the world, such a good predictor of the choices of the Academy, which is composed of 5,515 people who work in virtually every facet of the film industry (animators, art directors, cinematographers, directors, documentarians, executives, film editors, makeup artists and hairstylists, musicians, producers, publicists, sound technicians, visual effects artists, and writers)?
Many people are deducing from the huge showing last night at the SAG awards by The Help — it tied American Beauty (1999) and Chicago (2002) for the most wins by a single film with three — that it is now the best picture Oscar frontrunner. That’s hogwash. The Help is clearly a very well-liked film, but much more so by actors than by the many other technicians who are also Academy members, and who opted not to nominate it in several major Oscar categories in which it was competing: best director (no film has won best picture without a directing nom in the last 22 years, and only three ever have), best adapted screenplay (no film has won best picture without a screenplay nom in the last 14 years, and only two have in the last 56 years), and best film editing (no film has won best picture without a film editing nom in the last 31 years, and only nine ever have). Most dauntingly of all, no film has ever won the best picture Oscar without being nominated in any of those categories.