SAG Awards Set Possible Unprecedented Oscars Stage For All POC Winning Lineup

The SAG Awards have weighed in with their winners and have set in motion on what could be the most diverse slate of major Oscar winners in the 93-year history.

The celebration of the 27th annual ceremony, which is voted on by the approximate 160,000 person membership, was revealed during the one-hour pre-taped show via Zoom. Aaron Sorkin’s “The Trial of the Chicago 7” took the top prize of the evening for cast ensemble, marking its first major win of the awards season. In the acting categories, “Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom” stars Chadwick Boseman and Viola Davis won the leading male and female actor categories. At the same time, Daniel Kaluuya (“Judas and the Black Messiah”) and Yuh-Jung Youn (“Minari”) were triumphant in the male and female supporting. It marked the first time in SAG history that all four film acting categories went to POC. If the quartet translates to Oscar, it would be the most ever awarded in a single ceremony.

Boseman’s posthumous win was a first in any leading category at the SAG awards, putting him one step closer towards Oscar. In addition to winning Critics Choice and the Golden Globes, next week’s BAFTAs could further solidify his frontrunner status, even if Anthony Hopkins (“The Father”) has the home field advantage across the pond. If he does win BAFTA, you have to go back to 2002, when Russell Crowe (“A Beautiful Mind”) lost the Oscar to Denzel Washington (“Training Day”), for a nominee to lose with all those accolades behind them. Coincidentally, that was also the year that Halle Berry (“Monster’s Ball”) became the first and last Black woman to win the lead actress category, which brings us to the enigma that is best actress 2021.

Meet Ma Rainey (VIOLA DAVIS).
David Lee/Netflix

Davis’ win from SAG, her third individual overall, makes her the fourth individual actress winner from the televised award shows, an unprecedented occurrence for lead actress in 27 years – Globes went with Andra Day (“The United States vs. Billie Holiday”) in drama and non-nominee Rosamund Pike (“I Care A Lot”) in comedy while Carey Mulligan (“Promising Young Woman”) picked up Critics Choice. Davis now ties with Daniel Day-Lewis and Renée Zellweger as the most individual film acting winners in SAG history. Overall, only Davis and Zellweger have the distinction of four trophies, adding in their ensemble wins for “The Help” (2011) and “Chicago” (2002), respectively. There have been only two films to win both leading categories at the SAGs – “American Beauty” (1999) with Kevin Spacey and Annette Bening and “As Good as It Gets” (1997) with Jack Nicholson and Helen Hunt. The former lost Bening’s match-up on Oscar night.

Even with BAFTA next, only fellow Oscar nominees Vanessa Kirby (“Pieces of a Woman”) and Frances McDormand (“Nomadland”) are cited there, with four other non-recognized. In an unprecedented year, we should expect an unprecedented type of winner to emerge.

However, when it comes to winning both actor and actress, it’s no easy feat. Only six films have won both categories – “It Happened One Night” (1934), “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest” (1975), “Network” (1976), “Coming Home” (1978), “On Golden Pond” (1981) and “The Silence of the Lambs” (1991). All of those films were nominated for best picture, which “Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom” is not, and would be the first if both Boseman and Davis managed to win.

To add, no film has won two acting awards without a nomination for picture, director or screenplay, none of which “Ma Rainey” has. More so, only two films have ever won two acting awards without a picture nom – “The Miracle Worker” (1962) for Anne Bancroft (lead) and Patty Duke (supporting) and “Hud” (1963) for Patricia Neal (lead) and Melvyn Douglas (supporting). Neal currently holds the record for the shortest amount of screentime for a best actress winner at 21 minutes, 51 seconds. If Davis won, she would be the fifth shortest, just 12 seconds longer than Frances McDormand (“Fargo”).

One more thing to consider, Boseman is the only nominee, not from a film also nominated for picture. In the expanded picture era (since 2009), only two men have won without their films, making the cut – Forest Whitaker (“The Last King of Scotland”) and Jeff Bridges (“Crazy Heart”).

For Kaluuya, his win was expected, and along with Boseman, seems to be the only sure-fire bets in the major categories at the Academy. And just like Boseman, if Kaluuya wins BAFTA, where his closest competitor Sacha Baron Cohen (“The Trial of the Chicago 7”) is not nominated, no supporting actor has lost the Oscar when walking in with BAFTA, Critics Choice, Globes and SAG.

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Youn may have asserted herself as the bonafide frontrunner for the Academy’s hearts. With “Minari” landing six nominations, she can act as a winning representation for the film, and more importantly, she’ll be just the second female Asian acting winner in history following Miyoshi Umeki in “Sayonara” (1957). It’s not all sewn up for the critics’ darling, yet as Maria Bakalova (“Borat Subsequent Moviefilm”) is still a factor to consider. Picking up a win from Critics Choice, the two will face-off one last time at BAFTA, where none of their other supporting actress rivals are nominated. It’s safe to say, whoever wins at BAFTA, most likely wins at the Oscars.

With assessing the SAG winners, and their translation to Oscar winners, in 27 years, they’ve matched seven times, averaging three in a given year. It would be safe to assume someone will come up short, but who, and in which category?

The 2001 awards year is the only time two Black actors won the leading statuettes at the Oscars. Denzel Washington (“Training Day”) pulled off a stunning upset over Russell Crowe (“A Beautiful Mind”) and Halle Berry (“Monster’s Ball”) was also the first and last Black actress to win the category. That statistic has been a talking point in several conversations with awards strategists and industry voters. Without a BAFTA or a SAG nom and the sole representation for her film at the Oscars, Day has the toughest mountain to climb. No leading performance has ever won the Oscar without BAFTA and SAG in the modern era. In fact, only two actors have ever won without the two bodies – Marcia Gay Harden in “Pollock” (2001) and Regina King in “If Beale Street Could Talk” (2018). In the last 20 years of actress winners. Only Charlize Theron (“Monster”) and Julianne Moore (“Still Alice”) have been the sole nominees for their films, sweeping their respective awards seasons.

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Carey Mulligan stars as “Cassandra” in director Emerald Fennell’s PROMISING YOUNG WOMAN, a Focus Features release.
Credit: Courtesy of Focus Features

Courtesy of Focus Features

You have to wonder, are enough voters going to take the time to watch Day’s film before Oscar night, particularly in the artisan races where about 63% of the voters are? Davis’ film is on track to win four of its five nominations (actor, actress, costumes and makeup). Does it become a “down-the-line” ballot type of vote? Also, could “Ma Rainey” be the most awarded film of the night? No non-best picture nominated film has led the wins solely, in the history of the Academy?

If you factor in Mulligan, I’ve suspected her and original screenplay nominee Emerald Fennell is a packaged deal. If you go back to the last time a multiple nominated female filmmaker was nominated for three Oscars, Sofia Coppola for “Lost in Translation” (2003), her star Bill Murray, unfortunately, was not victorious at the Dolby, even after winning Globe and BAFT. Neither he nor eventual Oscar-winner Sean Penn (“Mystic River”) took SAG, losing shockingly to Johnny Depp (“Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl”). Perhaps the packaged theory is not so cemented after all?

Finally, with the SAG ensemble and Oscars’ best picture, the two have only matched 12 of the last 26 years. The last five have been “Parasite” (2019), “Spotlight” (2015), “Birdman” (2014), “Argo” (2012) and “The King’s Speech” (2010). Worth noting, Chloé Zhao’s “Nomadland” and Fennell’s “Promising Young Woman” was not nominated for ensemble. Only “Braveheart” (1995), “The Shape of Water” (2017) and “Green Book” (2018) have won picture without the nom.

While this year’s Oscar nominees presented the most diverse in history, are we headed for an all-acting lineup of POC? In addition Zhao winning director, and her film taking picture, 10 years ago, it wouldn’t have even been imagined. The closest we’ve ever come was in 2007 when Whitaker and Jennifer Hudson (“Dreamgirls”) won actor and supporting actress. Still, her co-star Eddie Murphy lost to Alan Arkin (“Little Miss Sunshine”) after winning Globe and SAG. We’re almost there.

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