Ah, and now the Oscar race intensifies. The Screen Actors' Guild has released their nominations for the best actors of the past year in cinema, and with this second phase of awards season, pundits begin sweating as they anticipate the selections of the AMPAS, which will finally come next month. In fact, many of the SAG voters will also vote for the Academy, so this round of nominations becomes crucial for those guessing next month's Oscar nominations. For now, let us analyze SAG's decisions and consider what the future will bring, courtesy of the Academy...
Outstanding Performance by a Male Actor in a Leading Role Oh, my... DiCaprio has been phased out and replaced with Richard Jenkins... I thought "Revolutionary Road" would be the darling of the year, but I become blind when biased... (However, the Academy might reward him anyway for his patience, if you know what I mean. *wink*) "The Visitor" seems to have received good critical reviews, at least, and Jenkins was picked out in the film's strengths... Meanwhile, everyone else rides over from the Globes, and the "Comedy/Musical" nominations are ignored, as is frequently the case. (Also, although it has a slim chance of nabbing the award, "The Wrestler" may be the dark horse film of this awards season, or so it seems. I had never heard of it beforehand, actually.)
RICHARD JENKINS / Walter Vale - "THE VISITOR" (Overture Films)
FRANK LANGELLA / Richard Nixon - "FROST/NIXON" (Universal Pictures)
SEAN PENN / Harvey Milk - "MILK" (Focus Features)
BRAD PITT / Benjamin Button - "THE CURIOUS CASE OF BENJAMIN BUTTON" (Paramount Pictures)
MICKEY ROURKE / Randy - "THE WRESTLER" (Fox Searchlight Pictures)
Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Leading Role Hathaway is making a really strong showing in both sets of nominations, and it appears that she will succeed in nabbing her first Oscar nom. Like the actor section, the actress nominees also find almost all of themselves carried over from the Globes' drama section, save for Kristin Scott Thomas, who is replaced by Melissa Leo, who comes from a film that debuted at Sundance at the beginning of this year. Since many SAG voters also vote for the Academy, Leo could be like the Laura Linney of last year and pop into the Oscar nominations as a surprise contender. Meanwhile, Streep could finally collect another award if Kate Winslet does not actually become the darling of the awards' year, as I believe she will.
ANNE HATHAWAY / Kym - "RACHEL GETTING MARRIED" (Sony Pictures Classics)
ANGELINA JOLIE / Christine Collins - "CHANGELING" (Universal Pictures)
MELISSA LEO / Ray Eddy - "FROZEN RIVER" (Sony Pictures Classics)
MERYL STREEP / Sister Aloysius Beauvier - "DOUBT" (Miramax Films)
KATE WINSLET / April Wheeler - "REVOLUTIONARY ROAD" (Paramount Vantage)
Outstanding Performance by a Male Actor in a Supporting Role Thankfully, the Guild recognizes Tom Cruise's obsoleteness and has replaced him with worthier nominations from "Milk" and "Slumdog." Downey continues to be a surprise, though worthy, contender, and Ledger continues to ride the wave of what could be voters' pity. While this is a somewhat oversimplified and unsympathetic comment (for which I will apologize in advance to those I offend), he did turn in an admirable, memorable performance. However, I still think Hoffman is going to find success in this category.
JOSH BROLIN / Dan White - "MILK" (Focus Features)
ROBERT DOWNEY, JR. / Kirk Lazarus - "TROPIC THUNDER" (Paramount Pictures)
PHILIP SEYMOUR HOFFMAN / Father Brendan Flynn - "DOUBT" (Miramax Films)
HEATH LEDGER / Joker - "THE DARK KNIGHT" (Warner Bros. Pictures)
DEV PATEL / Older Jamal - "SLUMDOG MILLIONAIRE" (Fox Searchlight Pictures)
Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Supporting Role Finally, for this section, Marisa Tomei has been omitted (unsurprisingly), and Taraji Henson from "Benjamin Button" has become her replacement. This category will prove tricky for Davis and Adams - while they likely both turned in great performances, history shows that two actors who are nominated together in the same category tend to cancel each other out, allowing for the success of another actor in voting. (Think about it: Judy Holliday for "Born Yesterday" in 1950? (Bette Davis ≠ Anne Baxter) John Wayne for "True Grit" in 1969? (Jon Voight ≠ Dustin Hoffman) Jennifer Hudson for "Dreamgirls" in 2006? (Adriana Barraza ≠ Rinko Kikuchi). NOTE: While these performances were all meritorious, I just wanted to note this effect in Oscar history.) Anyway, again, if Winslet does not get Best Actress, she will get this one. She has been nominated far too many times to let a double nomination year leave her empty-handed. (However, if she wins Best Actress, watch for Cruz to nab it; voters will not have forgotten her since "Volver.")
AMY ADAMS / Sister James - "DOUBT" (Miramax Flms)
PENÉLOPE CRUZ / Maria Elena - "VICKY CRISTINA BARCELONA" (The Weinstein Company)
VIOLA DAVIS / Mrs. Miller - "DOUBT" (Miramax Films)
TARAJI P. HENSON / Queenie - "THE CURIOUS CASE OF BENJAMIN BUTTON" (Paramount Pictures)
KATE WINSLET / Hanna Schmitz - "THE READER" (The Weinstein Company)
In summary, watch for this set of nominations to repeat for the Academy voters. Meanwhile, I, personally, will wait with bated breath for next month's Best Picture nominees.