2020 SAG Awards Winner Predictions

The Screen Actors Guild (SAG) Awards airs this Easter Sunday evening in an abridged hour long ceremony and, as usual, it could carry significant Oscar implications as to who the frontrunners truly are. That means it’s time for me to put my forecasting hat on and give it my best shot with predictions.

Let’s break it down category by category, shall we? I’ll provide my runner-up selection as well.

Outstanding Performance by a Cast in a Motion Picture

Nominees: Da 5 Bloods, Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom, Minari, One Night in Miami, The Trial of the Chicago 7

Analysis: Interestingly, the last two films in the big race (Black Panther, Parasite) won without a single nomination in the individual acting races. That had only happened two times previously between 1995-2017 with 1997’s The Full Monty and 2003’s Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King. That will not happen for 2020’s selections as all five have at least one performer contending in a separate category.

However, in a rare occurrence, only two of the five ensembles here landed a Best Picture nomination from the Academy. Those are Minari and The Trial of the Chicago 7. Only once in SAG’s history has a movie emerged victorious here without a BP Oscar nod (1996’s The Birdcage). This serves as my annual reminder that SAG picks the best cast and not the best movie.

Truth be told, Da 5 Bloods is the only pic that I believe has little chance at winning here. Yet Ma Rainey and Miami are likely at a disadvantage due to precedent. That leaves us with Minari and Trial. The latter has seen its Oscar momentum stalled in recent weeks, but its sprawling cast could finally get the major precursor victory that it’s been missing. I’m tempted to pick it and it might be the safe choice.

Minari, on the other hand, has gained steamed recently and emerged as a potential upset winner at the Oscars against Nomadland (as has Promising Young Woman, which missed here). I’m choosing to go with the picture with the hotter hand.

Predicted Winner: Minari

Runner-Up: The Trial of the Chicago 7

Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Leading Role

Nominees: Amy Adams (Hillbilly Elegy), Viola Davis (Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom), Vanessa Kirby (Pieces of a Woman), Frances McDormand (Nomadland), Carey Mulligan (Promising Young Woman)

Analysis: The Golden Globe winner in this category (Andra Day for The United States vs. Billie Holiday) isn’t featured here. Therefore we can take a precursor sweep off the table for Best Actress. Adams is the sole nominee without an Oscar nomination so she’s out of contention. Mulligan has the Critics Choice Award and is looked at as the prohibitive favorite from the Academy. She’s the most likely SAG winner. Davis and McDormand could upset, but I’m relatively confident with this pick.

Predicted Winner: Carey Mulligan, Promising Young Woman

Runner-Up: Frances McDormand, Nomadland

Outstanding Performance by a Male Actor in a Leading Role

Nominees: Riz Ahmed (Sound of Metal), Chadwick Boseman (Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom), Anthony Hopkins (The Father), Gary Oldman (Mank), Steven Yeun (Minari)

Analysis: There’s a five for five match here with the Academy, but I find this SAG lineup to be a bit more complicated due to other factors. While Boseman has taken the Globes and Critics Choice, his nod in Supporting Actor with the actors guild for Da 5 Bloods (if he wins there) opens the door for either Ahmed or Hopkins. That wouldn’t totally shock me, but it’s hard to predict against Boseman and I won’t.

Predicted Winner: Chadwick Boseman, Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom

Runner-Up: Anthony Hopkins, The Father

Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Supporting Role

Nominees: Maria Bakalova (Borat Subsequent Moviefilm), Glenn Close (Hillbilly Elegy), Olivia Colman (The Father), Yuh-jung Youn (Minari), Helena Zengel (News of the World)

Analysis: Now this is a tough one. The Supporting Actress derby in the precursors has been a true head scratcher. Like in Best Actress, Golden Globe winner Jodie Foster (The Mauritanian) is nowhere to be found (she missed at the Oscars too). Colman and Zengel are the two performers who are highly unlikely to take the prize. This is a genuine three person race between Bakalova, Close, and Youn. Bakalova seems to have momentum with a recent Critics Choice victory. SAG could certainly opt for Close’s baity role (the fact that they nominated her costar Amy Adams lends credence to that). Youn is without a major precursor, but Minari‘s upswing could sweep her in.

Simply put, I’ve very torn here. With Close, the Academy’s narrative for a win is that she’s without an Oscar and is looked at as overdue. SAG, on the other hand, has bestowed trophies for her twice including just two years ago for The Wife. Bakalova has the disadvantage of being in a comedy, but that hindrance may not matter much in this wide open field. I’m left with buying the Minari momentum for Youn. However, I can’t stress enough how feasible a win is for all three actresses.

Predicted Winner: Yuh-jung Youn, Minari

Runner-Up: Maria Bakalova, Borat Subsequent Moviefilm

Outstanding Performance by a Male Actor in a Supporting Role

Nominees: Sacha Baron Cohen (The Trial of the Chicago 7), Chadwick Boseman (Da 5 Bloods), Daniel Kaluuya (Judas and the Black Messiah), Jared Leto (The Little Things), Leslie Odom Jr. (One Night in Miami)

Analysis: This one is far simpler than Supporting Actress as Kaluuya has racked up the Globe and Critics Choice and is the heavy favorite. The only wrinkle, as mentioned above, is if SAG voters decide to honor Boseman here instead of in Best Actor. It probably won’t happen, but it’s not outside the realm of possibility.

Predicted Winner: Daniel Kaluuya, Judas and the Black Messiah

Runner-Up: Chadwick Boseman, Da 5 Bloods

And there you have it! I’ll have reaction up on Sunday evening. Until then…

 

Oscars 2020: The Case of Maria Bakalova

Maria Bakalova’s breakthrough film debut in Borat: Subsequent Moviefilm is my first Case Of post in the seemingly wide open Supporting Actress race at the Oscars:

The Case for Maria Bakalova

The Bulgarian actress became a sensation in 2020 with her hilarious turn as Borat’s daughter in the highly publicized sequel. Her road to the Oscar nomination has been stacked with numerous regional critics prizes as well as the Critics Choice Award. It’s worth noting that the latter award has matched Oscar for the past 11 years. The Academy is known for rarely bestowing their gold on comedic performances, but it’s happened more in this race than others. Examples include Maria Tomei (My Cousin Vinny), Dianne Wiest (Bullets Over Broadway), and Mira Sorvino (Mighty Aphrodite).

The Case Against Maria Bakalova

Her studio decided to campaign for Bakalova in Best Actress (Musical/Comedy) at the Golden Globes and she was widely assumed to be the winner. She lost in an upset to Rosamund Pike for I Care a Lot. While I gave some examples of Supporting Actress winners on the funny side, we are talking a quarter century ago.

The Verdict

It cannot be overstated how unpredictable this year’s Supporting Actress competition is. The fact that Bakalova made the cut absolutely means she could be the victor. If the SAG Awards honors her this weekend, look for her to achieve frontrunner status. At the moment, that’s a big if…

My Case Of posts will continue with Bakalova’s movie dad Sacha Baron Cohen for The Trial of the Chicago 7…

Oscar Watch: Godzilla vs. Kong

While domestic audiences (via the theater or HBO Max) are about to find out who wins the epic showdown titled Godzilla vs. Kong, there is no doubt which creature holds the advantage with Oscar voters. It opens Wednesday and the review embargo is up as of today. The Adam Wingard directed monster mash currently holds an 81% Rotten Tomatoes rating. That’s currently above the three other titles in the MonsterVerse franchise: 2014’s Godzilla (76%), 2017’s Kong: Skull Island (75%), and 2019’s Godzilla: King of the Monsters (42%).

Now you may be thinking that no movie with Godzilla or Kong in the title has been nominated for Best Picture and it won’t start now. You would be 100% correct. The real question is whether this shows up in the 2021 derby for Best Visual Effects. In that space, our massive gorilla holds a distinct advantage. The 1976 remake of King Kong won a special Academy Award for its visuals and the 2005 remake won Visual Effects outright when it became its own category. In the current MonsterVerse, Kong: Skull Island landed a nomination in the race (losing to Blade Runner 2049). As for Godzilla, the last three American produced iterations (1998 and 2014’s Godzilla and its 2019 sequel) garnered a grand total of zero nods for its effects.

There are likely to be a number of spectacles this year that could contend in VE (several of them pushed back from 2020) so competition will be fierce. Yet Kong has shown his prowess in getting Academy members to notice him and perhaps he can bring his nemesis along for the ride. My Oscar Watch posts will continue…

Godzilla: King of the Monsters Review

Looking back on my Godzilla review from 2014, I spoke of how it felt like a party where the main character (that would be the fire breathing title one) wasn’t invited until halfway through. You expected Godzilla to be there the whole time. That left a level of disappointment, but the Gareth Edwards reboot of the franchise was worth the wait in the end. The sequel Godzilla: King of the Monsters RSVP’s the main attraction early on and he brings some familiar friends to the shindig. That doesn’t make the party better.

Michael Dougherty takes over directorial duties in a follow-up that feels bigger with its sprawling cast and action sequences. It also feels more cluttered and more like a prelude to what’s coming next in the MonsterVerse (Godzilla vs. Kong). That’s not an issue shared by 2014’s predecessor. Monsters picks up five years after the events of Godzilla when the creature managed to save the world and leave some collateral damage. That includes the young son of biologist Dr. Emma Russell (Vera Farmiga) and animal behavioralist Mark (Kyle Chandler). The parents have reacted differently and separately from the tragedy. Dr. Emma still believes in Godzilla’s global saving abilities, but in a dangerous way that teams her with an ecoterrorist (Charles Dance). Mark’s grief is directed toward Godzilla. Daughter Madison (Millie Bobby Brown) is caught in the middle.

The family drama pits the estranged couple on opposites ends of the battle. More monsters are awoken from their slumber in various Monarch stations to wreak havoc. It results in the destruction of monuments in quite familiar Independence Day/Transformers style fashion. Toho stalwarts Rodan, Mothra, and King Ghidorah are the aforementioned party dwellers joining the fray. The big fights are shot in destinations where the forecast is either a downpour or so dark that it’s often frustratingly hard to tell what is happening.

In addition to the Russell family, lots of recognizable actors are left to mostly stand and gawk at the monstrous activity. The film does have the distinction of adding another performer to the trifecta of prominent N.W.A. members (speaking of monster verses!) from Straight Outta Compton. In Kong: Skull Island, we had Eazy-E (Jason Mitchell) and Dr. Dre (Corey Hawkins). Now we have O’Shea Jackson Jr. (who played his dad Ice Cube in Compton) as a soldier. David Strathairn, Sally Hawkins, and Ken Watanabe reprise their 2014 roles while Bradley Whitford, Thomas Middleditch, and Zhang Ziyi are fresh gawkers. There’s not really a human performance to highlight. Just as Bryan Cranston earned some rightful criticism for his wild overacting in Godzilla, here we have Kyle Chandler often speaking in an intense and earnest hoarse whisper that is perhaps more annoying.

There’s a brief middle section where Godzilla is given a unique wakeup call. It transpires underwater where we discover the iconic radioactive creature’s original habitat. I found this to be the most well-constructed and engaging sequence. It hints at ancient stories that would probably be cool to explore. This doesn’t last long and before we know it, we are back to the dimly lit and rain soaked above ground CG brawls. They’re occasionally fun, but they will fall straight outta mind in short order. Maybe King Kong getting in on this will brighten things up.

** (out of four)

For my Godzilla (2014) review, click here:

Godzilla (2014) Movie Review

For my Kong: Skull Island review, click here:

Kong: Skull Island Movie Review

The Father Review

Florian Zeller’s The Father takes us devastatingly into the mind of a man who’s losing his own to dementia. Based on the director’s 2012 play Le Pere, the film is not an easy watch due to both its emotional themes and often confusing storyline. However, the latter is on purpose as The Father is frequently told from the viewpoint of Anthony (Anthony Hopkins) as he has lost his grip on time, place, and reality.

Primarily taking place in a London flat, Anthony is being cared for by his daughter Anne (Olivia Colman) as the picture opens. It doesn’t take long to realize he suffers lapses in cognition. Anne tells her father that she will soon move to Paris because she’s fallen in love. Shortly thereafter we see Anne in the form of another woman (Olivia Williams) and she’s married to Paul (Mark Gatiss), which puts Anne’s recent tale of French relocation into question. Paul is later seen in the form of another being (Rufus Sewell) with Colman’s iteration of Anne back in the mix.

This is the puzzle piece in which we, the audience, are constantly piecing together. It’s soon apparent that we are subject to Anthony’s failing perspective. The Father covers the familiar issues involved with dementia in often unfamiliar ways: elder abuse, the exhaustive toll on family members, the brief moments of clarity that justify soldiering on.

There’s also the issue of another daughter who Anthony holds in high regard, but has seemingly disappeared from the scene. We see glimpses of Anthony’s gregarious personality when he lays on the charm for a prospective new caretaker (Imogen Poots). It coincides with his sometimes dismissive treatment of Anne.

All of this is held together by a masterful performance from Hopkins. Despite his movie star persona, it takes virtually no time in its 97 minutes for the Oscar winner to disappear into the role. The supporting cast is all first-rate, but our emotions rise and fall with Anthony’s own. For those with first-hand experience with this awful illness, The Father is a challenge to witness. For any moviegoer, it’s also an example of a unique take on the subject with a brilliant performance in the center of the tragic confusion.

***1/2 (out of four)

Oscars 2020: The Case of Riz Ahmed

Riz Ahmed’s performance in Sound of Metal is the first of the five Best Actor nominees up in my Case Of posts!

The Case for Riz Ahmed

Ever since Sound of Metal premiered way back at the Toronto Film Festival in 2019, Ahmed has been drawing raves for his work as a heavy metal drummer who loses his hearing. Metal did better than expected on Oscar nomination morning with 6 mentions. In addition to its lead, it was nominated for Picture, Supporting Actor (Paul Raci), Original Screenplay, Film Editing, and Sound. In the latter two races, it stands a solid shot at winning. Ahmed’s career has been growing in recent years with an Emmy victory in 2017 for HBO’s The Night Of. He also made history by becoming the first Muslin nominated in Best Actor.

The Case Against Riz Ahmed

All the precursor awards have been bestowed to Chadwick Boseman in Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom and he stands as the frontrunner. So while Ahmed has achieved nods in all the important precursors, he’s yet to walk away with a significant win. At this juncture, it’s tough to imagine anyone else taking the gold.

The Verdict

Ahmed and Anthony Hopkins (The Father) are correctly thought of as potential spoilers to Boseman’s sweep. Yet it appears unlikely to happen.

My Case Of posts will continue with the first post on a Supporting Actress nominee: Maria Bakalova in Borat Subsequent Moviefilm.

Oscars 2020: The Case of Viola Davis

**Blogger’s Update (04/04): Viola Davis has won the SAG Award for Best Actress. Her victory there makes an Oscar win certainly more feasible than when I wrote the post below.

Viola Davis’s performance in Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom is first up in my Case Of posts for the five hopefuls for Best Actress:

The Case for Viola Davis:

She could make history and already has. By nabbing her fourth nod for the Netflix drama, Davis has become the most nominated African-American woman ever. She is 1 for 3 having won four years ago in Supporting Actress for Fences (her other two mentions were in supporting in 2008 with Doubt and in lead in 2011 for The Help). If she were to emerge victorious here, Davis would be the first African-American female with two victories.

The Case Against Viola Davis:

Ma Rainey underperformed significantly with voters with misses in Best Picture, Director, and Adapted Screenplay. It could win tech races like Costume Design and Makeup and Hairstyling. The best chance at a major victory, however, lies with costar Chadwick Boseman in Best Actor (who’s performing a sweep thus far with precursors). Davis’s chances have taken a backseat to Carey Mulligan (Promising Young Woman), Frances McDormand (Nomadland), and perhaps even Andra Day (The United States vs. Billie Holiday), who picked up a surprise Golden Globe trophy. There has also been some chatter that her work here should have been for Supporting Actress due to fairly limited screen time.

The Verdict

Ms. Davis was near the top of possibilities to take this award a while back. That has undoubtedly changed and a second Oscar here would be nothing short of a major upset.

My Case Of posts will continue with Riz Ahmed in Sound of Metal…

The Unholy Box Office Prediction

Sony Pictures is praying that horror fans turn out next weekend for The Unholy, a supernatural fright fest that will test the genre’s waters in these COVID-19 times. The film marks the directorial debut of screenwriter Evan Spiliotopoulos and it comes under the banner of Sam Raimi’s Ghost House Pictures. Jeffrey Dean Morgan leads a cast that includes Kate Aselton, William Sadler, and Cary Elwes.

In addition to competition from limited capacity seating in many venues, the attention of many moviegoers is likely to be focused on Godzilla vs. Kong (which is looking to achieve the largest post pandemic opening yet). Sony has been fairly lax in promoting this with a trailer out just earlier this month.

That said, horror fans often cause these exercises to outpace expectations and that’s certainly possible here. However, my hunch is that a $3-4 million start is where this lands.

The Unholy opening weekend prediction: $3.4 million

For my Godzilla vs. Kong prediction, click here:

Godzilla vs. Kong Box Office Prediction

Oscars 2020: The Case of Lee Isaac Chung

Now that my Case Of posts for the 8 nominated Best Picture candidates has concluded, it’s time to move to the 25 contenders in the directing and acting competitions. It begins with Best Director and Lee Isaac Chung for Minari.

The Case for Lee Isaac Chung

Since its debut at the Sundance Film Festival in January 2020, Chung’s drama about South Korean immigrants in 1980s rural America has been a critical and audience favorite. The film performed about as well as expected on nomination day with 6 nods. While Nomadland is certainly the frontrunner to take BP, Minari stands as one of the few titles with upset potential. Chung also landed a DGA spot which is critical for a win with the Academy.

The Case Against Lee Isaac Chung

Even if Nomadland doesn’t win the biggest prize of all, its maker Chloe Zhao seems destined for Best Director. While Minari performed well with Academy, its miss in Editing casts doubt on a BP victory. As for Chung himself, his lack of recognition at the Golden Globes seems significant. You have to go all the way back to Roman Polanski in 2002 for The Pianist to find an Oscar winning filmmaker who wasn’t nominated at the Globes.

The Verdict

In a trend you will see with other director nominees not named Chloe Zhao, it’s hard to envision Chung or the others overcoming her momentum.

My Case Of posts will continue in the field of Best Actress with Viola Davis in Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom…

The Producers Roll With Nomadland

In the previous decade, the winner of the Producers Guild of America (PGA) best motion picture ended up matching with the eventual Oscar recipient 70% of the time. So it’s no wonder that all eyes of prognosticators were on tonight’s ceremony. Would the PGA do anything to interrupt the narrative that Chloe Zhao’s Nomadland is a sturdy favorite to take the Academy’s gold?

The answer? No. Nomadland received yet another honor from the PGA to go with its Golden Globe for Best Drama, Critics Choice Award, and numerous regional group best pic designations. Had Minari or Promising Young Woman or The Trial of the Chicago 7 won, it might have created more suspense for the Oscar ceremony happening on April 25th. Yet the PGA victory is another arrow in the quiver for Zhao’s achievement.

If you’re another movie hoping to best Nomadland, the PGA and the Academy have differed three times in the last five years. In 2015, the Guild picked The Big Short over Spotlight. In 2016, it was La La Land instead of Moonlight. Last year – 1917 over Parasite. 

As for other races, Disney/Pixar’s Soul, as expected, took animated feature and it remains a major frontrunner at the big show. The documentary category went to My Octopus Teacher and that certainly puts it in serious contention in one month.

Bottom line: Nomadland is rolling and nothing may be able to stop it.