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The Awards Line: The Sag of the Oscar Race

Posted by Erik Childress on January 31, 2012

The evening kicked off Sunday with the presentation of the two Supporting acting categories and it was to no one's surprise that Christopher Plummer (Beginners) and Octavia Spencer (The Help) walked away with "The Actor." They had already won the other two televised award shows from the ethically questionable Golden Globes and the Broadcast Film Critics Association, gave great speeches and appeared to be paving the way on the road to the ultimate gold -- just as in the previous two years when Mo'Nique, Christoph Waltz, Melissa Leo and Christian Bale had to clear shelf space during this same period. Since 1994, the Screen Actors Guild has only matched Oscar in each of the Supporting prizes 58.8% of the time, even if the Actor side has a four-year winning streak.

Those of you looking for firmer Oscar pool numbers though, rest assured we have them for you. In an effort to reduce the emphasis Hollywood is recently placing on the significance of the BFCA (aside from Houston, they were the only critics group to "predict" Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close as a Best Picture nominee), we shall leave them out of the equation since they do not really change the equations in question anyway. We'll stick with the other devil we have known for too long. The one with the actual network prime-time awards show. Those bribe-tastic Hollywood Foreign Press and their precious Golden Globes.

Examining Spencer's chances for the Oscar now, we can see that since the advent of the SAGs in 1994, when their choice for Supporting Actress corresponds with the Globes, 8-of-9 times that winner also grabbed the Oscar. That is excluding the year when Kate Winslet won all the Supporting awards for The Reader and went on to win the Lead and - including - the last seven times Globe & SAG has matched. Not since Lauren Bacall (The Mirror Has Two Faces) in 1996 has there been a snub. Over to Christopher Plummer, he can take comfort that 6-of-7 times Globe & SAG have complied - including the last four. Back in 2006 though, Eddie Murphy (collector of both trophies) ended up losing the Oscar to Alan Arkin, who, like Max Von Sydow this year (playing the grandfather of a "special" child)  was not nominated for the Globe or the SAG. Should Plummer worry that he's facing off against another 82 year-old legend who has only ever been nominated once for an Academy Award? Unless he's doing Norbit 2, probably not.

Best Actress was more or less going to be decided on Sunday night. Viola Davis had won the award from the group that need not be mentioned. Meryl Streep and Michelle Williams split the two genre-labeled categories from the Globes. Streep was up for her fourth SAG award in the last six years and won The Actor in 2008 for Doubt. (She then lost the Oscar to Winslet in the category-switch year.) She appeared to be the slight favorite for The Iron Lady going into Sunday night. 13 of the last 17 years, the Oscar has gone to one of the Globe winners in this category. SAG has matched with Oscar here 12 times in their 17-year history. And then SAG threw the curveball to Viola Davis. Not an underdog or even a giant surprise by any stretch, but kind of throws our whole SAG/Globe statistic out the window. Fine, we'll give you one stat associated with that other group. Then put it out of your memory. Of the 10 times the BFCA have matched with SAG, that Best Actress has won the Oscar 8 times.

George Clooney had also taken a slight edge in the Best Actor race over Jean Dujardin, besting The Artist star 2-1 in the TV Awards up until Sunday night. Now the match is all even. Each with a Globe, Clooney with a Voldemort prize and Dujardin now with a SAG. What does it all mean? 11-of-16 BFCA winners won the Oscar, including the last eight. Nice predictions, gang. SAG meanwhile boasts the best record in any acting category from any of the TV awards mentioned for Best Actor. Taking into account the Globes need two choices to produce their winning stat, the SAGs with only one have matched Oscar 13-of-17 times (including the last seven.) Dujardin may have regained the edge, but this is certainly going to be the most interesting race of the night.

That is because The Artist has all but won Best Picture at this point. It didn't take long for the suspense-seekers to start wondering about The Help as a serious challenger now. Why? Because it won as many SAG trophies as American Beauty and Chicago? Neither of their leading actresses went on to win the Oscar. So does that mean Viola Davis is doomed now too? The SAG ensemble award, which The Help won, is the most overrated Best Picture precursor out there.

For 16 years it has been a 50/50 proposition that has seen Little Miss Sunshine, The Full Monty and The Birdcage. Heck, Bridesmaids had a better shot at picking up the prize than The Artist, which is barely more an ensemble piece than Oleanna. Any of the other four nominees, including both The Descendants and Midnight In Paris would have been better choices for an ensemble award than the Oscar frontrunner, which The Artist still is despite whatever perceived help Tate Taylor's film received from SAG.

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