Sandra Bullock Best Actress, George Clooney Best Actor: SAG Awards Predictions

2010 SAG Award Predictions

Best Actress

Sandra Bullock, The Blind Side

Say what? Sandra Bullock?

I know I'm going a bit out on a limb here, but unlike Jeff Bridges' Crazy Heart, Sandra Bullock's The Blind Side is truly a career-capping flick – as in, more box office cash registers ringing than, say, Miss Congeniality, Infamous, Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood, or The Proposal. Additionally, the heart-warming, family-friendly, holiday-cheering, greenhouse-gas-reducing The Blind Side proves that

a) Bullock can be really successful in dramas,

b) she can have two major box office hits in a single year (that used to be Julia Roberts' exclusive province),

c) she looks good as a blonde.

Item c) is the most difficult to accomplish, something I'm sure SAG members will recognize. I'm betting they'll also want to reward Bullock for

a) her perseverance (she's been around for more than two decades),

b) for proving everyone wrong about her “fading” box office appeal

c) for daring to (once again) get cast against type.

In just about any other year, Meryl Streep would have been my pick for the SAG Awards for her highly successful star turn in Julie & Julia – but not in 2009. After all, Bullock has never even been nominated for an individual SAG Award (though she was part of the winning Crash ensemble back in early 2006), while Streep won last year for Doubt. Two SAG Awards in a row? Though not impossible – anything is possible when it comes to Meryl Streep and acting awards – I'd say that Bullock is the one to beat this year. At least at the Screen Actors Guild Awards.

Carey Mulligan, much like Colin Firth for A Single Man, could produce an upset victory for her determined schoolgirl in An Education, though I believe that most SAG members – who tend to like big-name winners, anyways – will decide Mulligan still has plenty of time to bring trophies home. Gabourey Sidibe and Helen Mirren for, respectively, Precious and The Last Station, are surely glad they've been nominated this year. That's good.

Photo: Ralph Nelson / Warner Bros.

2010 SAG Award Predictions

Anna Kendrick, George Clooney in Up in the Air

Best Actor

George Clooney (with Anna Kendrick), Up in the Air

Why George Clooney?

Reason #1: He is George Clooney, a well-liked, well-respected actor who has often used his name to push projects that have something say, e.g., Syriana, Good Night, and Good Luck., The Men Who Stare at Goats, and most recently Jason Reitman's dramatic comedy Up in the Air, in which Clooney plays a corporate-downsizing expert whose job is to ensure that thousands of other people lose theirs.

Before you begin hating his character, consider this: It could have been much worse. Clooney's Ryan Bingham could have been a banker or a politician, doing his utmost to destroy the lives of millions instead of mere thousands. Also, he does meet Vera Farmiga and rediscovers there's more to life than frequent-flyer miles and pink slips.

Reason #2: The buzz surrounding Clooney's performance has been extremely positive, with some calling it his most natural, most appealing characterization to date.

Reason #3: Up in the Air will probably become a hit, something that in itself will call more attention to Clooney's performance.

Reason #4: Clooney's strongest competition, Jeff Bridges, is the star of a very small movie. True, SAG Award voters will surely get screeners so they can watch Bridges at home, but Crazy Heart hasn't been getting the kind of strong buzz that has greeted Up in the Air, the winner of numerous awards in the last few weeks. That can make a big difference – unless voters decide to honor Bridges for his career.

The other nominees – Colin Firth in A Single Man, Morgan Freeman in Invictus, and Jeremy Renner in The Hurt Locker – don't seem to have much of a chance. Of the three, Firth is the only one who could emerge as an upset winner. And that would be quite an upset.

Photo: Dale Robinette / Paramount

Christoph Waltz in Inglourious Basterds

Best Supporting Actor

Christoph Waltz, Inglourious Basterds

Christoph Waltz, who plays a ruthless (but cultured) Nazi colonel in Quentin Tarantino's Inglourious Basterds, has been winning just about every best supporting actor award in sight in the United States; that in addition to his best actor prize at Cannes earlier this year. Though hardly a household name in the US, Waltz seems all but unbeatable come Awards Season Part II early next year thanks to Basterds' success.

Waltz's closest competitors among US critics have been Christian McKay, who plays Orson Welles in Richard Linklater's little-seen Me and Orson Welles, and Woody Harrelson for his army captain in Oren Moverman's The Messenger. But since McKay isn't in the running for the SAG Awards – perhaps a lack of M&OW screeners made available to SAG's 2,000+ nominating committee? – and Harrelson's role is considerably less showy than Waltz's, I'd say that the Vienna-born actor's closest SAG Award competitor is another Christoph(er): Christopher Plummer, who plays a very bearded and very dogmatic Leo Tolstoy in Michael Hoffman's The Last Station. If Plummer wins, and that's not impossible, it'll be less for his dying Tolstoy than for his having survived both the von Trapp family and more bad movies than just about any actor since the first nickelodeons.

Matt Damon (for his rugby player in Invictus) will probably just watch from the sidelines, but Stanley Tucci could be an upset winner if voters think of him not only in terms of The Lovely Bones, but also in terms of Julie & Julia, The Devil Wears Prada, Big Night, etc. etc. – all the way to Prizzi's Honor back in 1985.

Having said all that, I'm still betting on Christoph Waltz.

The SAG Awards will be presented on Jan. 23, 2010.

Photo: François Duhamel / The Weinstein Co.

2010 SAG Award Predictions

Mo'Nique in Precious

Best Supporting Actress

Mo'Nique, Precious

Mo'Nique's worst obstacle at the SAG Awards (and elsewhere) isn't Anna Kendrick or Vera Farmiga (both for Up in the Air), but Mo'Nique herself. She's recently gained a reputation – whether fairly or not, I don't know – of wanting $$$ to make appearances at awards shows, film festivals, charities, college graduations, beach parties, song & dance clubs, roadside diners, and the like.

Not that I blame her, but some have complained that she didn't show up at the Toronto Film Festival to promote her film and may not show up at the New York Film Critics Circle gala evening. That may look bad, as voters – brilliant minds all – may think she's as big a meanie as her mom in Precious. They would then opt for someone nice like Marisa Tomei, except that Tomei isn't in the running this year for My Cousin Vinny or anything else.

As a result, voting SAG members would have to settle for Kendrick or Farmiga or Diane Kruger (for Inglourious Basterds) or Penélope Cruz (for Nine).

Having said all that, my money (no pun intended) rests on Mo'Nique.

The SAG Awards will be presented on Jan. 23, 2010.

Photo: Anne Marie Fox / Lionsgate

Best Cast in a Motion Picture

The Hurt Locker – Christian Camargo, Brian Geraghty, Evangeline Lilly, Anthony Mackie, Jeremy Renner

Many consider the Screen Actors Guild's Outstanding Cast in a Motion Picture Award as SAG' best film equivalent. Generally speaking, that ain't true. A “cast,” or “ensemble,” is exactly what the name implies: a group of performers interacting with one another in a movie. SAG Award voters, whether when selecting their nominees or winners, have almost invariably followed that “Outstanding Cast = Outstanding Group Acting” concept.

For instance, among past SAG Award nominees in the Outstanding Cast category have been How to Make an American Quilt, Marvin's Room, Boogie Nights, The Green Mile, Chocolat, and Bobby – movies that weren't particularly well received upon their release (and some of which turned out to be box office disappointments), but that are ensemble pieces as opposed to showcases for only one or two performers.

That concept can also be seen at work in the SAG Award winners, e.g., The Full Monty, Traffic, Gosford Park, The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King, Sideways, Crash, and Little Miss Sunshine.

This year is no exception. Each of the five nominees – An Education, Nine, Precious, Inglourious Basterds, and The Hurt Locker – feature a number of important roles. Rob Marshall's Nine, for one, which has been greeted with – at best – mixed reviews, got in thanks to the presence of a stellar cast that includes Daniel Day-Lewis, Penélope Cruz, Nicole Kidman, Marion Cotillard, Kate Hudson, Fergie, Judi Dench, and Sophia Loren.

The Hurt Locker has no such stellar cast, but it does have something else going for it: it's gained the reputation as the year's most prestigious film. Kathryn Bigelow's Iraq War drama, which also features Ralph Fiennes and Guy Pearce, has already won several awards and is a shoo-in to nab a Best Picture Oscar nomination. As a plus, Jeremy Renner received his own private Best Actor SAG Award nod. The combination of quality (the film and performances) and quantity (the number of key roles) should prove irresistible – like what happened last year with Slumdog Millionaire. Or so I think.

The one possible upset is a victory for Quentin Tarantino's revenge fantasy Inglourious Basterds, which has gained quite a bit of momentum since North American film critics began announcing their year-end picks. Basterds is also up for several Golden Globes and for two SAG Awards: best supporting actress Diane Kruger (who doesn't have much of a chance to win) and best supporting actor Christoph Waltz (who doesn't have much of a chance not to win). Even so, Tarantino's latest doesn't quite have the same prestige aura as The Hurt Locker.

And that's why I'm betting on the bomb squad to take home the SAG Award for best cast.

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