The year was 2009. Just as Rafiki brushed his thumb against Simba’s forehead, whispering his name, a stoic Phylicia Rashad caressed my love/hate trigger as she stared into the camera and delivered her lines. “I am Phylicia Rashad, and I am an actor” she said, surrounded by gaggles of peers amidst the 15th Annual Screen Actors Guild Awards. Live coverage then cut from actor to actor sitting in the same room, each new face (from Meryl Streep to Anne Hathaway) delivering the same line, none as self-serving (with a subtle hint of “This is how you do it, Beyonce) as Phylicia’s. It was one of the most embarrassing openings of any awards show I’ve ever witnessed, but it came as no surprise; This is an actor-on-actor lovefest; The SAG Awards; The Martha Stewart Home Accents Collection of awards season.
And it’s beautiful.
The SAG Awards can either be the strongest litmus test for the acting categories at the Oscars (think 2010) or throw a few curveballs that reflect a much more deserving (selected by a voting base that’s better informed and in tune with the craft than the Oscars’) batch of winners (think 2008).
In what has already shaped up as one of the most heated and upredictable Oscar races in years, the SAG Awards will most likely play out as they did for the 2011 calendar, at least in the Lead Actress category. Lawrence is poised to take the top spot from Jessica Chastain tonight, although the latter’s extensive body of work in such a short amount of time might prove impressive enough to SAG voters to push her to a win. If Chastain wins here, she’ll probably get the Viola Davis treatment at the Oscars (she won here last year, only to be upset by Meryl Streep at the hands of the Academy). Lawrence’s performance is much more Academy-friendly (commercially receivable and appealing) and it’s in a Weinstein film. If Naomi Watts has a chance at winning any major award this season, it’s here, and she’ll do it here if she’s lucky (she’s got major acting powerhouses campaigning for her this year). I usually trust the SAG voting base a bit more than I trust the Academy’s, considering it’s made up entirely of actors judging their own craft. Once nominations are in, the Academy opens the categories up to the entire membership, leaving more room for politicized votes. A win for Chastain here tonight indicates a better performance in a film unfortunately marred by politics.
The other categories will play out pretty much in-line with the rest of the precursor awards. Tommy Lee Jones should take Supporting Actor, Anne Hathaway will take Supporting Actress (although Sally Field is certainly in a position to upset), and Daniel Day-Lewis will take home a statue for his Leading performance in Lincoln.
If there are no surprises tonight, we should have a somewhat clearer idea of who will be taking home Oscar gold on February 24th. Hell, I’ll be happy if Phylicia Rashad gets another opportunity to give some gif-able diva face.
Daniel Day-Lewis (Lincoln)
Jennifer Lawrence (Silver Linings Playbook)
Tommy Lee Jones (Lincoln)
Anne Hathaway (Les Miserables)
The cast of Lincoln