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SAG Awards Film Predictions: How the Winners Could Shift the Oscar Race

From "Minari" to "Ma Rainey's Black Bottom," SAG wins could change the direction of several key Oscar races.

MINARI_01590 Steven Yeun, Alan S. Kim, Yuh-Jung Youn, Yeri Han, Noel ChoDirector Lee Isaac ChungCredit: Josh Ethan Johnson


Josh Ethan Johnson

It’s tradition to scrutinize the SAG Award winners as an Oscar-race bellwether — the acting branch dominates Academy voting — but this year the SAG nominations are out of sync. Final SAG film voting closed March 31 for the ceremony’s one-hour TNT broadcast April 4, but the awards are pre-taped in actors’ homes April 1 with no theater, hosts, or red carpet. Let the leaks begin!

This time, three SAG Ensemble nominees did not make it to Best Picture contention: Spike Lee’s “Da 5 Bloods” and George C. Wolfe’s “Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom” (both from Netflix), and Amazon’s “One Night in Miami.” Oscar frontrunner, Chloé Zhao’s “Nomadland,” with its largely non-pro cast, did not land the usual SAG Ensemble nomination that often presages a Best Picture winner. Like “The Shape of Water,” which won the Best Picture Oscar in 2018 without a SAG Ensemble nomination, “Nomadland” could become a statistical anomaly.

Last year, all the SAG Ensemble nominees went on to win Oscars, including SAG winner “Parasite,” which took home Best Picture, Director, Original Screenplay, and International Feature for Bong Joon Ho. All the SAG acting winners repeated at the Oscars as well — Renée Zellweger (“Judy”), Joaquin Phoenix (“Joker”), Brad Pitt (“Once Upon a Time in Hollywood”), and Laura Dern (“Marriage Story”).

Sometimes, SAG isn’t a factor. In 2019, “If Beale Street Could Talk” star Regina King won the Globe, was snubbed by SAG, and went on to win Best Supporting Actress at the Oscars. Last year the Academy showed defiant support for non-SAG nominee “Little Women” by voting in both Saoirse Ronan and Florence Pugh, although neither won.

Among recent SAG contenders who never made it to the Oscars are Emily Blunt (“A Quiet Place”), who took home the SAG Award, Lupita Nyong’o (“Us”), Taron Egerton (“Rocketman”), and Jennifer Lopez (“Hustlers”). Will this year’s Jared Leto (“The Little Things”), Amy Adams (“Hillbilly Elegy”) or Helen Zengel (“News of the World”) nab the SAG sympathy vote?

Tune in Sunday to find out. And check our film predictions below, ranked by their likelihood to win.


“The Trial of Chicago 7”

Niko Tavernise/NETFLIX © 2020

Best Film Ensemble

“The Trial of the Chicago 7”
“Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom”
“One Night in Miami”
“Da 5 Bloods”

Will Win: “Minari”
Could Win: “The Trial of the Chicago 7″
Should Win: “Minari”

Since 2008, five out of 12 SAG Ensemble winners featured people of color before the camera, from “Slumdog Millionaire,” “Help,” and “Hidden Figures” to “Black Panther” and “Parasite.” With no “Nomadland,” and three contenders that weren’t popular enough with Oscar voters to make Best Picture, this year’s SAG race is between Korean-American Lee Isaac Chung’s moving family immigrant drama “Minari” and Aaron Sorkin’s agit-prop ’60s courtroom drama “The Trial of the Chicago 7.”

“Minari” scored surprise Best Actor (Steven Yeun) and Supporting Actress (Youn Yuh-jung) SAG nods that were validated by the Academy actors branch. “Trial” relies on Francine Maisler’s impeccable ensemble casting, from SAG-nominated Sacha Baron Cohen as Abbie Hoffman and his yippie cohort Jeremy Strong to vets Mark Rylance and Frank Langella. This is A24’s third cast nomination after “Lady Bird” and “Moonlight,” which went on to a Best Picture win. Both “Minari” and “Trial” have been losing to “Nomadland” and “Promising Young Woman” of late, and need to recover lost ground.

Promising Young Woman

Carey Mulligan in “Promising Young Woman.”

Focus Features

Best Film Actress

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

Will Win: Carey Mulligan
Could Win: Frances McDormand
Should Win: Frances McDormand

Will the popularity of “Nomadland” bring more SAG support to two-time Best Actress SAG and Oscar-winner Frances McDormand? Current trends suggest not; this year’s awards groups lean into rewarding rising talent. “Promising Young Woman” has been winning; Mulligan and “Promising Young Woman” director Emerald Fennell won at the Critics Choice Awards, while Fennell scored a DGA slot over Sorkin and beat the Oscar-winning scribe at the WGAs for Original Screenplay.

Actors may note that Mulligan carries “Promising Young Woman” on her narrow shoulders, and gives a more showy, chameleon-like performance as vengeful young woman acting out against men; McDormand is soulful and muted as a grieving widow. Mulligan needs this win, as the rejiggered BAFTA juries omitted her from their acting nominations. McDormand could score points for convincingly and movingly interacting with real people in “Nomadland,” which she also produced. British thespian Mulligan is deservedly admired; American McDormand breaks your heart.

Ma Rainey's Black Bottom

“Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom”


Best Film Actor

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

Will Win: Chadwick Boseman
Could Win: Anthony Hopkins
Should Win: Chadwick Boseman

Without the untimely death of Boseman, who gave his all in the last performance of his life as ambitious musician Levee in the film adaptation of August Wilson’s “Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom,” Anthony Hopkins’ Lear-like performance in “The Father,” as a dementia-ridden man railing against the dying of the light, might have won. It’s tough to beat the posthumous Boseman.

Best Film Supporting Actress

Youn Yuh-Jung  (“Minari”)
Maria Bakalova (“Borat Subsequent Moviefilm”)
Glenn Close (“Hillbilly Elegy”)
Olivia Colman (“The Father”)
Helena Zengel (“News of the World”)

Will Win: Youn Yuh-Jung
Could Win: Maria Bakalova
Should Win: Youn Yuh-Jung

This category is close: Bulgarian discovery Bakalova is a revelation as she holds her own not only with Baron Cohen as Borat but also the real-life Rudolph Giuliani, but she could settle for the recognition of a nomination. While awards perennial Close has been Oscar nominated seven times without winning, she did win the SAG award for “The Wife.” Clearly, Ron Howard’s critically slammed “Hillbilly Elegy” played well enough for the nominating committee to give both Adams and Close nods. Olivia Colman did not win for “The Favourite,” so she could pick up momentum here for her beleaguered caretaker daughter in “The Father.” The win should go to “Minari,” for Korean movie star Youn’s canny, comedic, and poignant role as the grandmother.

"Judas and the Black Messiah"

“Judas and the Black Messiah”

Warner Bros.

Best Film Supporting Actor

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

Will Win: Daniel Kaluuya
Could Win: Sacha Baron Cohen
Should Win: Daniel Kaluuya

Unlike the Oscars, Kaluuya isn’t competing with costar LaKeith Stanfield as the man who betrayed Fred Hampton to the FBI in 1968. His channeling of murdered Illinois Black Panther chairman should carry the day against Baron Cohen’s wily turn as Yippie Abbie Hoffman and “Hamilton” breakout Leslie Odom Jr. as crooner Sam Cooke. Kaluuya follows up his nomination for “Get Out,” while Leto hasn’t been in the awards zone since he won the Oscar for “Dallas Buyers Club,” and Boseman is likely to win for his more explosive lead role in “Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom.”

Best Film Stunt Ensemble

“Da 5 Bloods”
“Wonder Woman 1984”
“News of the World”
“The Trial of the Chicago 7”

Will Win: “Da 5 Bloods”
Could Win: “Wonder Woman 1984”
Should Win: “Da 5 Bloods”

This prize usually goes to a war film (“Hacksaw Ridge”) or comic-book movie (“Avengers: Endgame”). The Vietnam war sequences in “Da 5 Bloods,” which the SAG nominating committee admired enough to give an Ensemble slot, should take the prize. The category has only one Best Picture contender, “The Trial of the Chicago 7,” which is better known for its courtroom dynamics than its restaging of street riots. Well-mounted period fantasy adventure “Mulan” and post-Civil War western “News of the World” boast more craft Oscar nods than “Wonder Woman 1984,” but however you feel about the Patty Jenkins sequel, it’s about the stunts. SAG voters honored the original in 2017.

All in all, especially after the 2012 AFTRA merger, SAG voters tend to be a tad more mainstream and less sophisticated than Oscar voters, who go their own way. On Sunday, the SAG Awards will show which way the winds are blowing.

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