SAG Awards Nominations 2021: Fearless Film Predictions

Among the films leading the charge are "Da 5 Bloods," "One Night in Miami," "Minari," and "Ma Rainey's Black Bottom."
"The Trial of the Chicago 7"
Niko Tavernise/Netflix © 2020

Forget the highbrow critics groups. They’re influential, but the Screen Actors Guild Awards are more reflective of where Academy actors are heading. SAG and the Oscars don’t always line up, some of which is a matter of timing: Late-breaking movies often aren’t seen by enough of the SAG nominating committee. SAG voters tend to be more mainstream and younger than the Academy’s dominant actors branch, not to mention larger in number: Each year, SAG selects a new nominating committee of 2,500 members, about double the Academy voters.

Last year, eventual Best Picture contenders “The Irishman” and “Once Upon a Time in Hollywood” scored four nominations each, including Cast in a Motion Picture and Stunt Ensemble, while Greta Gerwig’s “Little Women” was shut out. Remember the Bryan Cranston shocker for “Trumbo”? That SAG nominee wound up with an Oscar nomination. The SAG actors love Jay Roach; last year’s #MeToo drama “Bombshell” boasted four nominations, including a coveted ensemble Cast slot, which often presages a Best Picture nomination. That SAG love did not transfer to the wider field of Academy voters: Charlize Theron and Margot Robbie landed Oscar nods, but not Nicole Kidman.

But when Bong Joon Ho’s “Parasite” made it to Ensemble, suddenly it was possible for Neon to go all in on a bonafide Best Picture Oscar contender. It was a sign that the movie was mainstream enough to go all the way.

Here are our fearless SAG Awards nominations predictions, ranked in order of their likelihood to land slots. Check back February 4 for my analysis of the final nominees.

Film Ensemble
“The Trial of the Chicago 7” (Paramount/Netflix)
Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom” (Netflix)
“One Night in Miami” (Amazon Studios)
“Minari” (A24)
“Da 5 Bloods” (Netflix)

Dark Horse: “Mank” (Netflix)
In a Perfect World: “Judas and the Black Messiah” (Warner Bros.)

Three popular movies with sprawling casts (“Chicago 7,” “Ma Rainey” and “Miami”) are locks for this category. The question is which of two Netflix films will fill the remaining slots: David Fincher’s “Mank,” which boasts two strong actors who should easily land nominations (Gary Oldman and Amanda Seyfried), or Spike Lee’s “Da 5 Bloods,” which is hanging on strong despite its early-year release. It boasts a stunning ensemble, from powerful lead Delroy Lindo (nominated as part of “The Cider House Rules” ensemble two decades back) to Clarke Peters (part of the nominated “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri” ensemble), the late great Chadwick Boseman (part of the nominated “Black Panther” ensemble), Jonathan Majors, and Isiah Whitlock, Jr.. They may prove irresistible.

Don’t be surprised if SAG leans into diversity again this year, including the strong cast for Lee Isaac Chung’s American heartland fable “Minari,” led by Steven Yeun. Shaka King’s “Judas and the Black Messiah” is coming on strong with great reviews, but may have screened too late.

Where’s presumed Oscar frontrunner “Nomadland?” Due to its innovative hybrid cast of pro and non-pros, this will likely not land Ensemble.

Ma Rainey's Black Bottom Netflix
“Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom”Netflix

Film Actress

Viola Davis (“Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom”)
Frances McDormand (“Nomadland”)
Vanessa Kirby (“Pieces of a Woman”)
Carey Mulligan (“Promising Young Woman”)
Zendaya (“Malcolm & Marie”)

Dark Horse: Amy Adams (“Hillbilly Elegy”)
In a Perfect World: Kate Winslet (”Ammonite”)

Oscar-winners Davis and McDormand lead this field, with younger players nipping at their heels. Netflix mounted SAG screenings for Venice Actress-winner “Pieces of a Woman,” “Hillbilly Elegy” (which actors admire more than critics), and late-breaking “Malcolm & Marie.” Sizzling-hot “Euphoria” Emmy-winner Zendaya needs that nomination to advance to the Oscars, but Carey Mulligan has been building momentum in “Promising Young Woman.”

Kate Winslet, with eight film acting nods, two Ensemble Cast (“Titanic,” Sense and Sensibility”) and two wins (“Sense and Sensibility” and “The Reader”) is a SAG perennial; don’t underestimate “Parasite” distributor Neon’s ability to get “Ammonite” across the finish line.

Film Actor

Chadwick Boseman (“Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom”)
Anthony Hopkins (“The Father”)
Delroy Lindo (“Da 5 Bloods”)
Riz Ahmed (“Sound of Metal”)
Gary Oldman (“Mank”)

Dark Horse: Steven Yeun (“Minari”)
In a Perfect World: Mads Mikkelsen (“Another Round”)

There was a time during the fall film festivals when Sir Anthony was leading the pack for his father-daughter wrangle with Olivia Colman, but Boseman’s explosive performance as trumpeter Levee in August Wilson’s play-to-film is poised for a well-deserved posthumous win. Boseman could also be included in Ensemble Cast and Film Supporting actor for “Da 5 Bloods,” and Lindo should be recognized for the film in this category. Riz Ahmed shall not be denied his slot as a drummer going deaf in “Sound of Metal.”

Oldman, who won the SAG Award for “Darkest Hour” on his way to the Oscars and is delightful as alcoholic screenwriter Herman J. Mankiewicz in “Mank,” may be vulnerable if the SAG actors want to make room for someone new. Danish Oscar submission “Another Round” is a long-shot, clearly, but the movie and the actor are both beloved.

Film Supporting Actress
Amanda Seyfried (“Mank”)
Olivia Colman (“The Father”)
Ellen Burstyn (“Pieces of a Woman”)
Maria Bakalova (“Borat Subsequent Moviefilm”)
Youn Yuh-Jung (“Minari”)

Dark Horse: Glenn Close (“Hillbilly Elegy”)
In a Perfect World: Helena Zengel (“News of the World”)

Seyfried delivers more than anyone expected as Marion Davies in “Mank,” which often leads to serious kudos. Veterans Colman (winner for “The Favourite”) and Burstyn (SAG-nominated for “Requiem for a Dream”) are steady as they go, along with Korean movie star Youn Yuh-Jung as the charming grandmother in “Minari,” and unlikely Bulgarian newcomer Maria Bakalova as Borat’s daughter in “Borat Subsequent Moviefilm.” Actors adore Close, who delivers a scene-chewing character role in “Hillbilly Elegy;” she’s a SAG perennial and won for “The Wife,” beating eventual Oscar-winner Olivia Colman (“The Favourite”).

Film Supporting Actor
Leslie Odom, Jr. (“One Night in Miami”)
Sacha Baron Cohen (“The Trial of the Chicago 7”)
Chadwick Boseman (“Da 5 Bloods”)
Paul Raci (“Sound of Metal”)
Daniel Kaluuya (“Judas and the Black Messiah”)

Dark Horse: Mark Rylance (“The Trial of the Chicago 7”)
In a Perfect World: Clarke Peters (“Da 5 Bloods”)

This overcrowded category favors the actor who pops out of the ensemble. In this case, with “Hamilton” behind him, Broadway star Odom, Jr. delivers as pop star Sam Cooke in “One Night in Miami.” Similarly, “The Trial of the Chicago 7” star Baron Cohen gets extra points for his “Borat” sequel, which could boost his cred as Yippie Abbie Hoffman who, like the actor, is a merry prankster with dead-serious goals. If Boseman lands a Supporting Actor spot, the rest of the superb “Da 5 Bloods,” “Miami,” and “Chicago” casts will likely knock each other out.

Veteran character actor Raci’s role as a deaf counselor in “Sound of Metal” comes with a compelling narrative: Raised to sign by deaf parents, English was his second language. And assuming the voters saw “Judas and the Black Messiah” in time, British actor Kaluuya impressively channels young and powerful Chicago Black Panther Fred Hampton, cut down far too young by the FBI.

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