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MARTIN GROVE'S HOLLYWOOD REPORT -- ACTOR AWARDS– 2/1/16


 
SAG AWARDS - (L-R) AMY POEHLER, CAROL BURNETT AND TINA FEY

SAG AWARDS - (L-R) AMY POEHLER, CAROL BURNETT AND TINA FEY

 SPOTLIGHT - RACHEL MC ADAMS AT SAG AWARDS

SPOTLIGHT - RACHEL MC ADAMS AT SAG AWARDS

SPOTLIGHT - MICHAEL KEATON AT SAG AWARDS

SPOTLIGHT - MICHAEL KEATON AT SAG AWARDS

Actor awards: The awards season is jammed with pre-Oscars events honoring the year's best films, but only a handful of them are televised.

That short list includes the Hollywood Foreign Press Associations' Golden Globes, the Broadcast Film Critics Association's Critics Choice Awards, the British Academy's BAFTA's and the Screen Actors Guild's SAG Awards.

These are the awards shows that deliver the celebrity crowd for red carpet and ballroom coverage that the television audience cares about. In fact, for many viewers, it's really much more about seeing the fashions and celebs than it is about the movies.

Of all the televised shows, the SAG Awards has the easiest job filling the room with recognizable faces since all of its members are actors and many of them are big stars. It's, therefore, always a glittering night when SAG hands out its Actor statuettes, as it did Saturday for its 22nd annual awards.

SAG's telecast was once again the most watchable of the awards shows, benefiting to a great extent from there not being a host trying to be funny at the expense of those attending the festivities. Unfortunately, SAG still included some embarrassingly  unfunny scripted patter for some of its presenter duos. When will awards show producers finally realize that presenters should simply present? Golden Globes, are you listening?

What SAG did have that worked really well was the powerhouse team of former Globes hosts Tina Fey and Amy Poehler to introduce the guild's lifetime achievement award to Carol Burnett. This they did in a mini-hosting mid-show appearance that got some well deserved laughs whilestill showing appropriate respect for Burnett and for SAG, itself. Are you listening Golden Globes?

SAG's commitment to diversity was readily apparent throughout the show, reflecting the guild's very diverse membership. SAG-AFTRA, the guild's official name since its 2012 merger with the American Federation of Television and Radio Artists, emphasizes on its website its strong commitment to diversity, explaining in its Mission Statement that, "It is a core value of SAG-AFTRA that our strength is in our diversity."

SAG-AFTRA represents about 160,000 members, including not only actors, but announcers, broadcast journalists, dancers, DJs, news writers, news editors, program hosts, puppeteers, recording artists, singers, stunt performers, voiceover artists and others working in media. The guild said, in announcing its awards, that, "Of the top industry honors presented to actors, only the SAG Awards are selected entirely by performers' peers in SAG-AFTRA, which this year number 116,741."

Voting for the SAG Awards is done in two stages. A nominating committee of 2,200 randomly selected SAG members makes the nominations after which the full paid-up actor membership votes for the winners.

Although all members of the Academy's actors branch are SAG members, most SAG members aren't Academy members. In the Academy's nominating process, each branch makes the nominations in its category. Only the best picture noms are voted for by the full voting membership.

Beyond being glamorous, the guild's awards are typically a good indicator of what to expect Oscar night. Actors make up the Academy's largest voting branch with 1,138 of the Academy's 6,261 voting members. That's about 18 per cent of the Oscar voters and the likelihood is they'll vote the same way for Oscars that they did forSAG.

SAG's ensemble cast award to "Spotlight"– its equivalent of a best picture vote –cast a spotlight on this year's unusually wide openbest picture race.With about a month to go until Oscar's sealed envelopes are ripped open, Hollywood handicappers are still talking about "Spotlight,""The Big Short"or"The Revenant" as the most likely best picture winner.

"Spotlight,"which won the Critics Choice Awards best picture race in mid-January, lost some of its early heat after striking out on the best picture front at the Globes and with the PGA. But its SAG triumphhas put it back in the Oscar race in a big way.

"Spotlight"and "Short"are the only SAGensemble cast nominees that also made Oscar's list of eight best picture nominees. SAG voters' love for "Spotlight"couldbe echoed by actors branch voters, sparking an Oscar win. During the 20 yearsthat SAG's given an ensemble cast award, it's matched up 10 times with Oscar's best picture vote – or 50 percent of the time. That includes last year when "Birdman" took home both awards.

Winning the PGA best picture vote was great news for "Short" since the PGA and Oscar best picture winners have matched up for each of the last eight years.And if we go back eight years before that, they matched up four more times. That's 12 out of 16 times – or 75 percent of the time.

The Oscar race's other high profile best picture frontrunner, "Revenant,"won best picture-drama in the Golden Globes race. The Globes aren't a great bellwether for Oscar's best picture race, but "Revenant"does have the advantage ofhaving received 12 Oscar nominations, the most for any film this year.That show of support from 12 Academy branches couldadd up to enough votes to win. "Spotlight"only has six Oscar noms and "Short" has five.

While all three frontrunners have best directing and film editing Oscar noms, only "Short" and "Spotlight"also have screenwriting noms – for best adapted and best original screenplay, respectively. That's important because over the past 50 years no best picture Oscar winner other than "Titanic" (in 1998)has won without having also been a screenwriting nominee. So while it's possible to win without a screenwriting nod, the odds are against it.

On the film editing front, the American Cinema Editors (ACE) announced its 66th annual Eddie Awards Friday with "Mad Max: Fury Road"winning for best edited feature-dramatic and "Short" winning for best edited feature-comedy.

It's actually the dramatic feature win that best pre-sages the Oscar editing race as nine of the last 12 years have seen the ACE winner also take home the Oscar. So it's really "Max"that picks up an advantage here. On the other hand, last year's ACE winner was "Boyhood,"but the film editing Oscar went to "Whiplash."

SAG's four other categories – lead and supporting male and female actors – can also influence results in the corresponding Oscar races because of crossover voting.

Four of SAG's five nominees for best lead male actor are also Oscar nominees: Bryan Cranston ("Trumbo"), Leonardo DiCaprio ("Revenant"), Michael Fassbender ("Steve Jobs") and Eddie  Redmayne ("The Danish Girl"). SAG's fifth nominee, Johnny Depp ("Black Mass"), is not Oscar nominated.

DiCaprio's SAG win makes him the frontrunner in Oscar's best actor race. His biggest competition is probably Matt Damon for "Martian." But it doesn't help that Damon wasn't a SAG nominee.

Three of SAG's five nominees for best lead female actor are also Oscar nominees: Cate Blanchett ("Carol"), Brie Larson ("Room") andSaoirse Ronan ("Brooklyn"). Two SAG nominees did not make the Oscar race: Helen Mirren ("Woman in Gold") and Sarah Silverman ("I Smile Back").

Larson's SAG win makes her the frontrunner in Oscar's best actress race. Getting the SAG spotlight for her performance in "Room," the kind of small intense drama that Academy voters tend to like, enhances Larson's Oscar prospects. Her biggest competition is probably Saoirse Ronan for "Brooklyn." But it's encouraging for Larson that she just beat Ronan in the SAG vote.

Only two of SAG's five nominees for best supporting male actor are also Oscar nominees: Christian Bale ("Short") and Mark Rylance ("Bridge of Spies"). Three SAG nominees did not make the Oscar race: Idris Elba ("Beasts of No Nation"), Michael Shannon ("99 Homes")and Jacob Tremblay ("Room").

Elba's SAG win won't help him inOscar's best supporting actor race since he's not a nominee.But what it does do is hammer home not just Oscar's lack of diversity, but Hollywood's overall lack of diversity (in movies for sure, but less so in television) -- as if any more hammering home is really needed at this point.

Elba's twin SAG wins – his second was as best male lead actor in a television movie or mini-series for "Luther" –stood in great contrast to the Academy overlooking him for "Beasts."

The frontrunner in Oscar's supporting actor race is Sylvester Stallone for "Creed."The iconic superstar, who wasn't a SAG nominee, has already won in the Globes and Critics Choice supporting actor races and is likely to prevail Oscar night. Stallone should benefit from the warm regard his aging contemporaries in the Academy have for him after so many years of post-"Rocky"stardom.

Four of SAG's five nominees for best supporting female actor are also Oscar nominees: Rooney Mara ("Carol"), Rachel McAdams("Spotlight"), Alicia Vikander ("The Danish Girl") and Kate Winslet ("Steve Jobs"). SAG's fifth nominee, Helen Mirren ("Trumbo"), is not Oscar nominated.

Vikander's SAG win makes hera very strong frontrunner in Oscar's best supporting actress race.Her biggest competition is probably Mara for "Carol," but it doesn't help that Mara's lost in both the Globes and Critics Choice supporting actress races.

Here's a quickupdated look at how Oscar's eight best picture nominees match-up in terms of key wins or noms to date – including, Golden Globes (GG), Screen Actors Guild (SAG), Producers Guild of America (PGA), Directors Guild of America (DGA), Critics Choice Awards (CC) and British Academy (BAFTA):

(1) "The Big Short" – PGA winner, GG-comedy nom, SAG nom, DGA nom, CC nom, BAFTA nom

(2) "Bridge of Spies" –PGA nom, CC nom, BAFTA nom

(3) "Brooklyn" –PGA nom, CC nom

(4) "Mad Max: Fury Road" –PGA nom, GG-drama nom, DGA nom, CC nom

(5) "The Martian" –PGA nom, GG-comedy or musical winner, DGA nom, CC nom

(6) "The Revenant" –PGA nom, GG-drama winner, DGA nom, CC nom, BAFTA nom

(7) "Room" – CC nom

(8) "Spotlight" –PGA nom, GG-drama nom, SAGwinner, DGA nom, CC winner, BAFTA nom

Bottom line:Hollywood handicappers will be waiting anxiously to find out Feb. 6 who wins at the Directors Guild of America's (DGA) 68th annual awards.

The five DGA nominees are the directors of "Martian" (Ridley Scott), "Max" (George Miller), "Revenant" (Alejandro G. Inarritu), "Short" (Adam McKay) and "Spotlight" (Tom McCarthy). All of them except for Scott are also best directing Oscar nominees. A DGA win for one of the three best picture front-runners could tip the Oscar scales in its favor.