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SAG Awards Predictions: Can ‘La La Land’ Keep the Momentum without an Ensemble Nomination?

SAG Awards

After a few zingers handed out by the Academy this week with their Oscar nominations, the Screen Actors Guild will weigh in on their choices for 2016 with their awards.  Indicative of support from the actor’s branch, only one film has won the Best Picture prize without the SAG Ensemble prize (“Braveheart”).  This year, “La La Land,” the presumed Oscar frontrunner with 14 Oscar nominations, is not nominated in the Ensemble category.  It will trump history if (and likely when) it overcomes that glaring statistic.

If the statistic does hold water, which film benefits from that?  Is it “Moonlight,” which has all the key Oscar nominations it “needs” to win Best Picture or is “Manchester by the Sea,” which would be the first film since “Birdman or (the Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance)” to win the Oscar without an Editing nomination?

The last film to win the Academy Award for Best Picture without a single prize from SAG was “The Hurt Locker” in 2010.  In fact, the only other films that have done so are “The Departed” in 2006, “Gladiator” in 2001, “The English Patient” in 1996, and the aforementioned “Braveheart” in 1995, the first year of the award.

Let’s take a look at all the SAG categories and see if there are any clues into what happens.

captain america civ warBest Stunt Ensemble

  • “Captain America: Civil War”
  • “Doctor Strange”
  • “Nocturnal Animals”
  • “Hacksaw Ridge”
  • “Jason Bourne”

An award they’ll give out on the red carpet and not during the ceremony (why??!), the Stunt Ensemble award just offers up an opportunity to get these undervalued crafts men and women their time in the spotlight.   This award has been around since 2007 with past winners including “The Bourne Ultimatum,” “Inception,” “Unbroken,” and last year’s “Mad Max: Fury Road.”  “Nocturnal” is frankly, just happy to be there (while many are scratching their heads for its inclusion).  This seems to be down between the two Marvel entries: “Captain America” (for its masterfully choreographed airport sequence) and “Doctor Strange” (for a lot of Inception-like sequences and fights).  “Hacksaw” could shock here but chances are, they’ll tip their hats to the “Captain” himself.

Prediction: “Captain America: Civil War”
ALTERNATE: “Doctor Strange”

violadavis fences 1Best Performance by a Female Actor in a Supporting Role

  • Viola Davis – “Fences”
  • Nicole Kidman – “Lion”
  • Naomie Harris – “Moonlight”
  • Octavia Spencer – “Hidden Figures”
  • Michelle Williams – “Manchester by the Sea”

In one of the most surest things of the season, Viola Davis has run her wave of grace and talent on the awards circuit like a pro.  For the sake of analysis, if we’re looking for a second place finisher, you can look to either Naomie Harris’ work in “Moonlight,” a film that may have the best night of any film and Michelle Williams in “Manchester by the Sea,” in a film that’s the most nominated of the evening.  Now that we’re done just pretending that it’s anyone else, let’s just say, it’s going to be fantastic to see Davis win a second individual SAG award (her first was for “The Help” in 2011), and go on to get her spotlight in the Dolby Theatre in less than 30 days.

Prediction: Viola Davis, “Fences”
ALTERNATE: Michelle Williams, “Manchester by the Sea”

mahershalaaliBest Performance by a Male Actor in a Supporting Role

  • Mahershala Ali – “Moonlight”
  • Jeff Bridges – “Hell or High Water”
  • Hugh Grant – “Florence Foster Jenkins”
  • Lucas Hedges – “Manchester by the Sea”
  • Dev Patel – “Lion”

While we all love to pretend this has seemed sewn up for breakout star Mahershala Ali due to his sweeping of the critics circuit, there’s still plenty of room for frankly, any of these guys to pull an upset.  While Hugh Grant was omitted from the Academy’s lineup earlier this week, last year taught us to never count out the person that was at one point contending before they were snubbed (i.e. Idris Elba in “Beasts of No Nation”).  I think Lucas Hedges’ newcomer status may leave him on the outside looking in, leaving this between Ali, Bridges, and Patel.

SAG doesn’t “typically” like to re-award a previous winner, though we’re predicting Viola Davis to do such a thing on the night.  I think in the end, Ali’s professional and outstanding demeanor this entire season, mirrored with a vivacious performance, edges him across the finish line, just ahead of Dev Patel, whose campaign team has pushed him considerably.

Prediction: Mahershala Ali, “Moonlight”
ALTERNATE: Hugh Grant, “Florence Foster Jenkins”

emmastone lalalandBest Performance by a Female Actor in a Leading Role

  • Amy Adams – “Arrival”
  • Emily Blunt – “The Girl on the Train”
  • Natalie Portman – “Jackie”
  • Emma Stone – “La La Land”
  • Meryl Streep – “Florence Foster Jenkins”

With only three Oscar nominees in the lineup, this was always really a race between Natalie Portman and Emma Stone (with an outside shot for Amy Adams).  None of the contenders have their films nominated for SAG Ensemble, two previous individual winners in the lineup (Portman and Streep), four if you included an Ensemble win (add Adams and Stone), and it’s honestly just a neck and neck race to the finish.  In the end, a 14 nomination day at the Academy, when ballots were still in the hand, may have edged Stone just ahead of Portman.  If Portman wins here though, I think it’ll be safe to say it’s over in this category and she will become two-time Oscar-winner Natalie Portman.

Prediction: Emma Stone, “La La Land”
ALTERNATE: Natalie Portman, “Jackie”

casey affleckBest Performance by a Male Actor in a Leading Role

  • Casey Affleck – “Manchester by the Sea”
  • Andrew Garfield – “Hacksaw Ridge”
  • Ryan Gosling – “La La Land”
  • Viggo Mortensen – “Captain Fantastic”
  • Denzel Washington – “Fences”

On the surface, this looks to be sewn up for the precursor champ Casey Affleck, whose film is the most nominated on the night.  You have to go back to “Brokeback Mountain” (and “Into the Wild”) to find a film with that many nominations and go home empty handed.  Coincidentally, that film also starred Michelle Williams.  Here’s the thing…Denzel Washington has never won a SAG award despite four individual nominations over his career.

And then there’s the 14 nominations for Ryan Gosling lurking in the wings.  Completely flipping this category on its head, what if Gosling makes the case that not only should “La La Land” win Best Picture, it needs to become the most awarded film of all-time?  Especially with the film not nominated in SAG Ensemble, they may want to give the film everything they can to make the case.  So…with all that said, too much has tipped in Affleck’s favor to not predict him but I want the record to show, if Washington wins, I said at the beginning of the season, he would win here and go on to the Oscar.  I’m just scared to predict it now.

Prediction: Casey Affleck, “Manchester by the Sea”
ALTERNATE: Denzel Washington, “Fences”

moviereview moonlight 110316 image4Best Performance by a Cast Ensemble

  • “Captain Fantastic”
  • “Fences”
  • “Hidden Figures”
  • “Manchester by the Sea”
  • “Moonlight”

A three-horse race is in our midst.  “Captain Fantastic” and “Hidden Figures” are happy to have made the cut.  What we’re left with is “Fences,” “Manchester by the Sea,” and “Moonlight.”  It can honestly be any of them.  Smart bet is on  “Moonlight” with many Ensemble prizes over the precursor circuit.  With the most nominations, “Manchester by the Sea” probably makes a lot of sense to nab itself the “big one.”  And remember my Washington fact before?  Here’s a way to give a SAG prize, for the film he not only starred, by directed as well.

A win by either “Fences” or “Manchester” would all but obliterate any small notion of hope that “Moonlight” could upset “La La Land” at the Oscars.  A24 has remained motivated to keep “Moonlight” in the thick of the race. Paramount Pictures has focused heavily on “Fences” for this prize significantly over the past few weeks.  Rolling the dice…going with the beloved “Moonlight.”

Prediction: “Moonlight”


Best Ensemble in a Drama Series – “Game of Thrones”

Best Ensemble in a Comedy Series – “Black-ish”

Best Performance by a Male Actor in a Drama Series – John Lithgow, “The Crown”

Best Performance by a Male Actor in a Comedy Series – Jeffrey Tambor, “Transparent”

Best Performance by a Male Actor in a Television or Limited Series – Sterling K. Brown, “The People v. O.J. Simpson: American Crime Story”

Best Performance by a Female Actor in a Drama Series – Claire Foy, “The Crown”

Best Performance by a Female Actor in a Comedy Series – Lily Tomlin, “Grace and Frankie”

Best Performance by a Female Actor in a Television or Limited Series – Sarah Paulson, “The People v. O.J. Simpson: American Crime Story”

Share your own SAG predictions in the comments below!

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Written by Clayton Davis

Clayton Davis is the esteemed Editor and Owner of Born in Bronx, NY to a Puerto Rican mother and Black father, he’s been criticizing film and television for over a decade. Clayton is a member of the Broadcast Film Critics Association where he votes and attends the kick off to the awards season, the Critics Choice Awards. He also founded the Latino Entertainment Journalists Association, the first Latino-based critics’ organization in the United States. He’s also an active member of the African-American Film Critics Association, New York Film Critics Online, International Press Academy, Black Reel Awards, and the Broadcast Television Journalists Association. Clayton has been quoted and appeared in various outlets that include The New York Times,, Variety, Deadline, Los Angeles Times, FOX 5, Bloomberg Television, AOL, Huffington Post, Bloomberg Radio, The Wrap, Slash Film, and the Hollywood Reporter.


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“You have to go back to “Brokeback Mountain” to find a film with that many nominations and go home empty handed.”

“Into The Wild” also lost its four nominations.

Adam Lawrence

technically, this would be Viola’s fourth individual award (and fifth overall), as she’s won twice for How to Get Away with Murder

Thiago Andre de Lacerda

Annette Bening – American Beauty (fictional character – SAG win) vs. Hilary Swank – Boys Don´t Cry (real character – Oscar win). Renée Zellweger – Chicago (fictional character – SAG win) vs. Nicole Kidman – The Hours (real character – Oscar win). Julie Christie – Away From Her (fictional character – SAG win) vs. Marion Cotillard – La Vie en Rose (real character – Oscar win). Viola Davis – The Help (fictional character – SAG win) vs. Meryl Streep – The Iron Lady (real character – Oscar win). Emma Stone – La La Land (fictional character – SAG win) vs.… Read more »

Joey Magidson

My predictions for SAG: Outstanding Performance by a Cast in a Motion Picture Predicted Winner: Moonlight Alternate: Manchester by the Sea Dark Horse: Hidden Figures Outstanding Performance by a Male Actor in a Leading Role Predicted Winner: Casey Affleck Alternate: Denzel Washington Dark Horse: Ryan Gosling Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Leading Role Predicted Winner: Emma Stone Alternate: Natalie Portman Dark Horse: Amy Adams Outstanding Performance by a Male Actor in a Supporting Role Predicted Winner: Mahershala Ali Alternate: Jeff Bridges Dark Horse: Lucas Hedges Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Supporting Role Predicted Winner:… Read more »


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