By Caryn James | James on Screens January 28, 2011 at 3:00AM
The Screen Actors Guild Awards often line up with the Oscars because the groups overlap so much: the actors’ branch of the Academy far outnumbers any other. Here are a few things to look for when the SAGs are handed out on Sunday.
NATALIE PORTMAN vs. ANNETTE BENING. You couldn’t get two more different films than Black Swan and The Kids Are All Right. And because the Golden Globes put the performances in separate categories, the SAGs offer the first chance apart from critics’ awards to see them go head to head. This is the season’s most fascinating, least predictable race, and the winner definitely pulls ahead for the Oscar.
THE KING’S SPEECH GOES CAMPAIGNING. SAG’s “Outstanding Performance by a Cast” Category is its winking way of saying Best Picture. Just like the Oscars, the race seems to be between The Social Network and The King’s Speech, and if The King’s Speech pulls ahead (I'm guessing it will), its campaigners will face some tricky decisions. The Weinstein Company has been campaigning hard and buying ads everywhere – you can hardly turn on TV without seeing one – but is that the behavior of a frontrunner or will it risk a backlash?
CHRISTIAN BALE vs CHRISTIAN BALE, MELISSA LEO vs. MELISSA LEO. They are seen as locks in the supporting categories. If they lose on Sunday it’s a different Oscar game. Don’t bet on it.
And one question only the SAG awards has raised:
Will the phrase “female actor” ever catch on? That’s SAG’s attempt not to be sexist; clunky, but at least they try and it’s a lot less antiquated than “actress.”
I’d go further. To be truly even-handed, forget about categories like “Female Actor in a Leading Role” and “Male Actor in a Leading Role” and just lump them together in unisex categories. It’s acting, not boxing.
And I don’t want to hear any goody-goody talk from SAG members about how acting is not really a competition, blah, blah, blah. They’re handing out awards, not us, and I don’t see too many actors, male or female, turning them down.