By Oliver Lyttelton | www.oliverlyttelton.com January 28, 2013 at 12:44PM
We're now less than a month until Oscar night, and the next few weeks will feature a steady drip of guild awards and other precursors, leading up to big shindig on February 24th. And the crystal ball is staring to get a bit more clear on who will walk away with some statues on Oscar night.
And an already refreshingly surprise-filled season got another turn over the weekend with the Producers Guild Awards on Saturday, and the Screen Actors Guild Awards last night, both of which awarded their top prize to "Argo," a film which had been deemed out of the running by some by the time December had rolled around. But a comeback for Ben Affleck's Iranian drama wasn't the only notable thing about these results. Below, you can find 5 things we learned about the Oscar season from the PGA and SAG results.
After the Oscar nominations, it seemed like "Argo" might be done as a real Best Picture contender, particularly with Ben Affleck missing out on a Best Director nod, making the chances of it taking the big prize significantly smaller. But almost everything that's come since has suggested otherwise, with the movie winning both Best Picture and Director at the Golden Globe and Critics Choice awards, and this weekend, taking the first two major guild prizes with the PGA and SAG ensemble prizes. Given the crossover between guild and Academy membership, it's always a telling sign -- two years ago, guild victories were the biggest indicator that "The King's Speech" was going to beat "The Social Network." The PGA are 7/10 in matching Best Picture in the last decade, and 5/5 in the last few years (the SAG are 6/10, but only 3/5 in the last five), as impressive a record for a precursor award as any. Things are certainly going the way of "Argo," but that said, those declaring the race early are decidedly premature. For one, the record that no film has won Best Picture without a Directing nom since "Driving Miss Daisy" twenty-three years ago still stands. Furthermore, a run at the guilds doesn't necessarily open the gates to Oscar. Six years ago, "Little Miss Sunshine" won with the PGA, the SAG and the WGA, but still lost Best Picture (indeed, few really thought it would win). And perhaps a better comparison would be "Apollo 13," a similarly tense true-life thriller by an actor-turned-director. Back in 1996, the film won with the PGA, the SAG and the DGA, and yet missed out at Oscar. Like Affleck, the film's director Ron Howard didn't get a directing nod that year. And the tastes of the guild and the Academy do differ; take "Life of Pi," which showed up poorly with the guilds, but managed eleven Oscar nominations. Or "Silver Linings Playbook," which performed well above expectations with the Academy. And "Lincoln" is still likely to put up a mighty fight. This weekend might have put Affleck's film in pole position, but there's still a way to go til the finish line. That said, a Director's Guild Award win for Affleck is fairly likely (partly as a reaction to the Oscar snub), and if Chris Terrio beats David O. Russell and Tony Kushner to the WGA prize, then it might truly be game over.
If ever there was a time for a change in narrative in the two least competitive categories this year -- Best Actor and Best Supporting Actress -- last night at the SAGs was where it would have happened (see Jean Dujardin overtaking George Clooney after a guild victory last year). But no such thing occurred, and Daniel Day-Lewis and Anne Hathaway, the two most honored contenders thus far, added another trophy to their respective cabinets. And barring a huge upset, we're certain that'll be repeated at the Dolby Theater in a few weeks, if only because it's hard to see anyone else winning. Had Bradley Cooper or Hugh Jackman taken the SAG prize, things might have been closer -- after all, it's always felt like a big step for the Academy to make Day-Lewis the first person to win three Best Actor Oscars. But the SAG went with him, and Oscar should do the same; few like "Les Miserables" enough to give Jackman the prize, and Cooper's a new enough face that the nomination is a victory more than anything else (though it opens the door for him to take it in future years). "Flight" isn't acclaimed enough for Washington to win, and Phoenix (arguably the most likely to make a shock upset, given the praise for his performance) won't get there. Similarly, the competition in Supporting Actress is equally uncompetitive. Jacki Weaver is barely in "Silver Linings Playbook," the Academy aren't going to given Helen Hunt a prize if they didn't nominate co-star John Hawkes, and while Amy Adams is overdue, she's not going to win for "The Master." Sally Field is the biggest challenger, but probably not enough to overcome the Hathaway train.