We do love a good race. One that has the leader change numerous times during the event. An exciting spectacle that feeds the euphoria for the unknown outcome. The competition that gets the adrenaline going. Routing for the winner. The buzz. We don’t now, like most Oscar years these days, have much of a race where acting is concerned. The annual, relentless procedure of predicting and campaigning now makes this whole fiasco more of a dot-to-dot puzzle or paint by numbers picture than an actual race. True, Spotlight, The Big Short, and The Revenant are all looking strong for Best Picture, and add Mad Max: Fury Road to the mix we have George Miller right up there with a blood-pumping race for Best Director. We’ve not had such a wide-open competition for the top categories in years. As genuinely great it is to see Leonardo DiCaprio and Brie Larson take Lead Acting prizes from SAG, though, that race has pretty much all but been decided for a while.
As for what many seem to be dubbing the #OscarSoWhite response, the non-white acting winners last night were hardly intended as a grand statement in light of the Oscar nominations. The excellent wins for Viola Davis, Queen Latifah, Uzo Aduba, as well as the TV Cast award for Orange is the New Black, were more a clear indicator of merit, essentially favorites to win, than a direct message to the industry about their diversity issues. Television is certainly handling that whole affair light years ahead of film it would seem – hence it would inevitably be reflected in awards winners. As for Idris Elba, a double winner for Beasts of No Nation and Luther, his film honor was also warranted, criminally not even nominated for an Oscar, Elba wins, a sign SAG got this right rather than trying to stick it to the film Academy. Netflix sending out free subscriptions to SAG-AFTRA members didn’t hurt either. A fuck you to AMPAS however you look at it.
Many last night were talking about the prospect that Beasts of No Nation or Straight Outta Compton could have taken the Cast award at the end, as a result of the great showing for diversity that far. This was indeed a warming notion, but I still feel it was pretty clear that The Big Short and Spotlight were likely neck-and-neck, and some distance ahead of the other nominees. We will sadly never know how close it would have been between Idris Elba and Sylvester Stallone, assuming that the Creed co-star is the hot favorite to take the Oscar – which appears to be the case. For me, keeping my cards close to my chest as always, I would argue that an early win for Mark Ruffalo or Chirstian Bale come Oscar night would neither be a surprise or undeserved, and may or may not give us further clues as to which of those movie will prevail.
SAG did show at least one crucial thing, then, with their winners and their nominees – they are not as joined at the hip with AMPAS as we have assumed. Long may that continue. Lastly, and quickly, I was delighted with the Alicia Vikander win, and want to answer two common questions each with a big fat “yes” – is she winning Supporting Actress for a lead role, and was she that good in The Danish Girl? And with Rooney Mara, Kate Winslet, Rachel McAdams, and Jennifer Jason Leigh, that category is certainly a race we can still cheer on with anticipation. We love a good race, right?