Final SAG Awards Predictions: Could ‘Nomadland’ Lock Up the Oscars With Cast Ensemble?

Clayton Davis
·9-min read

With the Golden Globes weighing in today with their choices (and believe me, there were some “choices”), the Screen Actors Guild awards are next on the docket and have a stronger correlation to the Oscars.

A group of 2,500 randomly selected SAG-AFTRA members vote for the coveted awards, often resulting in an eclectic group of nominees. In past years, shocking inclusions like Sarah Silverman (“I Smile Back”), Emily Blunt (“The Girl on the Train”) and Peter Dinklage (“The Station Agent”) have shaken things up. They’re also known for their big omissions, like Clive Owen and Natalie Portman in “Closer,” who both won Golden Globe awards for their performances in 2005.

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Could “Mank” lead the way as it did with the Golden Globes? Will “The Trial of the Chicago 7” assert itself as the most likely Oscar contender for Netflix? Can “Da 5 Bloods” and “One Night in Miami” bounce back after the HFPA gave it the shaft? Can “Nomadland” put the Academy Awards to bed with an impressive showing including the SAG ensemble category? All these questions could be left unanswered, since Oscar voting still doesn’t open until March 5.

Down below are the final predictions for the SAG Awards.

BEST PERFORMANCE BY A CAST ENSEMBLE

  • Minari” (A24)
    CAST: Steven Yeun, Yeri Han, Yuh-Jung Youn, Alan S. Kim, Will Patton

  • Nomadland” (Searchlight Pictures)
    CAST: Frances McDormand, David Strathairn, Swankie, Linda May, Bob Wells

  • One Night in Miami‘ (Amazon Studios)
    CAST: Kingsley Ben-Adir, Eli Goree, Aldis Hodge, Leslie Odom Jr

  • Sound of Metal” (Amazon Studios)
    CAST: Riz Ahmed, Olivia Cooke, Paul Raci, Mathieu Amalric, Lauren Ridloff

  • The Trial of the Chicago 7” (Netflix)
    CAST: Yahya Abdul-Mateen II, Sacha Baron Cohen, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Michael Keaton, Frank Langella, John Carroll Lynch, Eddie Redmayne, Mark Rylance, Alex Sharp, Jeremy Strong

ALTERNATES: “Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom” (Netflix)

The equivalent to Oscars’ best picture category, this category is one of the key items needed on the way to the Academy Awards. There are obviously some exceptions as “Braveheart,” “The Shape of Water” and “Green Book” won without it. This is also a great way for films like “Da 5 Bloods,” “Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom” and “One Night in Miami” to bounce back. The inclusion of “Nomadland” would solidify its strength and placement as the frontrunner in the race as past films like “Slumdog Millionaire,” another film that had a “less famous” cast, did in previous years. Amazon’s “Sound of Metal” could be a symbol of strength as well, like other past surprise entries “Dallas Buyers Club” and “Bohemian Rhapsody,” but it’s always tricky to pick “that” contender out this early in the game.

There are also a few films with large casts that can make the lineup such as past entries like “Bobby” and “August: Osage County.” Can “The Prom” show its musical taste with an unexpected admission? “Promising Young Woman” has a lot of film/TV actors that could tickle their fancy, further accelerating its best picture/director status. I also wonder if the voting committee has the chops to vote for Kelly Reichardt’s “First Cow,” emulating unanticipated entrances like “Beasts of No Nation?” Hopefully, they have the chops for “Minari,” because the HFPA surely didn’t today.

BEST PERFORMANCE BY A MALE ACTOR IN A LEADING ROLE

  • Riz Ahmed, “Sound of Metal” (Amazon Studios)
    ROLE: Ruben

  • Chadwick Boseman, “Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom” (Netflix)
    ROLE: Levee

  • Anthony Hopkins, “The Father” (Sony Pictures Classics)
    ROLE: Anthony

  • Delroy Lindo, “Da 5 Bloods” (Netflix)
    ROLE: Paul

  • Steven Yeun, “Minari” (A24)
    ROLE: Jacob

ALTERNATE: Tahar Rahim, “The Mauritanian” (STXfilms)

After big misses at the Globes, this is the place for Delroy Lindo (“Da 5 Bloods”) and Steven Yeun (“Minari”) to reassert their positions in the best actor category. Gary Oldman (“Mank”) is someone that actors highly respect and could show up in the Christian Bale (“Ford v. Ferrari”) sort of manner. Riz Ahmed (“Sound of Metal”), Chadwick Boseman (“Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom”) and Anthony Hopkins (“The Father”) feel secure for noms. Still, with Jodie Foster catching on in best supporting actress, it could be a packaged deal alongside Tahar Rahim (“The Mauritanian”). If it comes up in this space, watch out because BAFTA is a group that favors him incredibly, and he could lock things in for himself.

BEST PERFORMANCE BY A FEMALE ACTOR IN A LEADING ROLE

  • Andra Day, “The United States vs. Billie Holiday” (Hulu)
    ROLE: Billie Holiday

  • Nicole Beharie, “Miss Juneteenth” (Vertical Entertainment)
    ROLE: Turquoise Jones

  • Viola Davis, “Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom” (Netflix)
    ROLE: Ma Rainey

  • Frances McDormand, “Nomadland” (Searchlight Pictures)
    ROLE: Fern

  • Carey Mulligan, “Promising Young Woman” (Focus Features)
    ROLE: Cassandra “Cassie” Thomas

ALTERNATE: Vanessa Kirby, “Pieces of a Woman” (Netflix)

Interestingly, the best actress category at the SAG awards has not matched perfectly with Oscar since 2009 where Sandra Bullock emerged victorious for “The Blind Side.” Since then, there have been many “one-offs” and shocking snubs. Look to Hilary Swank (“Conviction”), Helen Mirren (“Hitchcock” and “Woman in Gold”) and Sarah Silverman (“I Smile Back”) for those inclusions that made many pundits scratch their heads. With the competitive nature of best actress, we should expect a surprise miss or two, and Vanessa Kirby (“Pieces of a Woman”) may be one of those that sits on the outside of SAG and emerges back for the Oscars. Nicole Beharie (“Miss Juneteenth”) won the Gotham Award for best actress on the first day of SAG voting and may find room among them. Andra Day’s performances have impressed enough that it’s on the bubble for an entry. This could cement her status in the lineup. Frances McDormand (“Nomadland”) and Carey Mulligan (“Promising Young Woman”) feel safe with Viola Davis feeling semi-safe for spots, but honestly, who knows?

BEST PERFORMANCE BY A MALE ACTOR IN A SUPPORTING ROLE

  • Sacha Baron Cohen, “The Trial of the Chicago 7” (Netflix)
    ROLE: Abbie Hoffman

  • Daniel Kaluuya, “Judas and the Black Messiah” (Warner Bros.)
    ROLE: Fred Hampton

  • Leslie Odom Jr, “One Night in Miami” (Amazon Studios)
    ROLE: Sam Cooke

  • Paul Raci, “Sound of Metal” (Amazon Studios)
    ROLE: Joe

  • Mark Rylance, “The Trial of the Chicago 7” (Netflix)
    ROLE: William Kunstler

ALTERNATE: Brian Dennehy, “Driveways” (FilmRise)

The SAG awards have not matched 100% with the Oscars since 2014 when J.K. Simmons ran away with the season for “Whiplash.” This year, I’m not expecting it to fully match again, which is why we should expect some variation. Mirroring a bit of the 2007 awards season where Tommy Lee Jones popped up alongside fellow cast member Javier Bardem for “No Country for Old Men,” I think Mark Rylance can show up next to Sacha Baron Cohen for “The Trial of the Chicago 7.” In other SAG behaviors, the large guild can recognize those who have left us in the past year (i.e., James Garner for “The Notebook” and James Gandolfini for “Enough Said”), that’s why as an alternate choice, the late Brian Dennehy may find his way to the lineup for his performance in “Driveways.”

There are also past nominees like Steve Carell for “Battle of the Sexes” that shook things up for the contenders, and I wouldn’t count out Colman Domingo’s work in “Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom” to make a play over his co-star Glynn Turman, but at this point, they may be splitting votes with one another.

BEST PERFORMANCE BY A FEMALE ACTOR IN A SUPPORTING ROLE

  • Maria Bakalova, “Borat Subsequent Moviefilm” (Amazon Studios)
    ROLE: Tutar Sagdiyev

  • Jodie Foster, “The Mauritanian” (STXfilms)
    ROLE: Nancy Hollander

  • Amanda Seyfried, “Mank” (Netflix)
    ROLE: Marion Davies

  • Yuh-Jung Youn, “Minari” (A24)
    ROLE: Soonja

  • Helena Zengel, “News of the World” (Universal Pictures)
    ROLE: Johanna Leonberger

ALTERNATE: Olivia Colman, “The Father” (Sony Pictures Classics)

The guild matched with the Academy in 2016 when Viola Davis won for her work in “Fences,” but they’ve shown some wildcard selections since then when they don’t — such as Emily Blunt in “A Quiet Place,” Margot Robbie in “Mary Queen of Scots” and Nicole Kidman in “Bombshell.” Despite their works’ quality, they fall into a consideration period that doesn’t quite pan out. Who fits that bill this year?

Olivia Cooke’s work in “Sound of Metal” is well-loved, and if you’re predicting for it to have a big day, she’ll easily come along with it. Independent Spirit nominee Valerie Mahaffey’s turn in “French Exit” would surely turn some heads. Still, I wouldn’t count her in unless you’re also foreseeing Michelle Pfeiffer coming in as well, and the road seems to be jammed up at the moment for her. Candice Bergen is a legend of the television and film world, so “Let Them All Talk” could be in the conversation. With their affinity for young actors, Helena Zengel could continue her resurgence for “News of the World,” and Jodie Foster is a previous winner of this category for “Nell,” so she might be able to muscle some strength.

The predicted Olivia Colman miss for “The Father” is one that would fit an awards season narrative; however, they also failed to reward her the year she won the Oscar for “The Favourite,” and the group loves to cross correct (i.e., Judi Dench for “Chocolat” after “Shakespeare in Love”). If Ellen Burstyn misses here, just after missing the Globes, her road really narrows, and she would need Critics Choice and BAFTA to keep her alive. The “WTF nominations,” which I call the performances that land for Oscar without any precursor help, such as Marina de Tavira (“Roma”) and Marcia Gay Harden (“Pollock”), are few and far between.

BEST PERFORMANCE BY A STUNT ENSEMBLE

  • “The Midnight Sky” (Netflix)

  • “Mulan” (Walt Disney Pictures)

  • “News of the World” (Universal Pictures)

  • “Tenet” (Warner Bros.)

  • “Wonder Woman 1984” (Warner Bros.)

ALTERNATE: “The Old Guard” (Netflix)

The selections for stunts are always unpredictable as they can typically include films that you don’t expect, like “The Ballad of Buster Scruggs” and “Nocturnal Animals.” Horses seem like something that can attract the voters, which explains the inclusion of “Mulan” and “News of the World,” and we have to assume scaling up and across buildings are impressive enough to keep “Tenet” in the mix. The previous “Wonder Woman” won this category, and the sequel for “WW84” should be attractive. Flipping a coin for “The Midnight Sky” and “The Old Guard,” but what do I know, it’s probably “Hillbilly Elegy,” and up is the new down.

2021 SAG Awards Predictions (Film)

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