The SAG Awards Have Turned the Oscar Race Upside Down
In one very important way, Sunday night’s SAG Awards offered resounding clarity about what will happen at the Oscars in less than two weeks. Everything Everywhere All at Once was so dominant it made history, becoming the first film to win three individual acting awards as well as the overall best ensemble. This victory from the actors follows up wins with the directors and producers guilds, not to mention a raft of critics prizes; the moment for any other film to challenge it in best picture has officially passed. By the time the SAG Awards wrapped up, all anyone was talking about at the after-party was how impossible EEAAO would be to beat—not only because of its many victories, but the very obvious support from the audience that night.
But as for the actual acting categories themselves…good luck with that Oscar pool. As pointed out on Twitter, no actor has won all of the major precursor awards of Golden Globes, Critics Choice, BAFTA, and SAG; for the first time since 1998, none of BAFTA acting winners went on to repeat at SAG. The common awards-season phenomenon of a beloved actor sailing to victory simply isn’t happening this year.
That said: Ke Huy Quan is still winning that Oscar, his BAFTA loss to Barry Keoghan now very much a blip on what’s otherwise been an unfettered awards-season run. Like his castmates, he gave an emotional and winning speech that won over the SAG crowd. And in an awards season that’s been full of comeback stories—from Brendan Fraser to Colin Farrell to “nepo baby” Jamie Lee Curtis—his remains irresistible. Quan’s speeches often touch on his surprise at a win—this time he pointed out that he was recently told that if he won that night, he’d be the first Asian actor to ever win the category—but the audience knew this was coming, and met him with a standing ovation (led in part by Fraser, who was one of the first to leap out of his seat). As our colleague Richard Lawson wrote for our special awards issue, “Of Quan—and maybe of Quan alone—we can be certain.”
So what in the world do we do with these other races? Had she won last night Cate Blanchett would have been the season’s lone undefeated champ, even though Michelle Yeoh has been perceived to be neck and neck the entire time. Now that Yeoh has scored a huge win—like everything else connected to EEAAO, it felt like a coronation—the race truly feels too close to call. While the EEAAO table shrieked in celebration at every win, it was when Yeoh’s name was called that the group seemed to almost levitate from their seats. All season, the cast and directors have been singing Yeoh’s praises in their acceptance speeches (Jamie Lee Curtis had led the audience in a chant of her name earlier that night), and it really did feel like they’d been waiting for a win like this for Yeoh all season. It’s rare enough for a film to win both best actress and best picture, and rarer still to win an additional acting award alongside it—Million Dollar Baby (2004) and Shakespeare in Love (1998) were the most recent two to pull it off. The lingering question of the next two weeks will be if EEAAO is poised for a sweep at the Oscars on the scale of what it accomplished at SAG, or if the film’s best-picture dominance might make voters inclined to break another direction in actress instead.
No matter how many awards EEAAO was predicted to win at the Oscars, few expected it to have a strong showing in supporting actress, simply because costars Jamie Lee Curtis and Stephanie Hsu were nominated together. It’s possible to avoid vote-splitting, like Sam Rockwell and Woody Harrelson did for Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri, but it’s not easy. And yet, the huge applause for Jamie Lee Curits for her “I’m an actor” speech at the beginning of the show presaged the wave of affection that met her for her emotional, rowdy supporting-actress speech at the SAGs. She by no means had the showiest clip of her category, either, but by the time Deirdre Beaubeirdre showed up on the nominee reel, we had our loudest reaction of the night so far. When she won—was it even a surprise by this point?—a good chunk of the room rose to their feet. The Hollywood love was so palpable it’s hard to not see her, now, as a serious Oscar player.
Then again, that’s the same energy that met Angela Bassett at the Golden Globes and the Critics Choice Awards, where her two victories just days apart seemed to suggest she’d cruise to a legacy win and become the first actor to win for a Marvel movie in the process. But she’s now lost to The Banshees of Inisherin’s Kerry Condon at the BAFTAs and now Curtis. Even aside from the very real concerns about racism among awards voters, Bassett always faced an uphill climb as the only above-the-line nominee for Wakanda Forever. Has Curtis offered Marvel-skeptical Oscar voters an option for another overdue legend to reward? Maybe, but after Kerry Condon won BAFTA last week, the safer answer is that this category now feels wide open, bound for yet one more surprise. And with the Academy tending to be tougher on blockbusters than SAG, Bassett has gone from heavyweight to underdog in this topsy-turvy race.