The SAG Award film nominees are in, so who’s the frontrunner?

12 Years a Slave,” leads the SAG Awards with four nominations, so it will surely win Best Film Ensemble, right? (Click here for the complete list of nominees.)

Not necessarily. The film with the most nominations most often wins the top Oscar, but that’s not as reliable a predictor of the SAG Awards. Just last year, “Lincoln” and “Les Miserables” led the nominations with four apiece, but the Ensemble award went to “Argo,” which only had one other bid, for supporting actor Alan Arkin.

So if total nominations isn’t an indicator of support in the top category, what is?

Having a big cast of A-listers is usually an advantage. “Argo” had a deep roster that included star Ben Affleck as well as well liked actors Kyle Chandler, Bryan Cranston, John Goodman, Victor Garber, Arkin, and more. Other winners, like “The Help,” “Crash,” “Chicago,” “Godford Park,” and “Traffic,” were also carried to victory thanks to armies of recognizable stars. “Slumdog Millionaire” won without any household names, but it did have the longest nominated cast list that year (11).

The cast of “The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King” managed to win Best Ensemble without a single other nomination for the film, so often size does matter, but only in terms of the amount of actors, not the amount of nominations.

That’s potentially good news for “The Butler,” which has this year’s biggest nominated cast list (15), led by Forest Whitaker and Oprah Winfrey and boasting a parade of actors playing US presidents, including Robin Williams, John Cusack, and Alan Rickman.

August: Osage County” is nearly as impressive with 12 nominated actors, among them Oscar-winners Meryl Streep, Julia Roberts, and Chris Cooper, as well as Margo Martindale, Benedict Cumberbatch, Ewan McGregor, and several more.

American Hustle” also has 12 nominees among its cast, and despite the fact that the film only received one other nomination (for supporting actress Jennifer Lawrence), it has received much praise as a great ensemble vehicle and that might even make it the frontrunner.

But “12 Years” has a large ensemble of its own (13, second behind “The Butler”), so it’s certainly formidable. SAG’s Best Ensemble only matches Oscar’s Best Picture about half the time, but overall strength in the awards race could be seen in support for such an acting-driven contender.

Surprise Ensemble nominee “Dallas Buyers Club” has the smallest cast, with six actors singled out, but don’t count it out completely. Other films have won the top prize with few cast members, including “Sideways,” which had four, and “Little Miss Sunshine,” which also had six.

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