‘Spotlight’ at SAG Awards: Is it unbeatable for Best Film Ensemble?

spotlight cast

Spotlight” is the frontrunner to win Best Film Ensemble at the SAG Awards according to the combined predictions of Expert film journalists we’ve polled, along with Gold Derby Editors who cover awards year-round, the Top 24 Users who got the top scores predicting last year’s SAG nominations and the more than 1000 total Users who make up the largest (and often savviest) bloc of predictors.

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sag oddsSpotlight” has leading odds of 13/8 to win. In second place is the David O. Russell film “Joy” at 6/1. Russell’s last film, “American Hustle” (which also featured Jennifer Lawrence and Bradley Cooper) won this prize in 2013, and his two films before that – “Silver Linings Playbook” (2012) and “The Fighter” (2010) – were both nominated.

Following with “Joy” at 13/2 odds is the all-star biographical drama “Steve Jobs” featuring Michael Fassbender, Kate Winslet and Jeff Daniels among its noteworthy cast.

Next is “The Hateful Eight” with 17/2 odds. True to its title it features the impressive octet of Samuel L. Jackson, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Kurt Russell, Walton Goggins, Tim Roth, Michael Madsen, Bruce Dern and Demian Bichir — plus Channing Tatum. Of those, Jackson, Dern and Bichir are past SAG nominees for individual performances, so voters may already be predisposed to want to vote for them.

And rounding out our top five is the Leonardo DiCaprio survival drama “The Revenant” with 16/1 odds. The film also features Tom Hardy, Will Poulter and Domhnall Gleeson.

So if we’re right and “Spotlight” has the edge, does that also give it the advantage at the Oscars? Maybe, but maybe not.

The SAG Awards, decided by the industry actors who make up the recently merged SAG-AFTRA union, have been a reliable predictor of the winners of the four acting races at the Oscars but they’re not as accurate when it comes to forecasting the Best Picture champ. Only half of SAG’s winners for Best Ensemble (10 out of 20) have taken the academy’s top honor.

That’s because SAG’s Ensemble award emphasizes the performances rather than the overall quality of the films. Thus the category tends to honor character-driven films with large casts, including “Shakespeare in Love,” “Traffic,” “Gosford Park,” “Crash,” “The Help” and last year’s champ “Birdman.”

Only rarely do films with small casts prevail: “Sideways” won with only four main cast members, and “Little Miss Sunshine” won with six, though both films were road movies featuring a number of group scenes, highlighting the chemistry among their stars.

“The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King” won in 2003 despite SAG’s usual bias against sci-fi and fantasy films, but that was an anomaly: capping one of the most successful franchises in recent film history, “Return of the King” was virtually unbeatable throughout awards season.

All of this means other films with smaller core casts like “Room” and “The Danish Girl” could be snubbed in SAG’s Ensemble race and still make a comeback at the Oscars.

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What do you think will win at the SAG Awards? Make your predictions beginning with Best Film Ensemble to the right or at the bottom of this post and you could earn a place of honor on our leaderboard and a starring role in next year’s Top 24 Users (the two dozen folks who did the best predicting last year’s SAG nominations).

As some of our Users turn out to be our smartest prognosticators, it’s important that you log in and give us your predictions. Your picks influence our Users racetrack odds, which also factor into our official combined odds.

“Spotlight” photo credit: Open Road Films

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