After SAG Awards, who’s up and who’s down at the Oscars?

The 2022 Screen Actors Guild Awards were held on Sunday night, February 27. And for those trying to read the Oscar tea-leaves, it was a crucial turning point for the season as it’s the biggest award presented so far from members of the entertainment industry, specifically the 160,000 performers and professionals represented by the SAG-AFTRA labor union. But these awards can be a mixed bag, with some categories being a better indicator than others for who the motion picture academy will choose. But here’s who I think is up, down, and about the same in the Oscar race going forward.


CODA — Undoubtedly the big winner of the night was this indie film, which was awarded twice, making it the only film to win multiple times. One of those was the ensemble cast award, where it beat a couple of other Oscar heavyweights for Best Picture, “Belfast” and “King Richard.” That could make this film the year’s dark horse crowd-pleasing alternative to “The Power of the Dog” for Best Picture. But don’t get too far ahead of yourself: the ensemble award has only presaged the top Oscar 12 out of 26 times (46%), and it’s hard to overcome only having three total Oscar noms, and none for directing or editing. Granted, “Green Book” won with just five nominations, and “Parasite” and “Spotlight” won with just six, but “Parasite” and “Spotlight” also had directing noms and all three of them were up for editing. So where these double wins are probably the most powerful are in putting Troy Kotsur in the lead for Best Supporting Actor.

The Eyes of Tammy Faye — It only has two Oscar bids, but Jessica Chastain‘s win at the SAG Awards in an uncertain race could help the film win both. The five Oscar nominees for Best Actress aren’t in films with broad academy support (none of them have more than three total nominations), so it has never been entirely clear who has the strongest momentum. But Chastain’s victory gives her a major leg up, not just because this SAG Award category has lined up with Oscar 19 out of 27 times (70.3%), but because it lines things up pretty perfectly for her. She’s had an Oscar IOU since “Zero Dark Thirty” (2012), for which she quite possibly came in second to winner Jennifer Lawrence (“Silver Linings Playbook”). Three of her Oscar rivals already have Oscars (Nicole Kidman, Olivia Colman, and Penelope Cruz), which gives Chastain a much stronger narrative. Since none of the Oscar contenders were nominated at the BAFTAs, this is also the only industry award any of the five will have won going into Oscar night. And if Chastain wins, “Eyes of Tammy Faye” could double that up with a victory for Best Makeup and Hairstyling, giving it the same two awards won by fellow biopics “La Vie en Rose” and “The Iron Lady.”

“King Richard”Will Smith was expected to win for his leading performance, and he did just that. But getting up on stage and tearfully accepting the honor with the real Venus Williams in the audience (Smith plays her dad on-screen) probably gave the whole movie a lift. “King Richard” has met or exceeded expectations at most awards it has been eligible for this season, and it earned crucial Oscar noms for writing and editing, categories you usually need to win an Oscar even more than Best Director. So this may be the dark-horse crowd-pleasing alternative to “Power of the Dog.”


“Belfast” — With “The Power of the Dog” dominating the Oscar nominations with a surprising 12, this was a crucial opportunity to position “Belfast” as another Best Picture front-runner, much the way the ensemble prize at the SAG Awards positioned “Spotlight” and “Parasite” for their ultimate Best Picture upsets against films with many more nominations. “Belfast” could still rally at the Producers Guild Awards, and it may have home field advantage at the BAFTAs, but it’s gonna need a big win somewhere soon.

“Don’t Look Up” — When you have a cast with this many individual SAG Award winners in it (Streep and Lawrence and Blanchett, oh my!), your best case for Best Picture is for SAG-AFTRA to line up behind all that star power, but that wasn’t the case. It was already an underdog for Best Picture, and that’s how it remains.

“The Power of the Dog” — It tied “House of Gucci” for the most nominations (three) despite not being nominated for its ensemble cast, but this Best Picture front-runner still came away empty handed. The award it was most expected to win, for supporting actor Kodi Smit-McPhee, went to the aforementioned Troy Kotsur. But don’t bury the “Dog” just yet. Remember that just last year “Nomadland” lost its only SAG Award nomination, for lead actress Frances McDormand; not only did it win the Best Picture Oscar anyway, McDormand won Best Actress too.


“Dune” — It lost the stunt ensemble award to “No Time to Die,” which was its only nomination here, but it’s actually pretty common for the more Oscar-favored movie to lose the stunt prize. Just two years ago “Avengers: Endgame” beat four Best Picture nominees: “Ford v Ferrari,” “The Irishman,” “Joker,” and “Once Upon a Time in Hollywood.” And last year “Wonder Woman 1984” bested “The Trial of the Chicago 7.” So I don’t think this outcome will have much bearing on its Oscar chances.

“West Side Story” — It won on its only nomination, for supporting actress Ariana DeBose, who continues her march to the Oscar podium. But it’s been a hit-and-miss season for the musical remake as a whole, so DeBose could plausibly be the only Oscar win out of the film’s seven nominations unless we start seeing a lot more support over the next month as other industry groups announce their winners.

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