FEINBERG FORECAST: Predictions for the 18th Screen Actors Guild Award Nominations

THR's awards expert Scott Feinberg believes "The Descendants," "The Help," George Clooney, Meryl Streep and Christopher Plummer are among the safest bets.
"The Help"

On Wednesday morning, the Screen Actors Guild will announce its nominations for the 18th annual SAG Awards. This is exciting news because, over the years, SAG Award nominations -- which are determined by a nominating committee composed of a randomly selected 3% of the union's overall membership (2100 for film categories and 2100 for television categories) -- have become the single best predictor of which performances will go on to receive acting nods from the Academy.

Last year, the two organizations overlapped on 17 out of 20 acting nominees (SAG picked Get Low's Robert Duvall over Biutiful's Javier Bardem, Conviction's Hilary Swank over Blue Valentine's Michelle Williams and Black Swan's Mila Kunis over Animal Kingdom's Jacki Weaver), and the year before that they overlapped on an even more impressive 19 out of 20 (SAG picked Inglourious Basterds' Diane Kruger over Crazy Heart's Maggie Gyllenhaal). This makes sense, since they are essentially a microcosm of the Academy's acting branch -- another group of actors, numbering roughly 1,200 -- that selects the acting Oscar nominees.

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The one area in which SAG's selections are only of questionable value, in terms of predicting Oscar nominations, is its best ensemble category. The category ostensibly exists to celebrate the most "outstanding performance by a cast in a motion picture" -- in other words, films that feature large casts that work well together -- and many nom-com members approach it with that intent. But because nom-com voters don't have a specific category in which they can celebrate their choices for best picture, many choose to employ the ensemble category as their place to do that. Consequently, it's never totally clear what to make of SAG's choices in that category. In 2005 they nominated Crash (which actually won the SAG ensemble award, it's only major victory en route to a stunning upset win at the Oscars), which seemed to indicate that they might be a reliable predictor of the best picture Oscar; just two years later, though, four of SAG's five ensemble nominees -- American Gangster, Hairspray, Into the Wild, and 3:10 to Yuma -- weren't nominated for the best picture Oscar (or, in the case of Hairspray, any Oscars) at all.

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And so, without further ado, here are my best guesses of what SAG will choose to nominate Wednesday morning, based on my observations of and conversations with nom-com members at various screenings and Q&As over the past few months, as well as information that I have gathered from trusted sources.

Best Ensemble
Locks: The Descendants, The Help
Likely: The Artist, Midnight in Paris, Bridesmaids
Possible: War Horse, Hugo, The Ides of March, Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close, Margin Call
Long Shots: Drive, Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, My Week with MarilynJ. Edgar

Best Actor
Locks: George Clooney (The Descendants)
Likely: Jean Dujardin (The Artist), Brad Pitt (Moneyball)
Possible: Leonardo DiCaprio (J. Edgar), Michael Fassbender (Shame), Ryan Gosling (Drive), Gary Oldman (Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy)
Long Shots: Joseph Gordon-Levitt (50/50), Woody Harrelson (Rampart), Michael Shannon (Take Shelter), Paul Giamatti (Win Win), Ryan Gosling (The Ides of March), Demian Bechir (A Better Life)

Best Actress
Locks: Meryl Streep (The Iron Lady), Michelle Williams (My Week with Marilyn)
Likely: Viola Davis (The Help), Glenn Close (Albert Nobbs)
Possible: Charlize Theron (Young Adult), Tilda Swinton (We Need to Talk About Kevin),  Elizabeth Olsen (Martha Marcy May Marlene)
Long Shots: Rooney Mara (The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo), Felicity Jones (Like Crazy), Mia Wasikowska (Jane Eyre), Kirsten Dunst (Melancholia)

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Best Supporting Actor
Locks: Christopher Plummer (Beginners)
Likely: Albert Brooks (Drive), Kenneth Branagh (My Week with Marilyn), Ben Kingsley (Hugo)
Possible: John Hawkes (Martha Marcy May Marlene), Patton Oswalt (Young Adult), Nick Nolte (Warrior), Max von Sydow (Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close)
Long Shots: Kevin Spacey (Margin Call), Jeremy Irons (Margin Call), Jim Broadbent (The Iron Lady), Andy Serkis (Rise of the Planet of the Apes)

Best Supporting Actress
Octavia Spencer (The Help), Shailene Woodley (The Descendants)
Likely: Berenice Bejo (The Artist)
Possible: Janet McTeer (Albert Nobbs), Melissa McCarthy (Bridesmaids), Carey Mulligan (Shame), Jessica Chastain (The Help), Judy Greer (The Descendants), Sandra Bullock (Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close)
Long Shots: Vanessa Redgrave (Coriolanus), Judi Dench (J. Edgar), Jessica Chastain (The Tree of Life), Evan Rachel Wood (The Ides of March)