FEINBERG FORECAST SAG Awards Preview Edition: Expect a Big Night for 'The Help' and 'George Clooney'

THR's awards analyst Scott Feinberg analyzes SAG's five film categories.
"The Help"

The 18th annual Screen Actors Guild Awards will take place on Sunday evening. I've already shared my picks and rationale for the eight TV categories; now it's time to tackle the five film categories!


Outstanding Performance by a Cast in a Motion Picture
Nominees: The Artist (The Weinstein Company), Bridesmaids (Universal), The Descendants (Fox Searchlight), The Help (DreamWorks), Midnight in Paris (Sony Pictures Classics)

Some in SAG see this category as a best picture surrogate and vote accordingly, but most take it literally and simply vote for the best good movie with a big ensemble cast, which may explain why only 50% of its past winners (8 of 16 -- the category was only created for the 2nd SAG Awards) have gone on to win the top Oscar. SAG tends to celebrate casts that are diverse in terms of age, race, and/or nationality, just like the membership of SAG itself -- i.e. Traffic (2000), Gosford Park (2001), Crash (2005), Inglourious Basterds (2009) -- which leads me to believe that The Help will edge out The Artist here, if not at the Oscars (which is probably a bridge too far for a film without a director or screenplay nom)… that is, unless voters really want to make a statement and go with Bridesmaids, which is not entirely out of the question.

PHOTOS: 2012 SAG Awards Nominees

Outstanding Performance by a Male Actor in a Leading Role
Nominees: Demian Bichir (A Better Life), George Clooney (The Descendants), Leonardo DiCaprio (J. Edgar), Jean Dujardin (The Artist), Brad Pitt (Moneyball)

One thing is for sure: one of this category’s five nominees will pick up his first individual SAG Award. For Bichir, this nom (his first) is the win; DiCaprio (lost prior three) and Pitt (lost prior one) are probably out because their films weren’t seen or liked enough to score ensemble nods, for which they were certainly contenders; all of which leaves us with Dujardin and Clooney, the two best actor winners at the Golden Globe. Give the edge to Clooney, who was nom’d five times prior to this one and has been on a roll lately, but keep in mind that whoever wins is likely to repeat at the Oscars, just like the last seven SAG best actor winners.

Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Leading Role
Nominees: Glenn Close (Albert Nobbs), Viola Davis (The Help), Meryl Streep (The Iron Lady), Tilda Swinton (We Need to Talk About Kevin), Michelle Williams (My Week with Marilyn)

Close has eight SAG noms under her belt (all for TV work except this one), so they obviously like her. But I think this is probably going to come down to Golden Globe winner Streep (who has received nine SAG noms and won twice) and Critics’ Choice winner Davis (who lost her one prior SAG nom three years ago), with an outside possibility that Golden Globe winner Williams could upset. Screeners of both The Iron Lady and The Help were made available to all SAG voters, but because Davis' film was liked by enough of them to score a best ensemble nod (which is not the case for any of this category's other nominees) and because Streep already has two SAG Awards under her belt (whereas Davis has not yet won one) I'm inclined to predict that she will prevail. Considering that seven of the last 10 SAG best actress winners repeated at the Oscars, that could be an important send-off.

PHOTOS: SAG Awards: What You Didn't See on TV

Outstanding Performance by a Male Actor in a Supporting Role
Nominees: Kenneth Branagh (My Week with Marilyn), Armie Hammer (J. Edgar), Jonah Hill (Moneyball), Nick Nolte (Warrior), Christopher Plummer (Beginners)

Hammer and Hill are young first-time nominees who won’t pose much of a threat. Nolte has put together a nice comeback, but he’s still a divisive figure and its hard to envision him at the podium, as well. Branagh is the sort of revered actors’ actor who might have won in any other year. But, this year, I would be shocked if 82-year-old veteran Plummer doesn’t add his first SAG Award (he’s been nom’d twice before) to his rapidly growing collection of statuettes and, like the last four SAG winners of this category, win again at the Oscars.

Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Supporting Role
Nominees: Berenice Bejo (The Artist), Jessica Chastain (The Help), Melissa McCarthy (Bridesmaids), Janet McTeer (Albert Nobbs), Octavia Spencer (The Help)

Prior to this year, most voters hadn’t even heard of any of these nominees except McTeer, a best actress SAG nominee 12 years ago. Chastain had a great year but isn’t even the best supporting actress in the film for which she’s nom’d. Bejo is charming and could ride her film’s coattails to a win. But I suspect that this will come down to two women who starred in movies that everyone saw and were responsible for most of their laughs: raunchy McCarthy and cheeky Spencer. Either would be a feel-good choice, but Spencer would be seen as more respectable, and could follow in the footsteps of eight of the last 10 winners of this category and repeat at the Oscars.