As you likely know by now, most of the Screen Actor’s picks went as anticipated: Boyhood‘s Patricia Arquette for supporting actress, Whiplash‘s J.K. Simmon’s for supporting actor, and Still Alice‘s Julianne Moore for best actress. That’s as far as collective wisdom went, however. Presumptive favorite Boyhood was knocked aside by Birdman for best cast, but Birdman‘s star Michael Keaton was passed over for The Theory of Everything‘s Eddie Redmayne. And while the Birdman cast fluttered about for a cohesive subject in their speech, Redmayne was sweet and affecting, dedicating his win to all people with ALS and their families and praising their resiliency of spirit. (I thought it was a lovely touch, too, that he mentioned not only his fellow nominees but many of the terrific performances that didn’t get nominated this year, like Timothy Spall’s in Mr. Turner.) These events may say more about best actor than they do about picture, but either way it’s hard to know more than the fact that the community is spreading their love around this year.
Which means there’s still a little left to wonder about and learn this year, and that’s just how I like it. Just when I thought things were getting dull, SAG-AFTRA came charging in to the rescue.
E: Back in high school I had a good friend who was determined to compete as an athlete despite her asthma. It was nearly a weekly occurrence to see her taken off the field hockey pitch in an ambulance; when she ran track in the spring, a teammate was apparently assigned to catch her at the end of each race. Though I respected the bravery involved, and her commitment to her team, and her desire to be the best she could, there came a point where I and many others started to wonder: how much of this can be good for her? When does pushing your body become punishing it? How much suffering is worth that goal?
And that, in turn, made me think about the lives of martyrs and various great men and women throughout history. Chances are good that they were similarly unreasonable. Would sacrifices like my friend’s seem more worthwhile given a greater end game than just winning a high school meet – a college scholarship, perhaps, or a professional athletic career? Or something even loftier, the pursuit of art, scientific breakthrough, the defense of one’s principles or religion or country? How many of us, given the choice between a normal, rational life, and a great one, would rush past that societal norm to reach the goals only we can imagine?
I’ve been thinking about that a lot lately, that old friend and all her ambulance rides and the way she made me question the mixed messages society sends its children; strive for excellence, but not so much that you hurt yourself doing so. And maybe it’s because I saw Selma and Whiplash two days in a row, but they speak to me together on this same subject, that push past the reasonable into achievement. On the surface we can all see their dissimilarities; one, the story of a civil rights tragedy turned to triumph, and the other the story of an abusive teacher/student relationship. But a closer look reveals similar questions about the cost of human endeavor. At what price greatness?
E: Often, SAG’s job as the middle tent pole of the awards race is first to clarify the picture of the Golden Globe nominations, and then to confirm the Golden Globe winners as Oscar favorites. Often, there’ll be a slight question between the comedy and drama Golden Globe winners in a given year; which one is the actual favorite? So SAG can be helpful in showing which way the wind blows there. Sometimes there’s a horse race between several films, and there too the Screen Actor’s Guild can clarify the picture. Tonight, there’s not likely to be that much drama when the show airs on TBS and TNT at 8pm EST. We’re mostly going to get to look at some good-looking people in beautiful clothes and hear a preview of their Oscar speeches.
Though of course surprises are always the most exciting, you can count on Patricia Arquette and J.K. Simmons to take the supporting prizes, and Julianne Moore to finally, finally take best actress. Never-nominated Michael Keaton is likely, though not absolutely assured, to pick up best actor; his competition is Golden Globe drama winner Eddie Redmayne, who has the showier part but doesn’t quite fit the same mold as the other three, veteran actors who finally scored the right role.
The likeliest winner for best ensemble is Boyhood, the Oscar front runner and Golden Globe winner. A win for either The Imitation Game or The Grand Budapest Hotel might confuse the Oscar landscape a bit, especially if either can back up the win at a subsequent awards show like the BAFTA (British Academy Awards) or the Producer’s Guild. Though the latter flick is a perfect ensemble choice for SAG, which often favors more quirk than other award groups, it’s unlikely to be serious enough for the Academy; the former, on the other hand, does blend the right amounts of historical significance and bravura acting to be a real threat, but it doesn’t as of yet have any real momentum.
So, do we know what we think we know? Tonight we’ll find out. Oh, and of course we’ll get to see good television nominees, too, and those wins aren’t quite as clearly predestined.
E: First off, very timely, O Marvelous Good Wife Writing Staff. Even for your ripped-from-the-headlines style that’s pretty impressive. Earlier in the fall you took on campus rape culture right before Rolling Stone did (and apparently with better research), and now an unpunished police killing of a black man caught on tape. Who could have called that happening? Second, kudos for giving us the debate in a unexpected structure. Third, no wonder you had to kill Will off to get rid of him; you just can’t quit some of these characters, not even when you should. Guys, sometimes change is a good thing! Fourth, way to step up, Peter. Fifth and finally, you’ve done something that I didn’t think was possible. By letting Alicia truly make a case for herself as State’s Attorney, and having her truly answer the question so many months later of why she wants to do it, you’ve just earned my vote.
Well. You know. My vote for the storyline, since I can’t vote in a fictional election. Continue reading →
E: Well, that wasn’t so bad. No, I didn’t foresee everything with the precision I’d have liked, but I actually guessed wrong less than I was expecting. Let’s get to it! Here’s a link to my predictions, in case you’re curious to compare them exactly, and another to the nominations themselves, including the categories I didn’t cover. Continue reading →