Screen Actor’s Guild Predictions: Can “Moonlight” Emerge As “La La Land’s” Biggest Competition?

We have now entered Phase 2 of awards season: Oscar nominations have been announced, and now it’s about threading a narrative to create/build and/or maintain enough momentum to win an Oscar.

Last year, we saw the tide turn quickly against The Revenant, which came into Oscar night with a whopping 12 nominations and losing Best Picture to Spotlight and other technical awards to Mad Max: Fury Road. The same thing happened to American Hustle a few years ago; it scored 13 nominations and a ton of late breaking heat from the Golden Globes and Screen Actor’s Guild and won nothing on Oscar night. This year is obviously much different than those years, with La La Land being much more of an Oscar-friendly and consensus title than the other ones I mentioned. 

Curiously enough, La La Land only managed nominations for Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling, and did not appear in the line up for Best Ensemble which is worth noting. It’s true that La La Land is a lot of just Stone and Gosling, but that hasn’t stopped SAG from nominating films with smaller ensembles before (remember Beasts of No Nation last year? It only had three actors cited). The Producer’s Guild also announces their winner this weekend, which La La Land will almost certainly win. But SAG represents the actors, which outnumber the producers that vote within the Academy which is why I think Moonlight can emerge as a big threat this weekend (but more on that later). 

Let’s go through the categories. 

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Broadcast Film Critics Go Wild For “La La Land”

It was clear that the Broadcast Film Critics loved La La Land; they gave it the most nominations of any film with 12, and ended up winning eight including the top prizes: Picture and Director while picking up a lot of the below the line prizes in Editing, Production Design and Cinematography. Many have predicted La La Land will sweep in a similar fashion at the Oscars. And while it’s true the Broadcast critics don’t vote on the Oscars, they are more predictive and align more accurately with the Oscars than any other precursor group, including the Globes and even Screen Actors Guild (sometimes).

Where La La Land missed out, however, was in Best Actress which surprisingly went to Natalie Portman. After suffering from missed citations from recent critics groups, Portman roared back into the race and Jackie picked up additional awards in Costumes and Hair & Makeup. Only two actresses in the past 6 years that have won this award missed out on winning the Oscar; though many were quick to declare this a cakewalk for Emma Stone, it’s clear Best Actress is still a two woman race. 

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The other two frontrunners, Moonlight and Manchester By The Sea, had their moments as well. Mahershala Ali won yet another trophy for Supporting Actor with the cast winning the group’s ensemble prize. Casey Affleck beat out his biggest competition in Denzel Washington for Best Actor, while Kenneth Lonergan tied in Original Screenplay with Damien Chazelle’s screenplay for La La Land. After winning some notices with the critics, Michelle Williams lost Supporting Actress to Viola Davis, who has begun what I suspect will be a clean sweep of the televised awards. Look out for her next conquest: the Golden Globes (nominations are announced tomorrow). 

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Read the full list of (film) winners below.

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Natalie Portman is Exceptional in the Transcendent “Jackie”

There’s a scene in Jackie which sees the titular First Lady (played by Natalie Portman) preparing to walk out of the private jet carrying her, husband John and their entourage in Dallas, Texas. She’s rehearsing her speech while applying her makeup. Wearing the now iconic pink Chanel suit, she adds the finishing touch: the matching pillbox hat. She stares ahead never meeting his gaze, with a blank expression on her face.

“Ready?” John asks her.

“Of course,” she says with the slightest grin.

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Natalie Portman is Front and Center in New “Jackie” Trailer

The Best Actress race refuses to slow down.

Just last week, we got a glimpse of Viola Davis in Fences and Annette Bening in 20th Century Women. Emma Stone won Best Actress at Venice and has been topping a lot of Oscar pundits lists for the final five, but one contender that has managed to astound everyone is Natalie Portman. The actress’ buzzy Jackie Kennedy biopic has been the talk of the town since it premiered to critical acclaim at Venice and Toronto last month.

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Annette Bening and Viola Davis Officially Enter The Best Actress Race

For the last few weeks, Natalie Portman and Emma Stone have asserted themselves as the frontrunners in the Best Actress race after splashy debuts at both the Venice and Toronto film festivals. Though many people have been quick to make this a two way race, I’ve quietly maintained that the unseen contenders, Viola Davis (especially) and Annette Bening, were waiting in the wings. Today these two ladies have officially joined the conversation, and if I were Stone and Portman, I wouldn’t get too comfortable with being in the lead.

I’ve already talked at length at how both Davis’ and Bening’s status as “also rans” in previous races benefit their chances this year. That being said, both of their projects look like slam dunks and shouldn’t find difficulty finding awards consideration when its time to cast ballots.

Let’s take a look.

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Breaking Down The Best Actress Race

It’s that time of the year; Sundance, Cannes, Telluride and Venice are behind us while the Toronto Film Festival has just begun, and so has Oscar season. The contenders are beginning to emerge and narratives are starting to take shape. There are some films that have gotten a head start thanks to some critical raves (JackieLa La Land, MoonlightLovingSully) and some that are playing catch up (The Birth of A Nation) while others are giant question marks in the race right now (Arrival,

One race that’s particularly interesting, as it stands right now, is Best Actress. With so much left of the race left to go there are a number of exciting possibilities that, if played right, could make this one of the best years for Best Actress in awhile. Continue reading