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SAG Awards movie predictions: A sweep for ‘Marriage Story’?

Laura Dern and Scarlett Johansson in “Marriage Story.”
Laura Dern and Scarlett Johansson in “Marriage Story.”
(Wilson Webb / Netflix)

The SAG Awards’ film ensemble prize is the evening’s best award, a chance to see the (usually) sprawling casts of an (occasionally) great movie take the stage and celebrate.

It’s also the event’s least predictive award in terms of the direction that Oscar voters will take. Only 11 of the 24 SAG Awards winners have gone on to secure the Academy Awards’ best picture trophy. (“Spotlight” was the last movie to win both.) Last year, “Black Panther” won SAG; “Green Book” prevailed at the Oscars.

Who will be competing this year? Let’s take an early look.

FILM ENSEMBLE

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“The Irishman”
“Once Upon a Time ... in Hollywood”
“Marriage Story”
“Little Women”
“Bombshell”

On the cusp: “Jojo Rabbit,” “Dolemite Is My Name,” “Knives Out,” “Downton Abbey,” “The Farewell,” “Hustlers,” “Avengers: Endgame”

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Volume used to matter more here, with SAG Awards voters favoring movies with big casts. (More jobs!) Lately, though, crowd-pleasing commercial films have been doing well, which could be good news for the entertaining “Dolemite” and “Knives Out,” the latter being a terrific example of the joys that a superbly cast ensemble movie can deliver.

“Downton Abbey” won the SAG Awards’ television drama ensemble prize three times, putting the movie in play here. It still feels like something of a reach, but I learned long ago never to underestimate the spell Maggie Smith holds on this body of voters.

Lupita Nyong’o in a scene from “Us.”
Lupita Nyong’o in a scene from “Us.”
(Claudette Barius/Universal Pictures)

LEAD ACTRESS

Renée Zellweger, “Judy”
Scarlett Johansson, “Marriage Story”
Charlize Theron, “Bombshell”
Lupita Nyong’o, “Us”
Saoirse Ronan, “Little Women”

On the cusp: Awkwafina, “The Farewell”; Alfre Woodard, “Clemency”; Cynthia Erivo, “Harriet”; Helen Mirren, “The Good Liar”

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This is the group that Emily Blunt scored with last year for “Mary Poppins,” and voters’ populist tendencies could help Nyong’o, who stars in the biggest hit of the contenders. The case for Nyong’o is further bolstered by the turn itself; actors should respond to her dazzling performance that features not one, but two, roles, characters set against each other.

ROCKETMAN
Taron Egerton in “Rocketman”
(Photo Credit: David Appleby/Paramount Pictures)

LEAD ACTOR

Adam Driver, “Marriage Story”
Joaquin Phoenix, “Joker”
Leonardo DiCaprio, “Once Upon a Time ... in Hollywood”
Robert De Niro, “The Irishman”
Eddie Murphy, “Dolemite Is My Name”

On the cusp: Antonio Banderas, “Pain and Glory”; Christian Bale, “Ford v Ferrari”; Jonathan Pryce, “The Two Popes”; Taron Egerton, “Rocketman”; Adam Sandler, “Uncut Gems”; Robert Pattinson, “The Lighthouse”

As I’ve mentioned in other columns, the lead actor category is so loaded that you could make two different lists of five performances, and each would be valid and defensible. The wild card at SAG might be Egerton, the star of a movie that has been widely seen and mostly enjoyed. It’s a big, transformative star turn featuring singing, dancing and loads of sequins, appealing to every SAG voter who got their start playing dress-up as a kid.

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Margot Robbie and Kate McKinnon in “Bombshell.”
(Hilary B Gayle/Lionsgate)

SUPPORTING ACTRESS

Laura Dern, “Marriage Story”
Jennifer Lopez, “Hustlers”
Margot Robbie, “Bombshell”
Maggie Smith, “Downton Abbey”
Scarlett Johansson, “Jojo Rabbit”

On the cusp: Annette Bening, “The Report”; Zhao Shuzhen, “The Farewell”; Florence Pugh, “Little Women”; Margot Robbie, “Once Upon a Time ... in Hollywood”; Da’Vine Joy Randolph, “Dolemite Is My Name”; Nicole Kidman, “Bombshell”

Johansson is a safe bet for her lead turn in “Marriage Story” and has a good chance for showing up here too for the way she provided the emotional foundation for “Jojo Rabbit.” I don’t think the movie works ... but it really doesn’t work without her.

Robbie could well earn two nominations too. I think she’s far better in Tarantino’s movie, as the film’s success depends on her sunny, ethereal performance. But Robbie’s “Bombshell” character has a bigger arc, and that’s the kind of thing that awards voters notice.

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Kelvin Harrison Jr., with Sterling K. Brown as his father in a scene from “Waves.”
(Courtesy of A24/A24)

SUPPORTING ACTOR

Al Pacino, “The Irishman”
Brad Pitt, “Once Upon a Time ... in Hollywood”
Tom Hanks, “A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood”
Anthony Hopkins, “The Two Popes”
Jamie Foxx, “Just Mercy”

On the cusp: Joe Pesci, “The Irishman”; Willem Dafoe, “The Lighthouse”; Sterling K. Brown, “Waves”; Alan Alda, “Marriage Story”; Timothée Chalamet, “Little Women”; Shia LaBeouf, “Honey Boy”; John Lithgow, “Bombshell”

Supporting actor is a crowded category too. How else could Dafoe and Pesci be on the outside looking in? An Alda nomination could provide “Marriage Story” with a clean sweep of the categories. SAG voters have nominated Brown repeatedly lately, and he won two years ago for his lead turn on NBC’s “This Is Us.” He plays another loving dad (a little more demanding, yes, but still doting) in “Waves,” and, if enough voters see this beautiful indie film, he could make the cut.


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