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SAG Awards 2019: What does ‘Black Panther’s’ win mean for Oscars?

SAG Awards 2019: What does ‘Black Panther’s’ win mean for Oscars?
"Black Panther" cast members accept the SAG Awards honor for film ensemble. (Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times)

On the heels of last week’s Oscar nominations, Sunday’s Screen Actors Guild Awards felt in some ways a corrective, in others a coronation.

“Black Panther,” which earned a historic best picture nomination but failed to secure Oscar nods for its writer-director Ryan Coogler, won SAG’s film ensemble award. Emily Blunt took the supporting actress honor for “A Quiet Place,” though academy voters didn’t fete her bravura work in that film or her charming turn in “Mary Poppins Returns.”

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Meanwhile, Glenn Close looks to be one step closer to shedding her status of being the most-nominated actor without ever winning, a distinction that might soon belong to Amy Adams. And though critics continue to bash their movies, Rami Malek and Mahershala Ali just keep giving speeches.

Last year’s SAG Awards ceremony came before Oscar nominations were announced. This year, the winners — save for Blunt — had the chance to impress academy voters. Will we see them holding Oscars aloft at the Academy Awards on Feb. 24? Let’s take a look.

FILM ENSEMBLE

The winner: “Black Panther”

The past: The winner of this award went on to take the best picture Oscar 11 of 23 years, making it the SAG’s least-trustworthy Oscar precursor. (The ensemble prize wasn't awarded in 1994, the SAG Awards’ first year.)

Will history repeat itself? Why not “Black Panther” for the Oscar? Right now, there’s no movie that stands as a prohibitive best picture favorite, what with “Green Book” winning the Producers Guild’s prize last weekend and “Roma” director Alfonso Cuarón the likely winner next weekend at the Directors Guild.

But as I mentioned earlier, “Black Panther” didn’t earn Oscar nominations for direction or screenplay. None of its actors were nominated (I’m still lamenting Michael B. Jordan’s omission) and it wasn’t recognized for film editing. Without nominations in those key categories, a best picture win would be like a comatose T'Challa reclaiming the throne of Wakanda. Wait … that happened. And you know what? This has been a strange awards season. I’m not closing the door to any possibility, except for “A Star Is Born” winning any Oscar outside original song.

While a SAG ensemble nomination has long been seen as a prerequisite to winning best picture, “The Shape of Water” triumphed last year, becoming the first movie since “Braveheart” to take the academy’s top prize without also earning this key nomination.

That’s encouraging for “Green Book” and “Roma,” best picture front-runners that SAG Awards voters didn’t nominate. Those omissions have logical explanations. “Green Book” is dominated by Ali and Viggo Mortensen (with a wonderful, small supporting turn from Linda Cardellini), making it a stretch for consideration as an ensemble. And SAG Awards voters have nominated only one cast from a foreign film — “Life Is Beautiful” in 1999 — perhaps dooming “Roma,” though the academy’s actors branch nominated both Yalitza Aparicio and Marina de Tavira.

To reiterate: This has been a weird awards season.

LEAD ACTRESS

The winner: Glenn Close, “The Wife”

The past: SAG and the academy have matched 18 of 24 years, including the last six.

Will history repeat itself? With seven nods — “The World According to Garp” (1982), “The Big Chill” (1983), “The Natural” (1984), “Fatal Attraction” (1987), “Dangerous Liaisons” (1988) and, most recently, “Albert Nobbs” (2012) and now “The Wife” — Close stands as the most nominated living actor to have never won an Oscar. Seeing her wonderfully shocked expression at the Globes and now the SAG Awards has been a highlight of the season, second only to her showstopping speeches. (She’s pretty great in “The Wife” too.)

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This marked Glenn Close's second Screen Actors Guild Award win.
This marked Glenn Close's second Screen Actors Guild Award win. (Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times)

LEAD ACTOR

The winner: Rami Malek, “Bohemian Rhapsody”

The past: This category has been the most reliable indicator of Oscar victory, with SAG and the academy matching 19 of 24 times. But there are exceptions: Denzel Washington prevailed here two years ago, only to see Casey Affleck take the Oscar.

Will history repeat itself? I wouldn’t pick against Malek, what with academy voters giving “Bohemian Rhapsody” five Oscar nominations, including best picture. Many fans overlook — or even embrace — the movie’s flaws because it leaves them, in the words of the Queen song that plays during the closing credits, “floating around in ecstasy.” You think the guy who plays [wince] Dick Cheney has a chance against that? Forget it. Malek’s the champion, my friend.

SUPPORTING ACTRESS

The winner: Emily Blunt, “A Quiet Place”

The past: The SAG award winner has gone on to take the Oscar 17 of 23 times, including the last nine. (Kate Winslet won the category in 2009 for "The Reader" but was nominated for — and won — the Oscar for lead actress.)

Will history repeat itself? Nope, though she could have (should have) been a contender. The versatile Blunt has never been nominated for an Oscar during a career that has seen her earn four film Golden Globe noms. How many times has she placed sixth in the voting? We’ll never know. But she’s too good to be shut out forever.

Her win is probably good news for Regina King, overlooked by SAG Awards voters for her beautiful turn as the mother in “If Beale Street Could Talk.” King won the Golden Globe and countless critics group prizes, and I think she has the edge here as no one else has any momentum.

Emily Blunt won the supporting actress award Sunday but is not nominated for an Oscar for her role in "A Quiet Place."
Emily Blunt won the supporting actress award Sunday but is not nominated for an Oscar for her role in "A Quiet Place." (Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times)

SUPPORTING ACTOR

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The winner: Mahershala Ali, “Green Book”

The past: The SAG winner has gone on to win the Oscar 15 times in 24 years.

Will history repeat itself? Ali has won a Golden Globe and now a SAG Awards honor for his nuanced, controlled portrayal of pianist Don Shirley in “Green Book.” That doesn’t make him a shoo-in. Eddie Murphy won both for “Dreamgirls,” and then left the Oscars early when Alan Arkin’s name was called.

But, yes, Ali is an overwhelming favorite to earn a second Oscar in three years, following his 2017 win for “Moonlight.” Objections to “Green Book” have been coming from many corners — with the notable exception being awards season voters. The movie won top honors from the Producers Guild and the Hollywood Foreign Press Assn., and Ali has steamrolled through the season. Even the haters won’t begrudge him the Oscar.

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