Oh, SAG.  You had to go make things interesting again.

The conventional wisdom was that Thursday’s Screen Actor’s Guild Awards nominations would cement certain Oscar frontrunners and eliminate the weaker candidates.  Unlike the Golden Globes, whose 80 members are influenced by the studios more than they would ever care to admit (we get it, ‘you have integrity’) the SAG nods are a genuine reflection of a significant portion of what the Motion Picture Academy with a few statistical caveats here and there.  And while their nominations haven’t always lined up exactly, they do tend to be more accurate than other award shows that aren’t voted on by actual Academy members.  That in mind, some initial thoughts on the nods…

Enjoy it while it lasts:Doubt” overachieving with five nods
Lowdown: Whether it’s 2007’s “Bobby” or a whopping four nominees from last year (“3:10 to Yuma,” “American Gangster,” “Into the Wild” or “Hairspray”), the Best Performance by a Cast category doesn’t historically tend to line up with Oscar’s final five.  You can definitely throw “Doubt,” which is getting very mixed critical response, into this year’s casualty pool. However, Miramax can breathe knowing Meryl Streep, Philip Seymour Hoffman and Viola Davis are still expected to land their equivalent Academy nods.

Still smiling: Sally Hawkins oversight
Lowdown: The British ingénue was passed over by her American counterparts, but Hawkins is still the likely fifth nominee in the Best Actress race thanks mainly to year-end critical support. 

Thank you members of the press:
Robert Downey, Jr.
Lowdown: There wasn’t serious supporting actor heat for the “Tropic Thunder” star until his upcoming drama, “The Soloist,” was moved to next spring.  Trade ads aside, it was the media and awards prognosticators who really made this possibility (a deserved one mind you) and to the top of mind for voters (SAG and otherwise).

Head scratching: “Revolutionary” only for Winslet
Lowdown: With SAG friendly actors such as Leonardo DiCaprio, Kathy Bates, Winslet and a standout performance by Michael Shannon, “Revolutionary Road” was expected to be a sure thing for the Best Performance by a Cast category.  Surprise, surprise, it didn’t make the cut.

It’s actually happening: Dev Patel’s supporting actor nod
Lowdown: The relatively inexperienced 18-year-old actor is getting a major bounce from the universal “Slumdog” love.  Can we get this boy on “Oprah” please?

There is an excuse somewhere:
Clint Eastwood’s snub for “Grand Torino”
Lowdown: I can hear the excuses now. “We couldn’t get enough screeners out in time,” “He’s really seen as just a director now,” “The movie wasn’t ready in time for multiple SAG nominating committee screenings,” etc. Or, maybe these professionals were so appalled by the weak performances by the rest of the cast Eastwood selected and directed they couldn’t live with themselves to see him rewarded.  (Just a hunch.)

This is starting to get embarrassing:
Kate Winslet’s chances of winning an Oscar
Lowdown: Do you feel it? The “lock” is slipping away.  Whether it’s Streep in the lead category or Cruz in supporting, she’s got her work cut out for her.  And sadly, they are two of the best performances of her career.

Why so serious:
The Dark Knight
Lowdown: Don’t worry fans the Caped Crusader isn’t out of the race yet. Even if “Knight” was bypassed for the ensemble award, a significant appearance on top ten lists and, oh, a little something like $530 million at the box office still make it a true contender.

Star whores:
Angelina Jolie’s manner performance in “Changeling”
Lowdown: Seriously, this one note performance?  Over Cate Blanchett in “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button”?  Did Alan Rosenberg send out a secret memo about keeping the show’s ratings up by having both Jolie and her amour (Pitt) there?

Agree? Disagree? Discuss amongst yourselves…