The Golden Globes giveth and the SAG Awards taketh away.  How things can change over just a few days during awards season.

The membership of the Screen Actors Guild is more diverse and much larger than the actor's branch of the Academy, but obviously all the thespians in the Academy are in SAG so these nominations are seen as a strong indication of future Oscar nominations.  Especially as the actor's branch is the largest segment of the Academy membership.  A lot can happen in this extended awards season (thank you Winter Olympics), but keep that in mind as we analyze how the SAG nominations affect everyone's old buddy Oscar.

The biggest surprise? "Up in the Air," which landed an impressive five Golden Globe nominations on Tuesday failed to land a Best Ensemble nomination from the actor's organization on Thursday.  Somewhat strange since the group recognized stars George Clooney and Anna Kendrick and Vera Farminga in both the Best Actor and Best Supporting Actress races respectively. 

Some quick history: the only Academy Award winner for Best Picture not to receive an ensemble nomination? "Braveheart" in 1995. Yes, that deserves an "Uh-oh."  Now, granted, this year's ten nominee system may make that trend moot, but it must give the publicity wunderkind at Paramount some pause.  Shoot, even "Million Dollar Baby" received an Ensemble nomination for just three actors in 2004.  Happily, "Air" has the National Board of Review Best Picture to its credit, but it may need to win the Producer's Guild Award (difficult) or the Globe for Best Drama (possible) to keep its frontrunner momentum.

Another picture that didn't land a Best Ensemble nomination was "Avatar."  However, it's unclear how many of the SAG voters were actually able to see it before ballots were due as 20th Century Fox did not send screeners out to the membership.  Still, James Cameron's expected blockbuster would be also bucking history if it won the Oscar for Best Picture without a similar nomination.

Other big losers?  "It's Complicated" and "500 Days of Summer" and with zero nominations.  A lot can happen with 10 nominees for Best Picture, but without the actor's branch support, it will be difficult to sneak into Oscar's prestigious club.

The big winners? "The Hurt Locker," "Precious" and "Inglourious Basterds."  No disrespect to "Nine" (well maybe a little), but the starpower in the movie musical was always going to power it to an ensemble nomination.  In fact, it's still hard to imagine the Rob Marshall musical not getting nominates for Best Picture even with the negative reviews streaming in as opening day approaches. Has any movie been nominated for Best Picture with under a 35% rating on Rotten Tomatoes or 50 on Metacritic? We're about to find out.

As for "Hurt Locker," the little film that could is showing that it may actually be a real player and not just a "we're so happy to be here" Best Picture nominee. Jeremy Renner's nomination for Best Actor shows the SAG branch truly appreciates the power of the film which continues to rack up accolades from coast to coast. Plus, those five actors listed (Christian Camargo, Brian Geraghty, Evangeline Lilly, Anthony Mackie and Renner) are hardly household names (we're guessing Guy Pearce isn't in SAG?).

Also smiling this morning are the folks at Sony Pictures Classics.  "An Education," which was dissed by the HFPA for a Best Picture - Drama nod snuck into the Best Ensemble race with the actors.  That should be a cool sigh of relief for SPC that a Best Picture nomination is still likely.

"Precious" has been relatively quiet with expected nominations along the way from numerous orgs, but landing an ensemble nod over "Air" here means that Lee Daniels drama is still a contender for Best Picture, although a slight one.

Oh, and "Inglourious Basterds," the movie with barely a campaign as the Weinsteins focus on "Nine," continues to rack up impressive nods.  Not only did it get an Ensemble award for a mostly European group of actors, but Diane Kruger was a surprise nominee for Best Supporting Actress (Christoph Waltz for Best Supporting Actor was expected).  Could "Basterds" be a true Best Picture contender? It's looking increasingly that way.

The overall lowdown from this morning's announcements?  We have an old fashioned race people.  Good times.

Some other quick thoughts on the individual category nominations.

Outstanding Performance by a Male Actor in a Leading Role


Jeff Bridges, "Crazy Heart"
George Clooney, "Up in the Air"
Colin Firth, "A Single Man"
Morgan Freeman, "Invictus"
Jeremy Renner, "The Hurt Locker"

Lowdown:
This is a race between Bridges and Clooney and whoever wins this could be the Oscar frontrunner. Barring any publicity disasters, expect this to be the five announced on Oscar nominee morning.

Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Leading Role

Sandra Bullock, "The Blind Side"
Helen Mirren, "The Last Station"
Carey Mulligan, "An Education"
Gabourey Sidibe, "Precious"
Meryl Streep, "Julie and Julia"

Lowdown: Bullock is now a lock to get her first Oscar nomination which should excite the folks at ABC who will be looking for stories to pump up ratings.  Another story?  Madame Streep is about to get her third Oscar.  Get ready for it.
 

Outstanding Performance by a Male Actor in a Supporting Role

Matt Damon, "Invictus"
Woody Harrelson, "The Messenger"
Christopher Plummer, "The Last Station"
Stanley Tucci, "The Lovely Bones"
Christoph Waltz, "Inglourious Basterds"

Lowdown:
Should be your Oscar five as well. Got to be happy Woody Harrelson is making the nomination rounds for the little Sundance entry "The Messenger." Kudos to 42 West on that one.


Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Supporting Role


Penelope Cruz, "Nine"
Vera Farminga, "Up in the Air"
Anna Kendrick, "Up in the Air"
Diane Kruger, "Inglourious Basterds"
Mo'Nique, "Precious"

Lowdown:
This is Mo'Nique's all the way, but you got to be happy Kruger was recognized for her excellent work in "Basterds."
 

Outstanding Performance by a Cast in a Motion Picture

"An Education"
"The Hurt Locker"
"Inglourious Basterds"
"Nine"
"Precious"

Lowdown: Already well discussed, but who will win?  "Locker" and "Basterds" may end up battling it out for the big prize.


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