Let’s get this out of the way quickly: Is it all over for Awkwafina, for Robert de Niro, for Little Women’s Saoirse Ronan and Florence Pugh, for Adam Sandler or Eddie Murphy or Willem Dafoe or anyone else who did not appear on this morning’s list of Screen Actors Guild nominees? Far from it.
The SAG Awards nominations get a lot of attention, partly because they’re the first major nominating group of awards season that actually shares some membership with the Academy (although SAG is huge, and only a very small and ever-changing cross-section of its members is selected to receive screeners and vote for nominations every year). And the overlap between SAG’s choices and the eventual Oscar nominees is spotty; last year, for instance, five of the twenty Academy Award nominees for acting got there without any help from SAG—including Regina King, who went on to win the best supporting actress Oscar.
So nobody is definitively out of the race…yet. But look at SAG’s nominees alongside the choices of the Hollywood Foreign Press Association’s Golden Globes and the Critics Choice Association, both of which were announced earlier this week, and some clear trends emerge. Historically, actors who nail all three of these nominations are very likely to go on to the Oscars, and that is good news for the following performers: best actor contenders Adam Driver, Leonardo DiCaprio, and Joaquin Phoenix; best actress contenders Cynthia Erivo, Scarlett Johansson, Charlize Theron, and Renée Zellweger; best supporting actor contenders Tom Hanks, Al Pacino, Joe Pesci, and Brad Pitt; and best supporting actress contenders Laura Dern, Jennifer Lopez, and Margot Robbie. Last year, fifteen actors and actresses ran the board this way, and thirteen of them ended up Academy Award nominees.
The two who didn’t, however, suggest that a few people on the above list might not want to get too comfortable; they were both actors who represented their movies’ only realistic hope for major recognition. Last year, Timothée Chalamet (Beautiful Boy) and Emily Blunt (Mary Poppins Returns) both went three-for-three in the prelims and then missed out. That could spell trouble for Erivo, since Harriet is not expected to be competitive in other top contests (the same is true for Judy, but Zellweger is still widely viewed as a favorite to win), and for Lopez, whose omission for Hustlers would be shocking, but also exactly the kind of shock that every nomination morning tends to provide. It’s also why hopefuls like The Report’s Annette Bening, Just Mercy’s Jamie Foxx, and Rocketman’s Taron Egerton, all of whom scored one or two nominations this week, face a steeper uphill climb than some of their colleagues.
Now to the glass-half-full part of the stats. It is rare but possible for an actor to miss out completely on these early contests and still score an Oscar nomination. It happens about once a year—last spring, the lucky underdog was Roma’s Marina de Tavira, and the year before, it was Phantom Thread’s Lesley Manville. In both cases, the actors benefited from appearing in a movie that had strong enough support within the Academy to win multiple nominations, including best picture. That could bode well for someone like Song Kang-ho; if you doubt that Parasite has serious muscle in this year’s contest, consider that this morning, it beat the likes of Marriage Story and Little Women to become the first foreign-language film to earn a SAG ensemble nomination in more than 20 years (even Roma, which went on to receive 10 Oscar nominations, couldn’t pull that off).