We like to think the actors know good acting when they see it. And the Screen Actors Guild is the largest voting bloc in the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences.
So does SAG savvy outweigh every other pre Oscar awards indicator in 2021?
I think so. In a year where inclusion and diversity are on everybody’s mind, last night’s wins for Viola Davis, Chadwick Boseman, Daniel Kaluuya and Youn Yuh-jung make a statement. But they also underscore much of what cineastes have recognized or should have seen when we were watching the nominated films.
As Viola Davis acknowledged in her acceptance speech, Hollywood finally diving deep into August Wilson is one of the great ways to end the idea that “Oscar So white.” The greatest African American playwright was simply the best American playwright working over the last 40 years.
Viola winning over Frances McDormand wasn’t an upset. She had great words to speak and a great role to work with.
Boseman had his best ever role and won for a worthy picture, a sentimental posthumous win for one or the two or three best films of last year.
Kaluuya’s bigger Oscar boost might have come from a charming, disarming and dazzling hosting gig on “SNL.”
I think “Minari,” touching as it is, is one of the more over praised pictures of the fall and winter of awards season, but it’s so well acted Yuh-jung’s win is much more than a vote for “inclusion.”
I saw half a dozen more worthy films from Greater Asia last year. But then, I think Mads Mikkelsen gave the best lead performance by an actor in “Another Round.” Awards attention is a fickle thing.
“Trial of the Chicago Seven” steps into the limelight where it belongs.
Lesser films with buzz along the way such as “Promising Young Woman,” “Da Five Bloods” and the heavily nominated bore “Mank” recede.
Sentiment for old pros like Glenn Close counts for little. McDormand could be the New Meryl Streep, pulling a nomination and/or win out of every performance and perhaps facing a little resentment over that. And Carey Mulligan may have to accept that being too dainty, posh and sweet was too big a hurdle for her to clear in “Promising Young Woman,” as some critics said, some less gracefully than others.
Spike Lee? When Jordan Peele rings again, take the call.