Monday, January 25, 2010

Over the Weekend: SAG and PGA...what do they mean NOW?

Screen Actors Guild Award Winners:

Best Ensemble: Inglourious BasterdsLead Male: Jeff Bridges, Crazy Heart
Lead Female: Sandra Bullock, The Blind Side
Supporting Male: Christoph Waltz, Inglourious Basterds
Supporting Female: Mo'Nique, PreciousProducers Guild of America Award Winners:

Producer of the Year Award in Theatrical Motion Pictures:
, Kathryn Bigelow, Mark Boal, Nicolas Chartier, Greg Shapiro
Producer of the Year Award in Animated Theatrical Motion Pictures:
UP, Jonas Rivera
Producer of the Year Award in Documentary Theatrical Motion Pictures
THE COVE, Fisher Stevens, Paula DuPré Pesmen

I go on and on every awards season about how a lot of these awards mean absolutely nothing in terms of actually influencing the Oscar vote, but this year I have noted a strange phenomenon. This is the year of the affirmation. It was a year without a huge front-runner, a season in search of its star. Then Avatar showed up with its technology and its box-office numbers and its King of the Universe, and then it all seemed to lock into place. The year-end awards (actually, in the case of the major presentations, the "year-beginning awards for the previous year"), then, took on a slightly different role than usual: they acted as the Yes Man, the affirmation to the developing logic. Globes winners seemed, rather than influencing the Oscar favorites, confirmed them...

And now, the SAG awards have essentially done the same. Literally no surprises from top to bottom. With the absence of Avatar and Up in the Air in the Best Ensemble category (how nice it was to sit through an awards show in which Avatar was entirely absent, to be honest...wonderful work, terrific film, but not deserving of being the awards juggernaut, for reasons I have already discussed), that left an opening for Quentin to get his due for the Basterds. Mo'Nique and Waltz have become the surest bets in the field. And Bridges is a sure bet, too. I thought SAG might throw a bone to Clooney's best-ever work, but they didn't, which certifies Bridges as an Oscar certainty.

The one shock, in my view, is Sandra Bullock. Not shocking that she won this award (I called that one, thank you very much), but shocking that with the SAG win, Bullock has leaped into front-runner status for the Oscar. In a year where Queen Streep was a certainty for her great work in Julie & Julia, Bullock has become the odds-on favorite.

Seems as though this awards season, which seemed for a while like it was the most uncertain and, therefore, most interesting in quite some time, has become the most predictable season ever. Avatar for Best Picture, Cameron for director, Bridges for actor, Bullock for actresss, Mo"Nique and Waltz in supporting, Hurt Locker for original screenplay, Up in the Air for adapted screenplay. The Crazy Heart song nabs Best Song...on and on...yawwwwwn.

And then, the Producer's Guild announced its winners.

No surprises in animation or in Which left Avatar to take Producer of the Year and night's over, right? Wrong, sayeth the critical gods. The Hurt Locker takes the PGA. now?

Let's not get ahead of ourselves. It's a bit too hasty for any prognosticators to change course just yet. But we will have to feel how this tide flows over the next few weeks, figure out what the new lead story is once the Oscar noms are announced a week from tomorrow, and then we will go from there. But this (very pleasant) surprise represents a possible game-changer...possible, not probable at this stage. After all, Avatar just became the highest-grossing film of all-time worldwide, and in the next few weeks it will almost certainly become the highest domestic grosser of all-time (Titanic, your creator has just banished you from the top level of his kingdom...and in ten years, he will probably do the same to this current baby). The stats alone almost guarantee the win. But there is enough time for the inevitable backlash to strike. In some ways, it already has. And there is no more widely loved film out there than Hurt Locker. It is not out of the running for Best Pic...or for best director, in my opinion. Time will tell, the journalistic trends will tell, the media push will tell.

My first round of Oscar charts will be coming later today, and they will reflect the Great Yawn of Oscar 2010. But the shape of the predictions can turn on a dime, and they may have just turned last night, at the PGA awards.

Of course, anyone remember when Little Miss Sunshine shocked everyone by winning at the PGAs in 2007? Probably not, because it didn't change the game enough to win the Oscar. The Hurt Locker is a different beast...but then, so is Avatar.

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