How Well Do The SAG Awards Predict The Oscars?

Photo: Dale Robinette/Lionsgate.
The 2017 Oscar nominations are officially here. But before you fill in those prediction ballots, you should probably tune into another awards show, which airs this Sunday: The Screen Actors' Guild Awards.

The SAG Awards include both film and TV, but the winners of the movie categories are a pretty good indicator of who will take home the little gold statue come February 26.

Why are the SAG Awards such a reliable indicator for Oscar victories? The answer is actually fairly straightforward: There's a significant overlap in the members of the deciding bodies. While the Golden Globes, for example, are chosen by the Hollywood Foreign Press Association, the SAG Awards winners are picked by members of the industry.

The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, too, includes industry professionals like directors and actors. That means there's a pretty good chance of crossover between voting members of the SAG and the Academy. And for those participating in both, they'll likely vote the same way for the Oscars as they do for the SAG Awards.

How big are the SAG and Oscars committees?

The SAG creates two nominating committees each year: One for movies and one for TV. Each group includes 2,500 people, who are randomly chosen from active members in the guild, all of whom are actors. (The SAG keeps things fair by only allowing chosen members to serve on the nominating committees once every eight years.)

The nominating committees don't have the final say in the SAG Awards, though. They choose who the nominees are, but all active members can vote once the nominations are decided.

For the Oscars, meanwhile, the nominations are done by Academy members who work in the corresponding categories. So directors might nominate other directors, and actors nominate each other. There's one exception to the nominating process, though: Any member can nominate a film for Best Picture. After the nominations are finalized, all members of the Academy can vote in every category. The Academy includes more than 6,000 voting members, the majority of whom are white men.

How much overlap is there between the nominations at the SAG Awards and the Oscars?

As far as "Best Actor" and "Best Actress" at the Oscars go, there tends to be significant overlap among winners. This year, the Oscars' "Best Actor" nominees and the SAG Awards' "Outstanding Performance by a Male Actor in a Leading Role" nominees are the same five men: Casey Affleck, Denzel Washington, Ryan Gosling, Andrew Garfield, and Viggo Mortensen.

For the awards' female counterparts, Emma Stone, Natalie Portman, and Meryl Streep all scored nominations for both the SAGs and the Oscars. But while the SAG Awards nominated Emily Blunt for The Girl on the Train and Amy Adams for Arrival, the Oscars nominated Ruth Negga for Loving and Isabelle Huppert for Elle.

In the two shows' supporting actor categories, Mahershala Ali, Dev Patel, Jeff Bridges, and Lucas Hedges earned nominations for both ceremonies. But the SAG nominated Hugh Grant for his role in Florence Foster Jenkins, while the Oscars nominated Michael Shannon for his role in Nocturnal Animals. The supporting actress nominations between the two ceremonies were identical, honoring Viola Davis, Michelle Williams, Naomie Harris, Nicole Kidman, and Octavia Spencer.

It's worth noting, though, that the four acting categories have more reliability in aligning with Oscar wins than the SAG award does with "Best Picture." Since SAG is an actors-only guild, the "Cast in a Motion Picture" award focuses on ensemble performances, while "Best Picture" considers the whole shebang, including producing, directing, and editing. Case in point: La La Land wasn't nominated for the SAG's "Cast in a Motion Picture" award, but it's tied the all-time record for most Oscar nominations, ever.
What's the precedent for awards crossover at the Oscars and the SAG Awards?

The SAG Awards were a reliable indicator of what was to come at the 2016 Academy Awards. Leonardo DiCaprio, Brie Larson, Idris Elba, and Alicia Vikander won the Best Lead Actor/Actress and Supporting Actor/Actress SAG Awards. All of them except Elba won the corresponding Oscars. (Elba wasn't nominated.) Spotlight also won "Outstanding Performance by a Cast in a Motion Picture" at the 2016 SAG Awards — and the film went on to land "Best Picture" at last year's Oscars.

And in 2015, the four acting categories matched exactly at the SAG Awards and Oscars. So even if the Oscars don't exactly line up with with the SAG winners, it's likely that at least two or three of the acting categories will see the same victories at both awards shows.

Of course, this isn't to say that once the SAG Awards results are announced, you shouldn't tune into the Academy Awards. But if you want to dominate your office Oscars pool, basing your choices on the SAG winners' list is a safe bet.

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