It's the most wonderful time of the year, indeed — but not because Christmas is around the corner. No, it's because we're now firmly in the grips of award season. With Wednesday's announcement of the SAG nominees, and Thursday's unveiling of the Golden Globes, the ramp up to the 88th annual Academy Awards is well under way. And without any clear frontrunners yet, every little twist and turn in the race can herald major shifts in the Oscar landscape. One film in particular saw its stock rise this morning: SAG nominated Straight Outta Compton for Outstanding Performance by a Cast in a Motion Picture... and that's great news for the film's Oscar chances.
Unlike the recent awards handed out by the likes of the New York Film Critics Circle (NYFCC) and the Los Angeles Film Critics Association (LAFCA), these honors by the Screen Actors Guild have actual bearings on the Oscar nominations. While actors comprise about 20 percent of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Science (the largest out of all the Academy's various branches), there are zero journalists in the AMPAS. So, while critics' awards may help serve as an indicator of general industry support, the remain just that — indicators — as opposed to the Guild awards, which can often be directly correlated to the eventual Oscar winners.
Last year, all four SAG winners went on to win their respective Oscars; and Birdman, which received Best Cast honors from SAG, also took home Best Picture. In fact, last year SAG went five-for-five in the Best Cast category when it came to predicting which films AMPAS would nominated for Best Picture: Birdman, along with Boyhood, The Grand Budapest Hotel, The Imitation Game, and The Theory Of Everything.
Of course, SAG doesn't always have a 100 percent perfect track record with the Oscars. At their core, Best Cast and and Best Picture are honoring two different things. Even a movie like The Revenant, which is considered a frontrunner for plenty of Oscar noms this year, is going to have a tough time going up against a film with a sprawling ensemble like Spotlight for the Best Cast award, since it's basically about one man's personal journey. But, in the past six years, since the Best Picture category expanded from five nominees in 2009, 25 of the 30 films nominated for Best Cast at the SAG Awards have gone on to land Best Picture nominations.
And that's where the great news for Straight Outta Compton comes in. When you rank this year's Best Cast nominees by their likelihood to be nominated for Best Picture, the N.W.A. biopic comes in high on the list. Journalism drama Spotlight is basically a nomination for a lock at this point, considered by many to be the frontrunner to win the top prize. On prognostication website Gold Derby, the combined opinions of 22 "experts" from the likes of Variety, Rolling Stone, and Entertainment Weekly have Spotlight ranked as the #1 likeliest film of the year to land a Best Picture nomination. Of the SAG nominees, Straight Outta Compton comes in next at #14. (Of course, these rankings are subject to change.) SAG skipped straight past everything from #2 to #13, including films with large casts like The Martian, Joy, and The Hateful Eight.
Granted, #14 isn't yet high enough to land Straight Outta Compton in the Best Picture category, which will contain anywhere from five to 10 nominees. But this high-profile nomination could give the movie a major boost, giving it the steam it needs to climb the ranks and land one of those coveted slots. The last time the SAG and Oscar nominees only had one film in common was back in 2007, when there were still only five Best Picture nominees. So, statistically speaking, at least one of the four other movies nominated for Best Cast will be joining Spotlight in the Best Picture race... and right now, Straight Outta Compton is the one with the best odds.
We'll find out one way or another when the Oscar nominations are announced on Thursday, Jan. 14.
Images: Universal Pictures; Open Road Films