The SAG Awards are a quirky curio of awards season.
They’re certainly among the most important entertainment awards given out each year and can often be used to take the temperature of how Oscar voters are feeling. They are also barely watched by the American public, many of whom don’t even what SAG stands for, yet the SAGs are so very clearly among the favorite awards to attend—and win—by Hollywood celebrities, who are given carte blanche to do their favorite, insufferable things: flit about talking about how much they value being an actor and enjoy the craft and be in the company of other actors.
In any case, this makes the SAG Awards fun to watch because the speeches are typically a bizarre mix of pompous and pretentious, and gushy and emotional. More, now that Academy members are in the throes of voting for February’s winners, the SAG victors are essentially auditioning their speeches for Oscar voters. Giving a fun, moving speech at the SAG Awards doesn’t only ingratiate to the members of Screen Actors Guild in attendance, but to other Academy members at home who want to make sure that their future winners will represent them well on the Oscar stage.
(There’s certainly no science behind it, but Oscarologists have long maintained that a good—or terrible—speech at the Globes or the SAG Awards can affect an actor’s chances at scoring an Oscar, too. The best case of this: Eddie Murphy, who was a sure-thing to win the Oscar for Dreamgirls, but lost after delivering back-to-back snooze-speeches at the Globes and SAG Awards.)
Julianne Moore, Eddie Redmayne, Patricia Arquette, and J.K. Simmons can all breathe a sigh of relief. Not only do stats show that their SAG wins solidified their statuses as Oscar frontrunners, none of them gave a Murphy-like speech that will take them out of the running.
So how likely are they to repeat their wins?
To begin with, all four acting winners at last year’s SAG ceremony also won on Oscar night. Not only that, every SAG Best Actor winner has gone on to win the Oscar stretching back to 2003. Ten of the last 12 Best Supporting Actress winners won the Oscar. And since 1990, only three times have the Best Actress winners not overlapped between SAG and Oscar—only twice if you consider the fact that Winslet won the supporting SAG and the lead Oscar for The Reader.
The Best Ensemble Award is the SAG equivalent of Best Picture, and a film’s cast’s victory in that category certainly speaks to the enthusiasm of the film within the acting branch of the Academy, which represents the biggest block of Oscar voters. After winning just about every precursor award on its way to Oscar, Boyhood took its first tumble at the SAG Awards, losing to Birdman.
Unlike the SAG acting categories, however, Best Ensemble can be a bit of a red herring when predicting Best Picture. American Hustle beat 12 Years a Slave at last year’s ceremony, for example, with the latter going on to win Oscar. The casts of The Help, Inglourious Basterds, and Little Miss Sunshine also won SAG Ensemble awards over the past decade, but failed to repeat on Oscar night. (Although a SAG win by the cast of Crash might have done a bit to foretell its surprise Oscar Best Picture win in 2005.)
Furthermore, bringing it back to speeches, the rambly, slightly masturbatory and scattershot speeches given by the cast of Birdman might not have done the film any favors. Thankfully, Zach Galifianakis calling back to Julianne Moore’s brilliant opening line, “When I was on As the World Turns…,” saved the cast from total embarrassment.
Moore, quite expectedly, gave a lovely speech that opened with that crack about launching her career on the famed soap opera, but, after being cast as good and evil twins, craved working with actors again—and not just herself—an anecdote that led to a heartfelt homage to her castmates in Still Alice.
Eddie Redmayne, too, gave a breathless, classy, and passionate speech in tribute to all those battling ALS and their families after his Best Actor win for The Theory of Everything, but in a way that didn’t seem exploitative or heavy-handed and instead very genuine and noble. The worldwide crush on Eddie Redmayne rages STRONG.
Winning again for Whiplash, the early moments of J.K. Simmons’s speech, explaining why he thought actors are important, was a bit of a snooze. But he saved it with a few funny jokes about his wife. And Patricia Arquette, continuing her winning streak for Boyhood, revived the verklempt daffiness she debuted with her Globes speech that has made the Best Supporting Actress winner even more endearing than before.
All four actors are now the frontrunners to win Oscars in February, with Redmayne probably the most vulnerable, with industry affection for Michael Keaton’s performance in Birdman still strong enough for him to win. Judge their speeches for yourself below, and see the full list of SAG Award winners (which included trophies in TV categories for the stars of Orange Is the New Black, Downton Abbey, and The Normal Heart) here.