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George Clooney arrives at the 18th Annual Screen Actors Guild Awards on Sunday Jan. 29, 2012 in Los Angeles. Maybe he won't win the Oscar after all . . . (Matt Sayles/AP)
George Clooney arrives at the 18th Annual Screen Actors Guild Awards on Sunday Jan. 29, 2012 in Los Angeles. Maybe he won't win the Oscar after all . . . (Matt Sayles/AP)

Liam Lacey

Guilding the Oscars: What those other awards tell us Add to ...

They may not be as noble as the Nobel Prize or as rare as Olympic gold, but the Oscars, which are three weeks away, are the apex of glamour-monkey congratulation spectacles. But what are we to make of all those other, more obscure award announcements that fill the Monday morning briefs columns this time of year? The pre-Oscar race overflows with acronym-ity – the PGAs, DGAs and SAGs.

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When it comes to reading the Oscar race momentum, these awards matter. Unlike prizes picked by journalists (the Golden Globes and the Critics Choice Awards), these are votes that reflect the tastes of people working in the entertainment industry. The guild awards can be useful advance polls on what the 6,000-odd members of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences are thinking.

So far, the guild prizes have told us two things: The Oscars crowd will likely give loud applause to a silent best picture, The Artist, and George Clooney and Meryl Streep may not get to recycle their Golden Globe acceptance speeches.

Here’s a rundown of what’s happened so far: At the Producers Guild of America (Jan. 21), the producers gave the best-picture prize to The Artist from a shortlist of 10 nominees. Consider it a strong possibility that the Academy Award will follow. The PGA has more than 4,750 producers in TV and film, of whom 450 are academy members. That’s a large and significant sample size. The PGA and the Oscars have agreed on the best-picture choice for 15 of the past 22 years, including the last four years in a row.

Last weekend, meanwhile, the Directors Guild of America weighed in, picking France’s Michel Hazanavicius ( The Artist) as its favourite auteur. Consider him a high-probability candidate to repeat at the Oscars.

Of the more than 14,000 film and television directors in the DGA, 367 are in the directors’ branch of the academy. The directors are particularly reliable indicators of the academy’s taste, with the DGA’s choice of best director going on to win the Oscar on 50 of 63 occasions – or 79 per cent of the time.

Finally, last Sunday we saw the Screen Actors Guild awards. The actors’ group gave its equivalent of the best picture – the best ensemble performance – to the Southern civil-rights-era drama The Help. The best actor prizes went to Jean Dujardin for The Artist and Viola Davis for The Help. Best supporting actor went to Christopher Plummer for Beginners and best supporting actress to Octavia Spencer for The Help.

SAG has about 100,000 members, with 1,183 of them in the acting branch of the academy. Their choices tend to be sentimental favourites. The best ensemble award for The Help is not much of an indicator of Oscars’ best picture choice. To date, SAG has predicted the best-picture Oscar winner only eight out of 17 times.

The interesting developments here are SAG’s choices for best actor and actress. George Clooney (for best actor in The Descendants) and Meryl Streep (for best actress in The Iron Lady) were supposed to be sure bets, but after the SAG awards were handed out, book-makers had to scramble to rewrite the odds. In the past 17 years, 13 of SAG’s best-actor winners and 12 of the best-actress winners went on to repeat at the Oscars. Drop both Clooney and Streep down to underdog status.

As for the best-supporting categories, they were simply confirmations of the obvious. In both supporting acting categories, SAG and the Oscars have agreed 10 out of 17 times, a percentage that’s about to increase this year. Both Plummer and Spencer can start making room on their mantles for the bald golden man to join the Golden Globe, Critics Choice and SAG prizes they’ve already won.

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