The SAG Awards may be taking place in a ballroom filled with celebrities, but the real battle might be in some offices.
“The Big Short” and “Spotlight” have emerged as the front-runners for the 22nd annual Screen Actors Guild Awards, Saturday night’s stop in what’s known as “awards season.” The former film is the story of money managers who take advantage of the financial crisis to make a mint; the latter concerns four Boston Globe reporters who investigate sexual abuse among Boston’s Catholic priests.
The offices are different — the money managers operate out of glossy skyscrapers, the Globe reporters out of a basement warren — but the stakes are high as the movies face off for bragging rights on the road to next month’s Oscars.
They have competition, of course. The other nominees for outstanding performance by a cast — the SAG Awards’ equivalent of Oscar’s best picture — are “Trumbo,” “Beasts of No Nation” and “Straight Outta Compton.”
“Trumbo,” a biography of blacklisted screenwriter Dalton Trumbo, led all films with four nominations, including a best actor nod for star Bryan Cranston and a supporting actress nomination for Helen Mirren.
“I knew the movie was special,” Cranston told E! on the red carpet. “It’s about a man who struggles to maintain civil liberties.”
The SAG Awards, presented by the actors’ union SAG-AFTRA, are considered one of the bellwethers of “awards season,” when a number of groups hand out honors for the best films of the year. In early January, “The Revenant” and “The Martian” won best picture prizes from the Golden Globes, but neither film was nominated for a SAG Award.
Leonardo DiCaprio, “The Revenant’s” star, did pick up a best actor nomination.
“To me, getting that kind of recognition is amazing, because I want to make more films like it,” DiCaprio told E! on his turn as a desperate trapper left for dead.
Aside from the ensemble nomination, “Spotlight” earned a nomination for Rachel McAdams’ supporting actress turn. “The Big Short’s” Christian Bale was nominated for best supporting actor.
“Spotlight” had been the odds-on favorite, thanks to a slew of critics’ awards, but “The Big Short” has been coming up fast, noted The Los Angeles Times’ Glenn Whipp.
“The feeling is that ‘Spotlight’ needs to take SAG’s ensemble award to maintain a potency in the Oscar race,” he wrote.
All hail Burnett
Films aren’t the only focus of the SAG Awards. Legendary comedian Carol Burnett will pick up the Screen Actors Guild Life Achievement honor.
Tina Fey and Amy Poehler will give Burnett the award.
Burnett told Parade magazine that she’s nervous.
“I’m just sorry I have to make a speech. I get nervous about that. Kennedy Center Honors, all you have to do is show up and wave,” she said, adding that she might freak out at the sight of Meryl Streep.
Burnett was earning chuckles on the red carpet simply through her footwear — what appeared to be slippers.
The SAG Awards also give honors to television shows.
“Orange Is the New Black” won for comedy ensemble.
“Orange’s” Uzo Aduba won the first award of the evening, for actress in a comedy series. Jeffrey Tambor won actor in a comedy series for “Transparent.”
“Get up here, Dad,” said presenter Jason Bateman, who played Tambor’s son in “Arrested Development.”
Nominees for best dramatic ensemble are “Downton Abbey,” “Game of Thrones,” “Homeland,” “House of Cards” and “Mad Men.”
“Mad Men’s” Jon Hamm, “Game of Thrones’ ” Peter Dinklage and “House of Cards’ ” Robin Wright and Kevin Spacey earned nominations for their performances.
Idris Elba picked up nominations for both his film and TV work: a best actor nomination for “Beasts of No Nation” and a TV nod as the lead in the series “Luther.”
The SAG Awards are often punctuated by tributes to the acting profession. Given the challenge of getting roles, performers like Ty Burrell — who’s up for an acting award for his performance in “Modern Family” — can appreciate that.
“To me, (the nomination) is just proof I’m still employed,” he said to E! on the red carpet.
The 22nd annual SAG Awards ceremony is airing on TBS and TNT from Los Angeles’ Shrine Auditorium. Those networks are divisions of Time Warner, as is CNN.