Oscar 2009: SAG Awards as Predictors of Oscars?

“Inglourious Basterds,” “Precious” and “Up in the Air” have scored the most traction with Hollywood thesps as each received three Screen Actors Guild feature nominations.

Tarantino’s “Basterds” and coming of age drama “Precious” landed nods in the best ensemble cast category along with British drama “An Education,” Iraq War drama “The Hurt Locker” and the musical “Nine.”
George Clooney took a best actor nom for “Up in the Air” and castmates Vera Farmiga and Anna Kendrick each received nods in the supporting actress contest.
“Basterds” castmates Christoph Waltz and Diane Kruger scored nominations in the supporting actor and actress categories, respectively. Newcomer Gabourey Sidibe continued to rack up recognition with a best actress nod for “Push,” as did castmate Mo’Nique in the supporting actress category.
Michelle Monaghan and Chris O’Donnell announced the nominations Thursday morning at the Pacific Design Center in West Hollywood. Nominations were based on voting by a panel of 2,100 randomly selected SAG members.
Clooney will face competition for best actor from Jeff Bridges for “Crazy Heart,” Colin Firth for “A Single Man,” Morgan Freeman for “Invictus” and Jeremy Renner for “The Hurt Locker.”
Besides Sidibe, actress noms went to Sandra Bullock for “The Blind Side,” Helen Mirren for “The Last Station,” Carey Mulligan for “An Education” and Meryl Streep for “Julie and Julia.”
Waltz faces competition in the supporting actor field from Matt Damon for “Invictus,” Woody Harrelson for “The Messenger,” Christopher Plummer for “The Last Station” and Stanley Tucci for “The Lovely Bones.”
Penelope Cruz took the remaining supporting actress nomination for “Nine.” She won the supporting actress Oscar this year for “Vicky Cristina Barcelona.”
On the TV side, “30 Rock,” “The Closer” and “Dexter” led the way with three nominations each. “30 Rock” was nominated for ensemble in a comedy series, Alec Baldwin as lead comedy actor and Tina Fey as lead comedy actress; the NBC skein won all three categories this year.
Other nominations for best ensemble comedy were scored by “Curb Your Enthusiasm,” “The Office” and newcomers “Glee” and “Modern Family.” “The Closer” and “Dexter” took best ensemble drama nods along with “The Good Wife,” “True Blood” and “Mad Men,” which won the category this year.  TV noms were also based on voting by another panel of 2,100 SAG members.
Winners will be announced Jan. 23 in ceremonies at the Shrine Auditorium in Los Angeles. Ballots will be sent to the 120,000 members of the Screen Actors Guild.
With actors representing over 20% of the membership of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences, the SAG feature noms are a closely watched indicator of Oscar sentiment. The SAG award for best ensemble cast has matched the Oscar winner for Best Picture in seven of the last 14 years, including this year’s double winner “Slumdog Millionaire.”
SAG’s best actor winner has matched the Oscar winner in 11 of the last 15 years, including Sean Penn for “Milk” this year.
SAG’s best actress winner has matched the Oscar in 10 of 15 years. Streep won the SAG trophy this year for “Doubt” and Kate Winslet won the Oscar for “The Reader” after winning the SAG prize in the supporting category.
Betty White has already been announced as the recipient of SAG’s lifetime achievement award, which will also be presented at the January 23 ceremonies.