Their chances for getting the gold on February 25th increased this weekend when both Hudson and Murphy won Screen Actors Guild awards. In addition, other prohibitive favourites Helen Mirren (who took home two awards for playing Elizabeth I onHBO and Elizabeth II on film) and Forest Whitaker also won their categories, and are widely expected to also take home Oscar. The actors branch is the largest single branch of the Academy. Last year, The SAG awards correctly predicted every acting award at the Oscars except Clooney's best supporting Oscar win for Syriana. It also foreshadowed the unpleasant surprise of Crash beating out Brokeback Mountain for the top prize.
Surprisingly, this year Little Miss Sunshine won SAG's top prize, Best Acting Ensemble, which is The Guild's version of Best Picture. Some commentators (Jeff Wells at Hollywood Elsewhere, Scott Feinberg at And The Winner Is...) are ready to call the Best Picture race over: "Little Miss Sunshine will win Best Picture."
Mad Professah would not be displeased with this result. Although I have not seen Babel or Letters from Iwo Jima yet Richard Corliss of Time magazine argues in the latest issue that Little Miss Sunshine is the only one of the nominees which is a true "feel good" movie:
Maybe we can find, or invent, a more hopeful trend: the Crisis-Time Pick-Me-Up. In troubled times, Oscar sometimes looks for an antidote (or palliative), and chooses a happy-think movie for Best Picture. It happened during World War II, when the Catholic musical Going My Way won, and in the Vietnam War, with the Dickens musical Oliver, and at the apogee of the Watergate crisis, with The Sting, and just after the Clinton impeachment, when the modest comedy Shakespeare in Love snipered Steven Spielberg's bloody Saving Private Ryan.
We are in another of those historical moments, with grim death gargling at you around every corner and people being slaughtered like sheep. Of course, Academy voters could heed the incendiary Zeitgeist and vote for Babel, a film about international chaos, or Letters from Iwo Jima, depicting the last days of a losing war. The Queen shows a head of state stubbornly resisting the popular will, and The Departed is a chic bloodbath.
Or, surveying this bleak terrain, the Academy membership might turn to the one feel-good movie nominated for Best Picture. Voting for a comedy that celebrates life — eccentric but essentially loving family life — would be an affirmation of what Hollywood has done since its Golden Age: try to make America forget what makes it gloomy, and bring it a little Sunshine.
Especially since this time the Dreamgirl is not even competing against Little Miss Sunshine, unlike last week's Australian Open women's final, I say let the underdog win one this time.