Oscar pundits are always trying to fit square pegs into round holes. One annoying habit they have is trying to take every award ceremony that comes along and use it for some kind of barometer for their predictions of the oscars from which they continually change those predictions with each new incoming set of results. The Oscars are treated like one of these trivia games were clues are slowly being given so that in time you will be able to make deductions and figure out the answers. Entertainment Weekly devotes three full issues exclusively to the Oscars each year (up from two five years ago), message boards swarm with people posting predictions and countless blogs and websites have surfaced that follow the phenemonen. Even the Toronto Star and the LA Times have put up exclusive websites to monitor awards buzz. In all this excitement, it might be lost that not every awards ceremony is a precursor to the Oscars and might not necessarily alter the results of the Oscars.
Take the SAG Awards. One publication noted that Little Miss Sunshine might win an Oscar because it won the SAG ensemble award, which is the "closest thing the SAGs have to a best picture award." Language like "the closest thing there is to _____" is indicative of how much people are trying to stretch things to fit in with the oscar buzz phenomenon. President Bush's line about how sunny skies lie ahead this year can be said to be the closest thing in his State of the Union address to an endorsement for Little Miss Sunshine for best picture, but so what?
The fact of the matter is that by their very definition, the SAG Awards have no award that serves as a vote for best picture and I wish people would stop treating it as such. A best ensemble award and a best movie award are too entirely different things. I personally was severely disappointed by the film Capote and consider it my least favorite Best Picture Oscar Nominee in years. At the same time, I liked the performances of Catherine Keener, Chris Cooper, and Clifton Collins Jr. enough to feel like it would be a very deserving best ensemble nominee. I would similarly feel that Batman Begins had the best ensemble of the year last year, but by no means, the best picture of the year or anywhere in the top five. Even great individual acting performances don't necessarily translate to a best ensemble award in my opinion. Morgan Freeman and Hillary Swank might have been great in Million Dollar Baby, but can they top the chemistry shared between the quartet of character actors in Sideways?
Any connection between SAG ensemble wins and best picture wins surely must be coincidence and statistically insignificant (scientifically speaking, all Oscar buzz precursors are statistically insignificant since the sample size is 78 at best). Last year, I noticed that in a crowded and somewhat deadlocked field, momentum shifted significantly toward Crash and Capote once they got nominated for SAG awards and once Crash won the SAG, momentum shifted toward Crash for the win. There might even be more dangerous consequences of this if one affects the other. If there's the question of life imitating art vs art imitating life than there could very well be the question of oscar buzz imitating results vs results imitating Oscar buzz. Whether that's the case or not, it would be helpful if pundits would stop making connections that aren't there, like with the SAG awards.