Opinions voiced on pics both light, heavy

As the Screen Actors Guild Awards approach their arrival Jan. 23, several members of the org have strong opinions on who should go home that night with statues.

Tony Denison (“The Closer”) praises “Crazy Heart” lead actor Jeff Bridges as “one of the most underrated actors around” but believes the race in the category will be a tight one. Nominees are identical to the Golden Globes, except for Jeremy Renner of “The Hurt Locker.” Renner’s name replaces Tobey Maguire, who made the cut with the Hollywood Foreign Press Assn. but not with SAG.

Patrick Gallagher (“Glee,” “Sideways”) is also pulling for Bridges, who has been nominated for two SAG Awards in the past (“The Contender,” “Seabiscuit,”) but, like at the Oscars, has never won. “I’ve been a big fan for a very long time,” Gallagher says.

Adds Keith Powell (“30 Rock,” “Night at the Museum: Battle of the Smithsonian”): “Jeff is a brilliant actor who deserves recognition.”

Bridges likewise is the choice of Steve Marcus (“Ninja Assassins”) , who also praises the cast of “The Hurt Locker,” nominated for top ensemble.

Rich Sommer, a nominee himself as part of the “Mad Men” ensemble, says he would have “no trouble with Renner winning.”

Sandra Bullock’s perf in box office hit “The Blind Side” was subtle and balanced, according to Rick Yune (“Ninja Assassins,” “Die Another Day”). “I think an actor has to be cautious in playing the obvious in a film like that,” Yune says. “She avoided the cliche and owned it.”

Yune also has high praise for “Inglourious Basterds” supporting actor nominee Christoph Waltz, whose perf Yune calls “bone chilling.” The HFPA and SAG matched each other identically in the category.

Praise has been heaped upon Waltz since the film’s Cannes Film Festival release in May, and that worldwide acclaim has certainly given Waltz a wide berth as far as global publicity. Sommer calls the opening scene in the film “fantastic. Christoph was as scary as hell.”

Herself nominated in the best supporting category, the film’s Diane Kruger lauds fellow nominee Mo’Nique, who plays a vicious mother in Lee Daniels’ “Precious.”

“It was a tough performance. I don’t know what she had to do to get to that place. It’s probably one of the most impressive transformations I’ve seen onscreen in a long time,” says Kruger, who hadn’t received much kudos traction for her “Basterds” performance prior to the SAG nominations.

For 13-year-old actor Bobb’e J. Thompson (“Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs”), Mo’Nique’s turn was a revelation. “It was a very believable performance. For a minute I really thought Mo’Nique was an abusive mother.”

In the lead actress race, Thompson has a tough choice between Gabourey Sidibe and Meryl Streep. “That would be very difficult,” he says. “Gabourey gave one of those once-in-a-lifetime performances. It will probably come down to when I’m marking my ballot.”

Jennifer Stone (“Wizards of Waverly Place”) lauds nominee Carey Mulligan for her turn as a teenage girl swept off her feet by an older man in “An Education.”

“She can say so much without saying anything,” says Stone. “All the other nominees did a fantastic job, but we know them. I love it when new actors get recognition for their work.”

Critics, including A.O. Scott of the New York Times, have also heaped praise on the SAG noms. He called Renner’s performance “feverish, witty, headlong and precise, and is as thrilling as anything else in the movie. In each scene a different facet of James’ personality emerges.”

Entertainment Weekly’s Owen Gleiberman wrote about “Invictus” star Morgan Freeman: “It’s thrilling to watch Freeman do his perfect imitation of Mandela’s lordly, formal cadence. That’s because Freeman captures the mind behind the manners.”

And, then there’s the question as to whether are the SAG’s really a precursor to the Oscars.

Last year, Kate Winslet, Heath Ledger and Sean Penn won both SAG and Oscar awards. However, Streep bagged a SAG but came up short with Oscar, while Penelope Cruz came up empty-handed at the SAG but left the Oscars clutching a statuette.

So, while a SAG-Oscar connection doesn’t seem to be a sure bet, it’s certainly better to be nommed for a SAG in hopes of an Oscar nod than not.

Tip Sheet
What: SAG Awards
When: Jan. 23
Where: Shrine Exposition Center
Watch:
Simulcast on TNT, TBS

THE NOMINEES

Lead Actor
Jeff Bridges, “Crazy Heart”
George Clooney, “Up in the Air”
Colin Firth, “A Single Man”
Morgan Freeman, “Invictus”
Jeremy Renner, “The Hurt Locker”

Lead Actress
Sandra Bullock, “The Blind Side”
Helen Mirren, “The Last Station”
Carey Mulligan, “An Education”
Gabourey Sidibe, “Precious”
Meryl Streep, “Julie and Julia”

Supporting Actor
Matt Damon, “Invictus”
Woody Harrelson, “The Messenger”
Christopher Plummer, “The Last Station”
Stanley Tucci, “The Lovely Bones”
Christoph Waltz, “Inglourious Basterds”

Supporting Actress
Penelope Cruz, “Nine”
Vera Farmiga, “Up in the Air”
Anna Kendrick, “Up in the Air”
Diane Kruger, “Inglourious Basterds”
Mo’Nique, “Precious”

Ensemble Cast
“An Education”
“The Hurt Locker”
“Inglourious Basterds”
“Nine”
“Precious”

TIP SHEET

What: SAG Awards


When:
Jan. 23

Where: Shrine Exposition Center

Watch: Simulcast on TNT, TBS

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