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In a season that’s shaping up to be dominated by “The Artist,” the Screen Actors Guild Awards showed that actors are taking their own path in helping to determine which performances stand out this season.

The biggest news of the day is Demian Bechir receiving a lead actor nom for “A Better Life,” whose performance as an immigrant father has been hailed but has been somewhat below the awards radar up until now. With actors making up the majority of Oscar voters, this could be a good sign for Bechir. The other four lead actor nominees — George Clooney for “The Descendants,” Leonardo DiCaprio for “J. Edgar,” Jean Dujardin for “The Artist” and Brad Pitt for “Moneyball” — were less surprising, though the noms confirm many awards watchers’ suspicions about Oscar. WHO’S MISSING?: Michael Fassbender, “Shame”; Gary Oldman, “Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy”

The lead actress noms brought more clarity to that race, with sure-things Viola Davis (“The Help”), Meryl Streep (“The Iron Lady”) and Michelle Williams (“My Week With Marilyn”) all earning noms. While “We Need to Talk About Kevin’s” Tilda Swinton and her film about a mother whose son goes on a killing spree have been building momentum through critics awards, this brings much-needed attention to the small-budget feature, which wasn’t eligible for a Spirit Award last month. WHO’S MISSING?: Rooney Mara, “Girl With the Dragon Tattoo”; Charlize Theron, “Young Adult”

For the supporting actor category, Armie Hammer for “J. Edgar” and Jonah Hill for “Moneyball” represented two of the most engaging supporting roles in the season, and it was fun to see the work honored with a nom. Nick Nolte is really picking up steam for “Warrior” with the SAG nom, as is Kenneth Branagh for “My Week With Marilyn.” Most of the attention for “Marilyn” has been focused on Michelle Williams thus far. Christopher Plummer (“Beginners”) has had a lock on the category for months. WHO’S MISSING: Max Von Sydow, “Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close”; Albert Brooks, “Drive”; Jim Broadbent, “The Iron Lady”; Ben Kingsley, “Hugo”; Patton Oswalt, “Young Adult”

The supporting actress race is dominated by first-time SAG nominees, with Berenice Bejo for “The Artist,” Jessica Chastain for “The Help,” Melissa McCarthy for “Bridesmaids,” and Octavia Spencer for “The Help.” Janet McTeer, who now has her second SAG nom, received recognition for her gender-bender role in “Albert Nobbs.” WHO’S MISSING?: Shailene Williams, “The Descendants”; Sandra Bullock, “Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close”; Vanessa Redgrave, “Coriolanus”; Carey Mulligan, “Shame”

In the SAG ensemble award noms, “The Artist,” “The Descendants” and “The Help” were thought to be locks for the category. The big shockers were “Midnight in Paris” and “Bridesmaids.” “Bridesmaids” for best picture, anyone?