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SAG Awards: Actors Fall Hard for ‘Three Billboards’ but the Oscar Race Is Far From Over

The 24th annual Screen Actors Guild Awards would appear to have clearly delineated this year’s acting Oscar frontrunners. Gary Oldman (“Darkest Hour”), Allison Janney (“I, Tonya”), Frances McDormand, and Sam Rockwell (“Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri”) all doubled down Sunday night following recent wins at the Golden Globes and Critics’ Choice Awards.

In the supporting categories, it’s been an about-face from the critics’ circuit, where Willem Dafoe (“The Florida Project”) and Laurie Metcalf (“Lady Bird”) have far outpaced Rockwell and Janney. Oldman has remained the lead actor heavyweight throughout, while McDormand has been neck-and-neck with “The Shape of Water” star Sally Hawkins.

But bear in mind we don’t even have Oscar nominations yet. In fact, the SAG Awards almost never precede the Academy’s announcement. The point is, there’s a very long phase two still ahead, two weeks longer than usual due to the Winter Olympics. A lot can happen. Final Oscar ballots are due in 37 days — an eternity.

On the television side, “This Is Us” provided the only real spike of excitement all night as the series surprised in the drama ensemble category. Claire Foy (“The Crown”) also put the brakes on Elisabeth Moss’ (“The Handmaid’s Tale”) awards streak, which was unexpected.

The comedy prizes, meanwhile, might have given off a whiff of staleness with both William H. Macy (“Shameless”) and Julia Louis-Dreyfus (“Veep”) winning their their second-straight SAG trophies for series deep into their runs. But oddly enough, the cast of “Veep” had never won in the ensemble category before Sunday night.

Circling back to the ongoing Oscar race, if you twist with every breeze that blows in the season, sure, the ensemble victory for “Three Billboards” signals it as the best picture frontrunner. Actors make up the largest branch of the Academy, the logic goes, but it would be equally reductive to note that the combined might of the crafts branches eclipses the actors.

There are also x-factors in play, as Martin McDonagh’s film fuels the ire of its detractors with every new accolade. Witness the New York Times taking aim in the wake of the contender’s ascent this month with a piece criticizing the untidiness of McDonagh’s approach to the social underpinnings of his story. Expect more of that as the spotlight gets harsher. (McDonagh addressed some of those concerns on a recent episode of Variety‘s “Playback” podcast.)

So the same caveat that accompanied Saturday’s Producers Guild victory for “The Shape of Water” applies here. Don’t go calling it a day just yet.

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