Three nominations and three wins at the 2012 SAG Awards for “The Help.” You simply can’t argue that the industry’s actors don’t adore “The Help” after it beat “The Artist,” “The Descendants” and “Bridesmaids” in one of the more competitive best ensemble races in years Sunday night. Moreover, Meryl Streep delivered her best nominated performance in over a decade and “The Help’s” Viola Davis still prevailed eliciting an emotional standing ovation from the audience. Add the picture’s one expected win, Octavia Spencer in the best supporting actress category, and the conventional wisdom would suggest “The Help’s” triple play has sent shock waves across the Oscar landscape.
Well, sorry “Help” fans, but not really.
The hit drama’s three wins have solidified Spencer and Davis in their respective Academy Awards categories, but the DreamWorks Studios picture would need a major miracle to win best picture. History doesn’t lie when it comes to the Oscars and statistics are not on “The Help’s side.” Tate Taylor’s debut didn’t land a best film editing Oscar nomination. The last time a film won best picture without an editing nod? “Ordinary People” in 1981, 31 years ago. “The Help” also doesn’t have a directing nod nor screenplay nomination. The last time a picture won the big prize without recognizing its helmer was “Driving Miss Daisy” in 1990 (22 years ago). The last time it happened before then? The 1931/32 awards when only three directing nominees were announced including the winner. As for screenplay, “Titanic” was the last best picture winner not to land a script nod, but that blockbuster also won a staggering 11 Oscars (one of only three films to do so). So, as you can see “The Help” has quite a battle ahead of it to win best picture.
On the other hand, the stunning SAG Awards best actor win for “The Artist’s” Jean Dujardin along with Saturday’s DGA win for Michel Hazanvicius and the picture’s PGA win a week ago has pretty much sealed the deal on the Oscar frontrunner winning best picture. Sure, “The Artist” didn’t win ensemble, but Clooney was seen as something of a lock in the best actor category and if he wasn’t going to win it would be his long overlooked buddy Brad Pitt. Instead, the French speaking Dujardin’ triumph no doubt sent Fox Searchlight scrambling to figure out how to get Clooney back in the driver’s seat. There are some interesting scenarios at play here. If Dujardin wins the respective BAFTA Award on Sunday, Feb. 12, then he’ll be hard to beat. If Gary Oldman sneaks in to win the BAFTA (“Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy” was nominated for 11 BAFTAs) the whole race is up in the air (maybe).
Among the other contenders, “Hugo” is waiting in the wings hoping Martin Scorsese can sneak in to beat Hazavicius for best director, but with no acting nods its best picture chances were always weak at best. Searchlight will have to decide what it can and can’t do to keep Clooney’s best actor chances alive and make sure Alexander Payne, Nat Faxon and Jim Rash take the best adapted screenplay honor. DreamWorks Studios is sitting pretty knowing it would be a massive upset if “The Help’s” Davis or Spencer lost best actress or best supporting actress respectively. Do they ignore Oscar’s best picture history and increase their campaign budget for a full court press to the end? You have to figure they’ll try.
As for the remaining major category, best supporting actor, tonight’s SAG win for “Beginners'” Christopher Plummer gives the legendary actor a significant lead in the race for Oscar. Focus Features’ only worry at this point has to be how another legendary nominee, “Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close’s” Max Von Sydow, will affect the race. But it seems unlikely that long neglected Plummer will lose when he’s this close to his first statue.
What did you think of this weekend’s SAG Awards and DGA Awards winners? Is the best picture race really over? Share your thoughts below.
For year round entertainment commentary and awards season news follow @HitFixGregory on Twitter.