Entertainment

01.19.14

The SAG Awards Best Speeches…And What They Mean for Oscar

After Saturday night’s SAG Awards, the frontrunners are set for Oscar night (looking good, Cate Blanchett). But will their speeches help or hurt their chances? Ranking the best.

After Saturday night’s SAG Awards, things are looking pretty “alright, alright, alright” for Cate Blanchett and Matthew McConaughey come Oscar time. Though there’s been buzz that Sandra Bullock’s commanding performance in Gravity and Chiwetel Ejiofor’s stoic turn in 12 Years a Slave could upset on March 2, the Blue Jasmine and Dallas Buyers Club stars are officially the frontrunners to win their second and first respective Academy Awards.

Why is it looking all-but certain? Take a look at the history between the two awards bodies.

Every SAG Best Actor winner has gone to win the Oscar stretching back to 2003. Five of the last six Best Supporting Actor winners won the Oscar. Nine of the last 11 Best Supporting Actress winners won the Oscar (plus Kate Winslet won for The Reader, but in Best Actress). And since 1990, only three times have the Best Actress winners not overlapped between SAG and Oscar—only twice if you consider the fact that Winslet won for the supporting SAG and the lead Oscar for The Reader.

In other words, the SAG Awards are a pretty great barometer of who will take home the Oscar. In fact, of all the precursor awards, the SAG is probably the best indicator of the eventual Oscar winner. The largest segment of the Academy’s voting body is the acting branch, much of which overlaps with the SAG voters, making Saturday night’s ceremony a much more reliable crystal ball than the Golden Globes last week—particularly when you consider that Oscar nominees Blanchett and Amy Adams, for example, both took home Globes. Because the Hollywood Foreign Press splits comedy and drama into two different categories, many races remain a toss up after that ceremony concludes.

But the SAG Awards impact the Oscars in another completely different way. It’s televised very soon after the Oscar nominations come out, meaning if a Oscar-nominated actor wins the SAG, it’s a prime occasion to audition their potential speech for Oscar night. There’s no science behind it, but Oscarologists think that a good—or a terrible—speech at the Globes or the SAG Awards play a major part in affecting an actor’s chances of winning the Oscar. Just ask Eddie Murphy, who lost his “sure-thing” Oscar following back-to-back dud speeches for Dreamgirls.

With that in mind, here’s a ranking of the four big acting winners’s speeches Saturday night.

1. Cate Blanchett—Best Actress, Blue Jasmine

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As important as it is to be earnest when giving an acceptance speech, it’s nearly as important to be irreverent. Blanchett was appropriately humble, especially when thanking Woody Allen. And she was appropriately saucy, especially when thanking her co-star Sally Hawkins. “Sally, I’m very lonely up here without you. This is half yours. The penis part.” Plus, everyone knows it’s good to start by making the audience laugh, and Blanchett did just that with a dig just at the right side of mean on Matthew McConaughey when her countdown clock began urging her to wrap it up: “29 seconds? Matthew McConaughey spoke about Neptune. I think I can have five seconds…"

“For those who voted for me, thank you. For those who didn’t, better luck next year.”

“For Woody for writing role after role after role for women and they giving them the room…"

2. Jared Leto—Best Supporting Actor, Dallas Buyers Club

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After the Golden Globes, a lot of people weren’t pleased with Jared Leto or Matthew McConaughey, both who gave speeches on behalf of Dallas Buyers Club that, at best, failed to use the opportunity to acknowledge the struggles of the men and women who fought HIV and AIDS whose stories they were telling and, at worst, were homophobic. Leto remedied the situation with his SAG speech, and remedied it beautifully. “I’d like to dedicate this very special, special honor to all the people who have lost their lives as a result of this dreadful disease. To the people out there around the world who are living with HIV/AIDS. I’d like to share it with the Rayons of the world, the people who have made a choice to live their lives not as others would have them live it, but as they have chosen to dream it. I’m so glad that I’ve been able to glimpse the world through your eyes.” He was smart enough to make a nod to the “late and great James Gandolfini.” Plus he gave a thank you to his mother, “the hottest date in town,” for showing him “the power of dreams.” So freaking sweet. So freaking classy. That’s a great speech. Special points for acknowledging his co-star, Matthew McConaughey, with his signature “alright, alright, alright.”

3. Lupita Nyong'o—Best Supporting Actress, 12 Years a Slave

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12 Years a Slave winner knew front he get-go how to strike that balance that Leto and McConaughey struggled with. She addressed the weight of her film and the importance of the history it portrays, honor her director thusly: “Thank you, thank you, thank you, Steve McQueen. Thank you for taking a flashlight and shining it underneath the floorboards of this nation and reminding us what it is we stand on.” Her speech went on to be a little too listy—no one can stand the laundry lists of thank yous to people know one’s ever heard of, even if it’s done by someone as graceful and charming as Nyong'o. But she saved herself with this adorable anecdote at the end: “My dad, he was the first person I called when I got this role. And I said, ‘Daddy, do you know Brad Pitt? I’m going to be in a movie with him.’ And he said, ‘I don’t know him personally, but I’m glad you got a job.’ So am I. So am I. Thank you.”

4. Matthew McConaughey—Best Actor, Dallas Buyers Club

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Though not the degree that Leto did, McConaughey did a solid job honoring the legacy of the real-life person he portrayed in Dallas Buyers Club, Ron Woodruff—even if it was next to impossible at times to follow the logic of what he was saying. As Blanchett alluded to, he went on some tangent about acting on Neptune and my god was it weird: “Feels like they put a blindfold on you and put you in a spaceship that would take you to Neptune and you can hop off on the planet and they better have the sprockets rolling when they get off that spaceship because you’re going to behave as that man. That is a glorious feeling.” Yep, weird. But, you know what? It’s Matthew McConaughey, and weird is kind of what you expect, and maybe even want from him.

All in all, four big acting wins, four solid speeches, four strong frontrunners for this year’s Oscars.