Jennifer Aniston, Oscar Nominee? 5 Takeaways from the 2015 SAG Award Nominations

Everyone’s favorite Us Weekly cover star scored a surprise SAG Award nod. Is Oscar next? We peruse the most surprising takeaways from this year’s SAG list.

Ari Perilstein/Getty Images for Cinelou

Jennifer Aniston, Oscar nominee?

The once implausible thought is inching closer to a reality for the former Friends star—an undeniably gifted comedic actress who’s been wallowing in trite romantic films (of both the clichéd comedy and sappy drama type) and overly ribald raunch-coms. Aniston scored the biggest surprised mention when the Screen Actors Guild Awards announced their nominees Wednesday morning, earning a nod for in Best Actress for her performance in the indie Cake.

Is an Oscar nomination next? From Aniston’s surge in the Oscar race to Edie Falco’s record-breaking nod, here’s a list of the biggest surprises and takeaways from the 2015 SAG Award nominations.

Jennifer Aniston could get an Oscar nomination Four of the five slots in the Best Actress Oscar race have been sewed up for months now, with Julianne Moore (Still Alice), Reese Witherspoon (Wild), Rosamund Pike (Gone Girl), and Felicity Jones (The Theory of Everything) essentially guaranteed nods. This has been blasted as a “weak year” for the category—something that I and I daresay Jenny Slate, Tilda Swinton, Marion Cotillard, Shailene Woodley, and a slew of other deserving contenders who have disappeared from the conversation disagree with—meaning that there’s no real frontrunner for that last nomination.

The odds-on contenders for it are Amy Adams for Big Eyes and Hilary Swank for The Homesman. Adams has been thought to score the nod pretty much since Big Eyes has been announced, but, unfortunately, the movie just isn’t that good and her performance, while fine, is not that remarkable. Swank is excellent in The Homesman, which is a movie that few people even know exists. That means Aniston, who has been promoting the hell out of Cake and boasts the all-important “narrative” that Oscar voters salivate over (major celebrity reinvents herself in stripped-of-vanity indie drama) actually does stand a shot—albeit a long one.

Since it launched in 1994, the SAG Awards have been an uncanny crystal ball for predicting the Oscar nominations with 18 to 19 of the 20 nominees in the acting categories overlapping. That should be spectacular news for Aniston, except for the caveat: that overlap rate has dropped dramatically in the past two years. In those years, only 14 nominees overlapped. At the 2013 ceremony, Christoph Waltz wasn’t even nominated for Django Unchained at the SAG Awards, but went on to win at the Oscars.

So given the tepid reviews that Cake is receiving outside of Aniston’s performance and the recent history of acting surprises, expect a more traditional Oscar nominee like Adams or Swank, or possibly even Cotillard, who’s been gaining steam for her performance in Two Days, One Night, to take that fifth slot.

There’s still no clear Best Picture frontrunner At this point in the Oscar race there’s usually an odds-on favorite to win Best Picture, a film that’s already well on its way to steamrolling every precursor critics’ prize and awards ceremony—think 12 Years a Slave, The Artist, Slumdog Millionaire. This year, however, it’s not even a clear two-way race, a la Social Network vs. The King’s Speech or The Hurt Locker vs. Avatar. Boyhood, Birdman, The Imitation Game, and Selma could all, conceivably, win Best Picture at the Oscars at this point, and the SAG Award nominations did nothing to settle which one is more likely to do so.

Birdman did score one more nod than both Boyhood and The Imitation Game, with its four to their respective three, but the trio of contenders all earned Best Ensemble mentions—which is the SAG equivalent of Best Picture—and all three are equally likely contenders for victory. Not only that, while the SAG nominees are good predictors of Oscar nominees, Best Ensemble is actually a terrible predictor of who will win Best Picture. Last year American Hustle took the category while 12 Years a Slave won Best Picture at the Oscars, indicative of a history in which only nine of the 18 Best Ensemble winners took home the big prize at the Academy Awards.

And as for Selma, while it was shut out completely from the SAG Awards, the film shouldn’t be counted out yet. While the other three major contenders premiered at festivals months ago and have been screening for critics and SAG voters ever since, Selma has only just begun its screenings. Giving the rousing response it’s getting from the audiences that have seen it and the unusual Best Picture toss up going on right now, it could still make a late entry grab for the golden boy.

Edie Falco and Meryl Streep broke SAG records Meryl Streep broke her own record for her 15th nomination in the film categories with her nod in Best Supporting Actress for Into the Woods. (She has 16 total nominations, including one in the TV field for Angels in America.) But it’s Edie Falco who’s the reigning queen of SAG. She set a career nominations record with her 21st nod—all in the TV fields—for Best Actress in a Comedy for Nurse Jackie. She’s won five times, all in either Best Actress in a Drama or Best Ensemble in a Drama for The Sopranos. This year she faces off against the eclectic mix of Uzo Aduba (Orange Is the New Black), Julie Bowen (Modern Family), Julia Louis-Dreyfus (Veep), and Amy Poehler (Parks and Recreation).

And Julianna Margulies could set a new one With her nomination in Best Actress in a Drama for The Good Wife, Julianna Margulies could set a new record for the most SAG Award wins of all time. Currently, she’s tied with Alec Baldwin—both have eight SAG Awards to their names. Margulies’s competition is Claire Danes (Homeland), Viola Davis (How to Get Away With Murder), Tatiana Maslany (Orphan Black), Maggie Smith (Downton Abbey), and Robin Wright (House of Cards). The reigning Emmy champ coming off her best season yet on The Good Wife, Margulies could very well set that record, too.

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There were very few snubs and surprises Aside from the inclusion of Jennifer Aniston in Best Actress, the film categories included very few snubs and surprises. Perhaps the other biggest surprise is Jake Gyllenhaal’s Best Actor nomination for Nightcrawler over Selma’s David Oyelowo. It’s undeniably a great boon for Gyllenhaal, who was looking like he’d be shut out the race. But the SAG Awards has been historically kinder to Hollywood’s young studs than Oscar. Past contenders like Emile Hirsch (Into the Wild), Ryan Gosling (Lars and the Real Girl), Leonardo DiCaprio and Armie Hammer (J. Edgar), Daniel Bruhl (Rush), and Dev Patel (Slumdog Millionaire) all scored SAG nods before being snubbed for Oscar in favor of Hollywood veterans.

Otherwise on the film side, Naomi Watts (St. Vincent) getting in Best Supporting Actress over Laura Dern (Wild) is unexpected, while the lack of mention for Into the Woods and Selma in Best Ensemble is a surprise, too.

On the TV side, it’s a joy to see Orphan Black’s Tatiana Maslany, who is criminally overlooked by most awards organizations (especially the Emmys), get a Best Actress in a Drama nod, while it’s a little exhausting that Downton Abbey’s Maggie Smith is nominated there yet again when the likes of Kerry Washington (Scandal), Christine Baranski (The Good Wife), Elisabeth Moss (Mad Men), or Lizzy Caplan (Masters of Sex) would have been far more deserving. It’s also a pleasant surprise that Orange Is the New Black breakout star Uzo Aduba made her way into the Best Actress in a Comedy race alongside such category heavyweights and Hollywood veterans.

See the full list of SAG Award nominees here.