The ensemble SAG Award can often be a reliable harbinger of the best picture Academy Award race, and Wednesday's nominations from the Screen Actors Guild solidified the momentum of several of the year's presumed Oscar favorites, including "The Descendants," "The Artist" and "The Help."
But the SAG selections slighted some presumed contenders and gave new hope to one movie that looked until very recently like an Oscar longshot -- "Bridesmaids."
Because the SAG Awards do not have a best-picture category, the guild's ensemble prize is its surrogate. The five picks in that category this year were for "The Artist," "The Descendants," "The Help," "Midnight in Paris" and, in a mild surprise, the raunchy comedy "Bridesmaids."
Left at the altar were "Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close," "Hugo," "War Horse" and "Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy."
Because Academy Award voters can nominate twice as many best-picture contenders (new rules mean there will be a minimum of five films and a maximum of 10) as can SAG nominators, those excluded films are not necessarily out of the race yet.
But the actors branch of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences is the largest bloc within the organization, meaning the SAG voters have a heavy overlap with Oscar pickers.
SAG's ensemble winner is not guaranteed of repeating as the top film at the Oscars, either. Last year, the actors' union bestowed its top prize on "The King's Speech," which went on to win the best picture Oscar. But in earlier years SAG honored "Inglourious Basterds" (when the best picture Oscar went to "The Hurt Locker"), "Little Miss Sunshine" (when "The Departed" claimed the big Academy Award) and "Sideways" (when the top Oscar was presented to "Million Dollar Baby").