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PrizeFighter: SAG/PGA awards only cloud Oscar race

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Birdman Sag Awards
Vince Bucci/Invision/AP

As the Academy Awards nominees continue marching down various red carpets on their way towards Oscar night, stopping along the way to receive various honors from various groups, the picture for the big night is supposed to become more clear. But after this weekend’s big guild award ceremonies, the opposite seems to have happened.

Going into Saturday night, Richard Linklater’s 12-year odyssey Boyhood had nabbed the title of odds-on Best Picture favorite—the little film that could belie all the odds of Hollywood’s conventional wisdom, flouting the traditional rules of filmmaking. Now, though, that teeny indie is no longer a sure bet.

It lost the Best Ensemble prize Sunday at the Screen Actors Guild awards, to Birdman—which was expected, considering the Michael Keaton starrer is about an actor’s attempt to remain relevant. (It’s a topic to which every actor voting as part of SAG can surely relate.)

What is surprising is that the film also lost to Birdman at the Producers Guild Awards Saturday. Not a lot of people saw that one coming, considering Boyhood’s lengthy birth is a feat of producing as well as one of acting, writing, and directing.

The common sentiment going into this weekend was that Boyhood was going to win the Best Picture Academy Award without the actors’ branch, which would surely choose Birdman as its top choice. Now that belief loses some certitude. The winner of the Producers Guild Awards has gone on to win Best Picture for the last seven years. If 2015 makes it eight, that will be quite a turnaround for a film that has already been part of a wild roller-coaster ride.

The other race that just got a little more interesting is Best Actor. Eddie Redmayne’s work as Stephen Hawking in The Theory of Everything has always been the top of everyone’s list. Still, conventional wisdom held that Keaton would pull out a Best Actor win, as the Academy surely would choose to honor a journeyman actor who has been slogging his way through the business for decades—and has finally scored the role of a lifetime. This may no longer be the case now that Redmayne took the top honors Sunday night at SAG—and delivered an articulate, heartfelt speech that seemed to hit all the right notes.

We should gain some additional clarity in what the individual guilds are thinking when the directors anounce their picks on Feb. 7 and the screenwriters unveil theirs on Feb. 14—providing more insight into categories that aren’t even close to being sewn up at this point. And that’s not necessarily a bad thing. As of now, three races feel like fait accompli: Best Actress (Julianne Moore, Still Alice), Best Supporting Actress (Patricia Arquette, Boyhood) and Best Supporting Actor (J.K. Simmons, Whiplash). Adding a little mystery going into the big night can only invigorate this lengthy—and somewhat monotonous—awards trek. Consider it your reward for being such a loyal follower.