LOS ANGELES—Perhaps the biggest precursor to the Academy Awards is the Screen Actors Guild Awards. The 20th Annual Screen Actors Guild Awards took place on Saturday, January 18 at the famed Shrine Auditorium.  Leading the pack of all nominees was the historical drama “12 Years a Slave” which is proving to be a formidable foe this season.  Perhaps in one of the most decisive races, Cast in a Motion Picture went to the cast of the very deserving “American Hustle.”  With the SAG win, it now means the Best Picture Oscar is between two films: “12 Years a Slave” and “American Hustle” and honestly it’s such a treat not knowing who the big winner will be.

Most would say at this point Matthew McConaughey is unstoppable in his road to Oscar, as the actor took on the prize for Actor in a Leading Role for his work in “Dallas Buyers Club.” At first I thought the same thing, then I remember that both Leonardo DiCaprio and Christian Bale are vying the prize as well. Let’s just say Oscar night could be a huge upset for a few people. Cate Blanchett claimed another Lead Actress honor with a SAG win for her riveting work in “Blue Jasmine.” At this point, only one person can stand in the way, and her name is Amy Adams.  Blanchett may be the front-runner, but Adams is a dark-horse who can be a huge upset come Oscar night.

In one of the toughest races this season, Actress in a Supporting Role has been a dogfight all season between Jennifer Lawrence for “American Hustle” and Lupita Nyong’o for “12 Years a Slave.”  The members of the guild placed a smiling face on newcomer Nyong’o who was victorious in the category.  With her Broadcast Critics Awards and now a SAG award, Nyong’o could be tough to beat on Oscar night, but remember Supporting Actress or Supporting Actor always delivers a curveball least expected.

Jared Leto is proving to be unbeatable for his fascinating turn as a transgender prostitute in “Dallas Buyers Club.”  He took home the SAG award for Actor in a Supporting Role defeating all other competition. At this point I’d say Leto is a lock for the Oscar, unless, the Academy chooses to throw a curveball and deliver the award to Michael Fassbender for “12 Years a Slave” or dark horse Jonah Hill for “The Wolf of Wall Street.”

On the television side, a big surprise in the Actor in a Leading Role in a Comedy Series went to Ty Burrell for his work on the ABC hit “Modern Family.”  Julia Louis-Dreyfuss bounced back from her lost at the Golden Globes with a win for Actress in a Leading Role in a Comedy Series for her work in “Veep.”  The cast of “Modern Family” claimed another award for Best Ensemble in a Comedy Series. I will admit it is indeed a funny series, that doesn’t rely on a laugh track to deliver chuckles.

The award for Actress in a TV Movie or Miniseries went to Helen Mirren for “Phil Spector,” while Michael Douglass continued his awards season sweep as Actor in a TV Movie or Miniseries for his role as Liberace in “Behind the Candelabra.”

“Breaking Bad” proved to be drama of the year, taking home the coveted prize for Cast in a Drama Series, while its star Bryan Cranston took home the prize for Actor in a Leading Role in a Drama Series.  The surprise of the night was “Downton Abbey” star Maggie Smith winning the award for Actress in a Leading Role in a Drama Series.

There is only one big major awards show that matter most: the Academy Awards. On March 2, we’ll know which film will rein supreme, “American Hustle” or “12 Years a Slave.” We’ll know if McConaughey can be stopped by DiCaprio or Bale, and perhaps the ultimate prize lies with Best Actress.  Will Cate Blanchett continue her dominance or will Adams, Dench or Streep prove expect the unexpected come Oscar night.

By LaDale Anderson