The absolute shock of the night at the SAG Awards: Denzel Washington beats Casey Affleck for Best Actor. Affleck has won nearly every critics award plus the Golden Globes. He’s been the odds-on favorite to win the Oscar for “Manchester by the Sea.” Washington, very respected with two Oscars, was not picked as a challenger.
But then again, SAG is the first test of the real population of the Academy. The SAG branch of the Academy is the biggest, too. Prior to this, Affleck’s awards had come from committees. Granted, I thought he’d win hands down even though Denzel’s work is sterling.
Yet, out in the real world, there’s been an undercurrent of negative publicity for Affleck. News broke that two women who worked on his Joaquin Phoenix documentary accused him of sexual misconduct. There were settlements. And whoever stoked the fires against Affleck found an easy way to get it going– use Nate Parker and his rape case, Mel Gibson and his misconduct. They said Is Affleck exempt from scrutiny?
Frankly, he is. Parker stood trial, there’s a record of a criminal case, and the fallout despite his acquittal. Gibson also was arrested, which is what brought about his anti-Semitic, misogynist, racist remarks.
Affleck’s matter was handled privately. The women did take settlements rather than pursue their case. In a PC world we are clearly on their side. But Affleck’s “case” was never a case, and that’s all we know. If he’d stood trial, if evidence has been presented, then he could be equated with Parker and Gibson.
But the news is out, Affleck has obviously been convicted in minds of many and perhaps tainted. I hope that isn’t the case. But the surprise tonight seems to suggest it. If Washington won SAG, it’s unlikely the voters are going to change their minds when they mark their Oscar ballots. Unless the other voters and Guild members feel differently, the Best Actor statue may be going much differently than expected.