- The Washington Times - Friday, December 18, 2009

LOS ANGELES | “Up in the Air,” “Precious” and “Inglourious Basterds” led the Screen Actors Guild Awards with three nominations each Thursday, among them honors for George Clooney, Diane Kruger and Mo’Nique.

The World War II rewrite “Inglourious Basterds” and the Harlem story “Precious: Based on the Novel ‘Push’ by Sapphire” are competing for the guild’s overall cast prize, along with the 1960s British drama “An Education,” the Iraq war tale “The Hurt Locker” and the musical “Nine.”

The corporate-downsizing tale “Up in the Air” was shut out of that category but scored a lead-actor nomination for Mr. Clooney as a frequent-flier whiz and two supporting-actress slots, for Vera Farmiga as his new love and Anna Kendrick as his new protege.

Miss Kruger picked up a supporting-actress honor as a German movie star and Allied spy in “Inglourious Basterds,” which also earned a supporting-actor slot for Christoph Waltz as an exuberantly ruthless Nazi.

“Precious” earned a lead-actress honor for Gabourey Sidibe as an illiterate, abused teen determined to make a better life. Mo’Nique was nominated as supporting actress as the teen’s despicable mother.

For best actor, Mr. Clooney is up against Jeff Bridges as a boozy country singer in “Crazy Heart,” Colin Firth as a grieving gay academic in “A Single Man,” Morgan Freeman as Nelson Mandela in “Invictus” and Jeremy Renner as a daredevil bomb technician in “The Hurt Locker.”

Along with Miss Sidibe, nominated for best actress are Sandra Bullock as foster mom for a future NFL star in “The Blind Side,” Helen Mirren as the wife of Leo Tolstoy in “The Last Station,” Carey Mulligan as a teen involved with an older man in “An Education,” and Meryl Streep as chef Julia Child in “Julie & Julia.”

Penelope Cruz joined Miss Farmiga, Miss Kendrick, Miss Kruger and Mo’Nique in the supporting-actress field, playing a filmmaker’s needy mistress in “Nine.”

Besides Mr. Waltz, supporting-actor picks are Matt Damon as a South African rugby team captain in “Invictus,” Woody Harrelson as a military next-of-kin notifier in “The Messenger,” Christopher Plummer as aging author Tolstoy in “The Last Station” and Stanley Tucci as a serial killer in “The Lovely Bones.”

The choices lined up much the same as Tuesday’s Golden Globe nominations. A few notable differences: SAG pick Mr. Renner missed out at the Globes, which favored Tobey Maguire for another war-on-terror tale, “Brothers”; Miss Kruger helped announce Globe nominations but was not selected herself; Julianne Moore made the Globe supporting-actress cut for “A Single Man”; Emily Blunt, a dramatic-actress nominee at the Globes for “The Young Victoria,” was snubbed by SAG.

Television nominees include familiar names, comedy-series actress Tina Fey and actor Alec Baldwin of “30 Rock,” which also got a nomination for overall cast. The show won all three SAG comedy categories last year. Mr. Baldwin has won the comedy-show-actor prize the past three years, while Miss Fey has won for actress the past two.

Other TV comedies nominated for best cast are “Curb Your Enthusiasm,” “Glee,” “Modern Family” and “The Office.”

Last year’s drama-cast winner, “Mad Men,” is nominated again, along with “The Closer,” “Dexter,” “The Good Wife” and “True Blood.”

The SAG Awards will be handed out Jan. 23.

The guild prizes are a prelude for what actors might take home at the Academy Awards. Three of the four guild recipients last year — Sean Penn for “Milk,” Heath Ledger for “The Dark Knight” and Kate Winslet for “The Reader” — went on to win Oscars. Most members of the academy’s acting branch are also members of SAG.

“Slumdog Millionaire,” which earned the guild’s cast honor last year, wound up dominating at the Oscars, winning best picture and other key awards.

Film and TV nominees were chosen by two groups of 2,100 people each, randomly chosen from the guild’s roughly 100,000 members. The guild’s full membership is eligible to vote for winners.

The show also will include the guild’s life-achievement award for actress Betty White.

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