LOS ANGELES -- "12 Years a Slave" and " Lee Daniels' The Butler" earned a total of seven nominations Wednesday for the 20th Screen Actors Guild Awards, solidifying their status as front-runners as the road to Oscar gold begins in earnest.
The films are hallmarks of an extraordinary year for black cinema, rich with critical acclaim and box-office success, and Wednesday's nominations could signal more accolades to come -- and perhaps even Academy Award recognition.
The SAG Awards, one of the leading Oscar bellwethers, honored "12 Years a Slave" with four nominations -- more than any other film. The unflinching portrayal of slavery in early America earned a nod for best ensemble cast -- the SAG Awards equivalent of best picture. There were nominations as well for male actor in a leading role for Chiwetel Ejiofor and supporting nods for Michael Fassbender and Lupita Nyong'o.
"The Butler" earned three SAG nominations, including best ensemble cast, male actor in a leading role for Forest Whitaker and a supporting nod for Oprah Winfrey.
Rounding out the ensemble cast nominees were "August: Osage County" and "Dallas Buyers Club," which both earned three nods apiece, and "American Hustle," which also picked up a supporting nomination for Jennifer Lawrence.
Vying with Mr. Ejiofor and Mr. Whitaker for male actor in a leading role honors were Bruce Dern for "Nebraska," Tom Hanks for "Captain Phillips" and Matthew McConaughey for "Dallas Buyers Club." Notably missing from the category: Robert Redford, for "All Is Lost." Just last week, Mr. Redford won the New York Film Critics Circle award for best actor.
Contending in the female actor in a leading role category are Cate Blanchett for "Blue Jasmine," Sandra Bullock for "Gravity," Judi Dench for "Philomena," Meryl Streep for "August: Osage County" and Emma Thompson for "Saving Mr. Banks."
In the supporting categories, Mr. Fassbender will be competing against Barkhad Abdi for "Captain Phillips," Daniel Bruhl for "Rush," the late James Gandolfini for "Enough Said" and Jared Leto for "Dallas Buyers Club." Ms. Nyong'o, Ms. Lawrence and Ms. Winfrey will vie against Julia Roberts for "August: Osage County" and June Squibb for "Nebraska."
On the TV side, the ensemble casts of "Boardwalk Empire," "Breaking Bad," "Homeland," "Downton Abbey" and "Game of Thrones" were nominated in the drama category. "Arrested Development," "Veep," "Big Bang Theory," "Modern Family" and "30 Rock" were honored with nominations in the comedy category.
Among the television nominees were Bryan Cranston for "Breaking Bad," Claire Danes for "Homeland" and Kerry Washington for "Scandal."
Sasha Alexander and Clark Gregg announced the nominations in five film and eight television categories from the Pacific Design Center early Wednesday morning.
The SAG Awards have become one of the leading indicators for the Academy Awards. Three of the 2012 winners -- lead actor Daniel Day-Lewis for "Lincoln," lead actress Lawrence for "Silver Linings Playbook" and supporting actress Anne Hathaway for "Les Miserables" -- all went on to receive Academy Awards.
Rita Moreno was previously announced as the winner of SAG's upcoming Life Achievement Award.
The SAG Awards will air 8 p.m. Jan. 18 on TBS and TNT from the Shrine Exposition Hall in Los Angeles.
The Golden Globes will announce its nominees this morning.