SAG Awards Movies: Full of Surprises And Omissions; Will Oscar Follow Suit?

SAG Awards TV: Rookies Join The Fray
SAG Awards Nominations

Leave it to SAG to throw a few surprises into the season. Although countless critics awards groups have been weighing in with their 2011 movie picks for the past two weeks, this morning’s list of nominations for the 18th Annual Screen Actors Guild Awards are most significant because they are the first indication of what the Industry itself is thinking. Hollywood Guild voters overlap with Academy voters and often are the most accurate barometer of where Oscar might be headed. Last year the race was turned on its head when the Producers Guild announced The King’s Speech as their choice over presumed favorite The Social Network which had swept the critics awards and Golden Globes. We all know what happened after that.

If the SAG nominations are any indicator, and I think they are, The Weinstein Company’s The Artist just may have broken out of the pack and into a clear frontrunner position with its three nominations for Outstanding Cast, Lead Actor for Jean Dujardin and Supporting Actress for Berenice Bejo. The  black and white silent sensation has been trending that way with numerous critics group citations and SAG’s affirmation confirms it. And following its impressive 8 nominations from the Critics Choice Movie Awards yesterday, Dreamworks’ The Help with its leading four noms from SAG (Ensemble Cast, Lead Actress Viola Davis, Supporting Actresses Octavia Spencer and Jessica Chastain) is also emerging as a strong contender. Both The Artist and The Help are likely to continue their winning ways with tomorrows Globe nominations.

SAG’s list provided a lot of surprises not just in what was included, but what was dissed. Among the presumed contenders completely skunked were two Scott Rudin-produced late year entries, Extremely Loud And Incredibly Close and The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo along with critics faves Drive, Shame, Hugo, The Tree of Life, Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy and others which were generally skipped in favor of lighter fare.

The Outstanding Cast category is particularly interesting since it generally is considered SAG’s closest equivalent to a Best Picture preference. With The Artist, Universal’s Bridesmaids, Sony Classics’ Midnight in Paris, and The Help joining Fox Searchlight’s The Descendants, none of the nominees are really edgy or heavy dramatic stuff. Although the latter two certainly have some elements of that mixed with comedic scenes  and indicate a taste for lighter choices than usual.

Universal’s smash summer female raunch comedy Bridesmaids is not what awards groups normally honor. But with its inclusion on AFI’s Top 10 list and now two key SAG nods (including one for Best Supporting Actrss Melissa McCarthy who was ironically passed over for her Emmy winning turn on CBS’ Mike and Molly), it’s emerged as one of 2011’s awards season success stories. It is also significant to note that 3 of the five Cast nominees (Paris, Bridesmaids, The Help) were summer season releases, not always the optimum period for opening key awards contenders.

It was also a good day for Woody Allen’s biggest success, Midnight In Paris. Now on top of its CCMA Best Pic nod yesterday gets a key Cast nomination from SAG to signal the industry has not forgotten it.

In the Best Actor category expected nominations went to a trio of superstars: George Clooney for The Descendants, Brad Pitt for Sony’s Moneyball and Leonardo DiCaprio for Warner Bros’ J. Edgar plus French superstar Jean Dujardin in The Artist. But the nom for Mexico’s Deman Bichir in the not-widely-seen illegal immigrant drama A Better Life (Summit Entertainment) was a nice surprise even though Bichir has been very prominent on the campaign circuit trying to drum up interest in the movie’s chances. His nod over higher profile contenders and critics faves like Michael Fassbender, Ryan Gosling, and Gary Oldman is a serious boost to his Oscar chances and will likely encourage distributor Summit to step up to the plate even more now.

A mild surprise in the lead actress category was the exclusion of Young Adult’s Charlize Theron, but the group of women who were expected to be major contenders  are here is this very close contest and all received nominations including The Iron Lady’s Meryl Streep (Weinstein Co), Albert Nobbs’ Glenn Close (Roadside Attractions), My Week With Marilyn (Michelle Williams (Weinstein Co), We Need To Talk About Kevin‘s Tilda Swinton (Oscilloscope Pictures) , and The Help’s Viola Davis.

In the extremely competitive Supporting Actor race there were some surprising omissions including Drive’s Albert Brooks whose strong momentum among critics groups has been stalled by SAG. Veteran Max von Sydow also failed to show despite several appearances in front of voters groups in recent days and the fact that his film, Extremely Loud And Incredibly Close (Warner Bros), is platforming on December 25 but does not go wide until January 20.  The film was just beginning its first screenings even after SAG ballots had been sent so many nom com votes may already have been in before members even had a chance to see it. Among the other nominees, Moneyball’s Jonah Hill and J. Edgar’s Armie Hammer were fairly surprising entries even though the lead actors from both of those films were expected to be slam dunk nominees. The exposure for Brad Pitt and Leonardo DiCaprio certainly didn’t hurt Hill and Hammer’s efforts to have their performances seen. Both young stars managed to crack a category top heavy with seminal roles for veterans this year including front runner Christopher Plummer of Beginners (Focus Features), Kenneth Branagh as Laurence Olivier in My Week With Marilyn and Nick Nolte in Lionsgate’s Warrior. The latter a bit of a long shot since the film did not do well after its early September release but has been gaining traction from its DVD screeners where many voters are just discovering the well-reviewed movie and Nolte’s dramatic turn.

While the supporting actress category did not include any shockers, the ommission of expected contenders Shailene Woodley of The Descendants and Vanessa Redgrave of Coriolanus was eye-opening. Perhaps Redgrave’s towering performance just wasn’t seen by enough of SAG’s voters and the actress was not available to participate in the usual Q&A routine since she is on stage in London performing Driving Miss Daisy. Among those who made the list there would seem to be no one obvious front runner among The Help’s Spencer and Chastain, Bridesmaids’ McCarthy, Albert Nobbs’ Janet McTeer and The Artists’ Berenice Bejo, who actually could eventually emerge as the one to beat due to the demands of playing a singing and dancing star in a black and white silent movie.

In case you are interested in statistics: last year only three actors who failed to get a SAG nomination were able to reverse the trend and turn up at the Oscars. All four SAG winners went on to Oscar glory and The King’s Speech took the big Ensemble Cast prize so attention must be paid. Now the plot thickens in a very interesting and unpredictable season. Tomorrow’s Golden Globe nominations should even add more intrigue.

  1. who would have thought that THE ARTIST would become this year’s LITTLE MISS SUNSHINE or JUNO — a small, moderately enjoyable movie given overblown praise and awards — in favor of remarkably stronger performances and films.

    MIDNIGHT IN PARIS is that exact kind of film as well, but is somehow so much more potent and dynamic. why isn’t this getting the attention bestowed upon the marvelously overrated THE ARTIST?

  2. Did NO-ONE see the ides of March …

    Did NO-ONE see SHAME …

    The ARTIST … really ?? … remove the REALLY hot French girl with the big eyes and what have you got … a marketing campaign and a bunch of Sheep who are too scared to say the emperor has no clothes … well except the cute French girl of course …

  3. The SAG awards was someone’s idea of getting into the act and it has devalued and diminished the Academy Award by over exposure, duplicative choices and an end to the genuine suspense that used to surround the Oscar nominations.
    There is a television and motion picture “academy” – which is where those who have earned their living, and have persisted in a career, have traditionally chosen their peers.

    What is the point of a union’s poll? Shouldn’t they be concerned with working conditions and benefits? Why does SAG rent such high price space on Wilshire? Tospend the money from an overexposed process?It used to matter who professional peers nominated; having the process open to a random selection of the 100,000+ members dilutes the whole effort.God knows what nonsense will follow if there is a merger with AFTRA.

  4. To be fair, films like THE ARTIST are not just made anymore. So, for a black and white film to be made in this ripe old age of talkies, and for the film to actually be good is a breath of fresh air. I am really impressed with the diverse array of films this year, it is showing that more people are beginning to grow balls in Hollywood, not the same formulaic sympathetic characters that are usually pushed out for Oscar Season.

  5. Looks like serious acting will not be rewarded this year, it’s a year of goof and fluff. Gosling and Brooks in DRIVE were two of the best performances, by far, not nominated. HUGO and TREE OF LIFE also shut out? Brad Pitt at least deserved a nod since he gave a career-best performance and Kingsley certainly deserved something for playing Georges Melies.

  6. BRIDESMAIDS is making lists !!!! WTF ? This was a fun film but really – awards ? This is nothing more than a typical Hollywood raunch-com. The only difference here is it’s also a chick flick.
    It’s certainly not deserving of any awards or nominations – ever. What are people thinking ? Why Lord,why ?

  7. Singing and Dancing (sort of expected of an actress) versus playing a woman passing as a man for decades? Hello!!!!!!!

  8. 1. Poor Michael Fassbender. He should have been in place of that that No-Name actor we will never hear again after this awards season (Deman Bichir) actor or DiCaprio.

    2. What a very, very stupid decision to release Extremely Loud And Incredibly Close and The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo so late. If you want awards then you should release it before December.

    3. Brad Pitt should have been nominated for Tree of Life.

  9. this would be my list…

    Michael Fassbender – Shame
    Gary Oldman – Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy
    Brad Pitt – Moneyball
    Michael Shannon – Take Shelter
    Kevin Spacey – Margin Call

    Vera Farmiga – Higher Ground
    Rooney Mara – The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo
    Elizabeth Olsen – Martha Marcy May Marlene
    Tilda Swinton – We Need to Talk About Kevin
    Kristen Wiig – Bridesmaids

    Tom Hardy – Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy
    John Hawkes – Martha Marcy May Marlene
    Choi Min-sik – I Saw the Devil
    Nick Nolte – Warrior
    Andy Serkis – Rise of the Planet of the Apes

    Jessica Chastain – Take Shelter
    Keira Knightley – A Dangerous Method
    Vanessa Redgrave – Coriolanus
    Amy Ryan – Win Win
    Shailene Woodley – The Descendants

    categories that I include, which I think would be great to have:

    Vincent Cassel – A Dangerous Method
    Jeremy Irons – Margin Call
    Oscar Isaac – Drive
    Alan Rickman – Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2
    Corey Stoll – Midnight in Paris

    Kathy Baker – Take Shelter
    Jennifer Ehle – Contagion
    Judy Greer – The Descendants
    Melanie Lynskey – Win Win
    Alison Pill – Midnight in Paris

  10. @Shy:

    Unfortunately the studio is probably more concerned with box office numbers than Awards. And the holiday season is a great time to open a movie.

  11. I feel like the awards-season writers are once again blowing their horns for awards that don’t mean diddly shit except perhaps for general-public awareness purposes and ABC’s bottom line.

    It’s telling that the producers at Deadline’s recent shindig underscored that the only thing that matters is getting Academy members to see their movies, and that those members make up their own minds.

    So, to reiterate, the Golden Globes will be fun to watch this year – almost solely because of Ricky Gervais – but they don’t mean jack to Guild or Academy voters.

    It comes down to the movies themselves. How they touch – or don’t touch – Academy members. As for which movies win, that may be partially a function of the demographics of Academy members, but it’s still about the movies.

  12. The SAG award is really the “bitter extra award.” 92% of the union are extras. Please don’t think Tom Cruise is filling out his SAG ballot.

    It’s really extras with vendettas. Every extra I know fills it out with malice. They are extras not actors.
    Don’t over sell this trivial award.

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