SAG Awards Film: What's Surprising About Who's In And Who's Out

In terms of the horse race for Oscars, this morning’s SAG Awards nominations are important on a couple of fronts. It’s the first Guild awards nomination announcement of the year, and that’s significant because the way guilds are thinking (with their strong crossover membership with the Academy) is usually the way Oscar voters are thinking. It’s much more significant in that regard than critics awards. These SAG Awards nominations, the only guild announcing before the Academy gets their ballots this year (10 days earlier than normal), also can have a strong effect on influencing acting Oscar nominations even more than usual due to the time crunch and the fact that many Oscar voters still have a lot to see. In the last few years, the correlation between SAG and Oscar has been strong: In the past two years, the two orgs agreed on 17 of 20 acting noms. Three years ago it was 19 of 20. And although the 2000-strong nominating committee that votes on this film list changes by lottery every year, it’s remarkably in step with the tastes of the Academy’s Actors Branch.

Related: SAG Awards Nominations Announced

What this year’s list really reflects is the tightness of the lead actor race. In September when The Master was released, it was almost unthinkable that Joaquin Phoenix’s highly praised performance would not be among the Best Actor nominees — but he’s AWOL here. I think it probably has less to do with the fact that he didn’t campaign (he didn’t appear at a single SAG Q&A and has been vocal about his disdain for the awards-season process) than the fiercely competitive nature of this category. Who are you going to cut out among Bradley Cooper, Daniel Day-Lewis, John Hawkes, Hugh Jackman and Denzel Washington? There is a long list of others left at the altar by SAG this year including Hitchcock’s Anthony Hopkins, Arbitrage’s Richard Gere, Hyde Park On Hudson’s Bill Murray, Django Unchained’s Jamie Foxx, Bernie’s Jack Black and Amour’s Jean-Louis Trintignant among others, but there just doesn’t seem to be room at the inn and the Academy is likely to have the same problem.

Related: SAG Awards TV: ‘Modern Family’ Leads, ‘Homeland’ Lands First Noms

Most surprising of any SAG omission for my money is the absence of Trintignant’s Amour co-star Emmanuelle Riva in the lead actress race. Her name is usually the first one out of the mouth of the Academy’s female actors with whom I have spoken. I think this is definitely a case where Oscar will differ. Nine-year old Quvenzhane Wallis, who was nominated for two Critics Choice Movie Awards yesterday as well as an Indie Spirit, was also missing. But that was expected as SAG ruled her film, Beasts Of The Southern Wild, ineligible since its production did not meet the union’s requirements. Still, even without those two Oscar-buzzed performances it is a strong list in a lighter field and among Jessica Chastain, Marion Cotillard, Jennifer Lawrence, Helen Mirren and Naomi Watts. It’s hard to pick who doesn’t repeat when Oscar noms are announced January 10th. Someone’s got to make room for Riva though, and Wallis, despite her age, could be a factor too.

A James Bond villain has never been nominated in the SAG Awards’ 19 years or at the Oscars, but that seems to be changing with Javier Bardem’s SAG Supporting Male nod for Skyfall in another incredibly crowded category. Among the others — Alan Arkin, Robert De Niro, Tommy Lee Jones and The Master’s Philip Seymour Hoffman — there were no surprises here, but considering the lack of SAG love for Hoffman’s Master co-stars Phoenix and quite surprisingly Amy Adams in Supporting Female Actor, his inclusion is the most wobbly. And there’s a looooong list of those overlooked who could find a slot at the Oscars including Magic Mike’s Matthew McConaughey, Eddie Redmayne and Russell Crowe of Les Miserables, Ewan McGregor from The Impossible — and that’s just for starters. John Goodman likely cancelled himself out with two well-regarded supporting turns in Flight and Argo. And there are at least three strong contenders in Django Unchained with Leonardo DiCaprio, Samuel L. Jackson and Christoph Waltz, but that Christmas Day release is a very late starter and wasn’t widely seen by the voting deadline. The Weinstein Company still hasn’t sent DVD screeners, but there may be time for one of those actors to sneak onto Oscar’s list.

On the Supporting Female Actor list, the aforementioned omission of Adams was eyebrow-raising but nominations for Sally Field, Helen Hunt and Anne Hathaway were foregone conclusions. Maggie Smith’s inclusion out of the Best Exotic Marigold Hotel ensemble isn’t really surprising. She is beloved and overall grabbed a whopping four nominations between this film and her work on TV’s Downton Abbey to lead all actors this year. I was also happy to see Nicole Kidman make the list for the risky turn she took in Lee Daniels’ boxoffice non-starter The Paperboy. Actors love their colleagues who take the leap, and Kidman gets points for that in her portrayal of this Southern tart, even if the film wasn’t widely seen. Millennium made sure the SAG Nom Comm all got screeners, and Kidman participated in Q&As.

LincolnAs for the Outstanding Cast (or Ensemble award), SAG’s equivalent of Best Picture, there can be little argument about Argo, Les Miserables, Lincoln or Silver Linings Playbook, all solidly at the top of Best Picture Oscar contenders. Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, with its sterling who’s who of British acting giants, definitely belongs in this company. Still, with their remarkable casts it would have been nice to see a tip of the hat to Moonrise Kingdom, Flight or Django Unchained.

As for who will win on January 27th? It’s anybody’s guess at this point, but I would be very surprised if the names of Lincoln, Les Miserables and Silver Linings Playbook — which all led the pack with four nominations each this morning — were not in at least one of those envelopes.

  1. As always, Pete’s comments are spot on. I am not a member of the Academy or SAG (DGA, yes) but seem to recall a rule that in the less starry categories, like Best Film Animated Short or Documentary, it’s a requirement that to vote you need to have seen all of the entries. Clearly, that’s not possible to enforce for SAG nominations. The one area I disagree with Pete on: I think Phoenix’s lack of participation in SAG Q & A’s did work against him, enough to bounce him out of contention at least.

  2. It’s a joke that Nicole Kidman and Helen Mirren were nominated for their performances in next-to-unwatchable movies. Both are fine actresses, but I think name recognition and the age of the voters helped push them over the top over better performances from Amy Adams and Keira Knightley. The lack of love for Anna Karenina disappoints me.

    And also, what about Emma Watson, Rashida Jones in Celeste + Jesse, and Zoey Kazan in the unseen gem Ruby Sparks? It’s been as strong a year for women in movies as I can remember, and I wish the voters would show these films some love instead of falling in lockstep for the more famous contenders.

  3. Yes, there are certainly several best actor worthies doomed to stay at home Oscar night. But Jamie Foxx? There will be no “Django” acting nominees, and SAG is hinting that maybe there maybe there won’t be much love at all for Taratino’s latest.

  4. Rachel Weisz was robbed. It was bad enough when they ignored her performance in “Agora” but to ignore her work in The Deep Blue Sea is ridiculous. Hopefully she’ll be remembered when Oscars are announced. Also looking forward to seeing “Amour” when it opens.

  5. Riva deserves Oscar love, but she’ll need to come here and shake a lot of hands and work the room. You too, Joaquin! It is what it is.

  6. Amy Adams snub is a disgrace. She is one of the best working actresses and deserved the nod this year. So what…because she doesn’t get involved in Hollywood politics she is snubbed? Disgrace.

  7. From what I hear, the SAG committee did not get to see Django which explains why no nods. Also, Beast was a non-union production and ineligible for SAG nods which is why it’s nominated. Had it been, Wallis would have been nominated for sure instead of Mirren. And Joaquin’s anti-awards stance definitely played in the voting, but also, a lot of people HATED that movie.

  8. I’m happy to see Mirren on the list but are you really shocked Russell Crowe did not make it? He was painful to watch and looked constipated almost the entire film.

  9. I am a voting member of SAG. I just want to be clear this award isn’t given out by Tom Cruise or Meryl Streep. It is a EXTRA SAG award since that is the majority of working actors.

    Please don’t glamorize this award. Background actors have axes to grind — please remember that!!

  10. Anthony Hopkins was snubbed. It should have been him instead of Denzel Washington. Just like Morgan Freeman – Denzel plays the same character in every movie.

    Is Cinderella fairytale for Matthew McConaughey over. Critics pushed him hard in last weeks. But overlooked here.

    1. Thank You thank you THANK YOU! I’ve been saying for YEARS Denzel plays the same character over and over and OVER! He’s is the biggest one note actor I can possibly think of and NOTHING was different about his performance in Flight. Well aside from the fact that the character was totally unlikable and supremely annoying. The supporting cast is who should be praised from Flight….especially John Goodman or even Don Cheadle.

  11. I’ve seen all the contenders and hands down the best performance I have seen was Phoenix! He had it all, depth, emotional range, and physicality, he transformed. I was blown away. that said by someone who did not like the master and is a huge DDL fan. joaquin is twice the actor cooper will ever be. Great performance should be recognised regardless of any participation in the awards networking circus. very sad state of affairs IMO

  12. Gere deserved the nom, especially from his fellow actors after doing his best work which was above the level of Cooper and Hopkins and better or at least on par with hawkes etc.
    RG was really good in Arbitrage- if I could vote I’d give it to him!

  13. As a member of this years nominating committee I can say that seeing an actor participate in a Q&A following a screening of their film was usually very enjoyable and often quite fascinating, however it had absolutely no influence on who I voted for in any way. In fact after attending as many screenings and Q&A’s as I could squeeze in while also working full time on a series, I ended up voting for only one actor I saw at a Q&A, in the supporting male category. This actor did not receive a nomination by the way. I had the good fortune to see a screening of “Django Unchained” last week and did vote for it in multiple categories, but most didn’t get to see it in time and the lack of a screener definitely hurt it. I would think by Oscar time more will have seen the film and noms will likely follow. As for Joaquin Phoenix, it was an unpleasant and muddled film with no point and watching him simply wasn’t very enjoyable in spite of his obvious gifts. Not that I really expected otherwise, but my disappointment stems from the lack of any recognition for the wonderful “Perks of Being a Wallflower” and it’s awesome young cast. Particularly the stand out performances from Ezra Miller and the surprisingly fantastic Logan Lerman. And for the commenter who seems to think the SAG nominating committee is only made up of extras with an ax to grind? I am neither a background actor nor looking to vote with some bitter agenda. I am simply a working actor who was honored to be a part of this years process and the chance to celebrate the great work of my fellow union members in 2011.

  14. I agree with Amy Adams snub being a disgrace. Anne Hathaway just completely pales in comparison to Adams. Also Joaquin Phoenix non nomination is very questionable esp since a mediocre actor like Bradley Cooper did get a nomination. I hope at least Hoffman gets an Oscar nom. All of them including The Master should get nods. I love Javier Bardem as an actor just as much as Hoffman, but Hoffman’s performance is far more superior. I don’t mind blockbuster performances being nominated but in a James Bond movie even superb actors don’t get a chance to shine at their best.
    VERY business-like nominations this year unfortunately.

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