Wednesday, December 9, 2015

SAG Award Nominations 2015: What Do They Mean For The Oscars?

SAG Award nominations were announced this morning. These are a big one—many actors like these awards because they’re voted on by their peers, so that carries a bit of clout. And also they tend to have some overlap with the Oscars—last year, 17 out of the 20 acting nominees were the same for the SAG Awards and for the Oscars. This year it’s a bit of a weird lineup—with lots of surprises. Here’s what you should take away.

Notable absences: Creed, The Martian, The Hateful Eight, and Joy all have hopes for Oscar glory but failed to receive any nominations whatsoever. The absence of a nomination for star Jennifer Lawrence is probably the biggest snub here, and combined with its lukewarm critical reception has probably put Joy out of the running for Oscars entirely (Joy is a flawed film, but I seem to have liked it more than most, and thought Lawrence did strong work). Creed has always been a bit of an underdog, and still has time to pick up momentum and perform stronger at the Oscars, but a supporting actor nomination for Sylvester Stallone would have given it a nice boost. The Hateful Eight’s snub is not as big of a surprise—much like Selma last year, the nominating committee was not sent screeners and so many who might have voted for it didn’t have a chance to see it before casting their ballots. So its absence doesn’t mean it won’t be recognized by the Academy (with Jennifer Jason Leigh especially seeming like a sure bet) but it still means they didn’t get a chance to capitalize on the SAG Awards and build momentum. The biggest snub for sure is for The Martian—a huge crowd pleaser and a strong bet for a Best Picture nomination at The Oscars, many thought that The Martian would pick up nominations for Best Cast and for its star Matt Damon. Another notable absence is the Brian Wilson biopic Love & Mercy. After a fairly quiet release earlier this year, the film has been picking up steam lately for the performances of Paul Dano and Elizabeth Banks. Both failed to score nominations, however, which might stall their momentum, especially as this is a fairly small and non-flashy film.

Two other films that didn’t perform as well as expected were Spotlight, The Revenant, and Steve Jobs. Both, on the surface, did fairly well and did pick up multiple nominations, but were probably hoping for more. Spotlight got a nomination for Best Cast, and is the frontrunner to win that award by far (especially with some upsets amongst the other nominees). But its only other nomination was for Rachel McAdams for her supporting work. Many had seen Michael Keaton and Mark Ruffalo as frontrunners in the supporting actor category—the fact that neither got nominations confirms what supporters of the film had feared: that Keaton, Ruffalo, and the other strong supporting actors in that film might have canceled each other out. And this might happen when the Oscars roll around. Steve Jobs, meanwhile, scored nominations for Michael Fassbender and Kate Winslet, but didn’t score a Best Cast nomination. At one point this film was seen as a Best Picture frontrunner, but those odds have been slipping pretty drastically. Everyone agrees the ensemble work is good, so its best chance at building momentum for its Oscar campaign was a Best Cast nomination. Its failure to pick up a nomination in that category doesn’t bode well. The Revenant was probably the biggest disappointment. While the nomination for Leonardo DiCaprio was expected, many foresaw nominations for Tom Hardy and certainly for Best Cast. Its failure to score a Best Cast nomination might signal that it isn’t the Best Picture frontrunner many believed. I must say that, after seeing the film, I don’t see how it will win Best Picture—it’s well-made but it’s going to turn a lot of viewers off. Its lack of a Best Cast nomination proves this.

The biggest surprises: Easily the biggest shock was for Sarah Silverman’s dramatic turn in I Smile Back, a movie that hasn’t been on anyone’s radar. And while Silverman’s performance has had good reviews, they haven’t been spectacular enough that people thought she might pull an upset. Also surprising are the not one but two nominations for Helen Mirren. Look, we all know Helen Mirren is talented, and she always does good work. But Woman in Gold is fairly standard for Mirren and, her work in Trumbo is strong but far from extraordinary. It seems like she was nominated based on her career as a whole rather than these particular performances. But these nominations might be a good sign for her—her nominations this year are reminiscent of Robert Duvall’s nomination last year for The Judge. His SAG nomination last year made everyone go “huh?” but translated to an Oscar nomination—Mirren might be able to do the same thing. Although it’s worth noting that Elizabeth Banks, who will most likely be submitted as a supporting actress at the Oscars, was bizarrely submitted as a leading actress for the SAG nominating committee, so Banks might be able to knock Mirren out. I’m personally kind of angry about the two nominations for The Big Short which earned nominations for Best Cast and for Christian Bale. I’ll talk more about Best Cast later, but I will say that I really disliked this movie. And while everyone in the cast at least does good work—and I did think Bale gave the standout performance—it’s not what I would consider awards-worthy work by any means. For a far better film about the housing crisis, I’d recommend 99 Homes, which also scored a surprise nomination for Michael Shannon’s performance. Of all the surprising nominations, this one is my favorite. The film has been largely ignored, but Shannon’s portrayal of a sleazy real estate magnate is chilling and pure evil—the best villain of the year and one of the strongest performances of the year for sure. Hopefully this nomination will give Shannon a boost and might transfer to an Oscar nomination—considering how up in the air the supporting actor category is, it’s really anyone’s game (although Mark Rylance remains the frontrunner to win for Bridge of Spies).

Best Cast Category Weirdness: But while the individual acting nominations contained many surprises, the weirdest category for sure was Best Cast.  Since 2010, 20 out of 25 Best Cast nominees at the SAG awards going on to be nominated for Best Picture at the Oscars. Many think that Birdman’s Best Cast win was the first major indicator that it would win Best Picture last year. So, many thought this year’s Best Cast lineup would be filled with Best Picture frontrunners like Spotlight, The Revenant, Brooklyn, Room, The Martian, and Steve Jobs. But of those, only Spotlight was able to score the nomination. The other four were huge upsets: Trumbo, The Big Short, Beasts of No Nation, and Straight Outta Compton. Some of these had some Best Picture murmurings, but most were seen as longshots or wild cards. Of these four, the nominations for Trumbo and Beasts of No Nation are probably helped the most and now have improved chances to score Best Picture nominations. The Big Short’s nomination is probably due to it being a true ensemble film—with probably the highest speaking role-to-movie ratio this year. I don’t see this nomination transferring to Oscar recognition, but this may be because I don’t like the movie at all—I think it’s a bit of a muddled mess with a very inconsistent and regularly misguided tone. The biggest surprise is definitely Straight Outta Compton. It’s worth noting that, thanks to the cast nominations for Compton and Beasts of No Nation, this is one of the most diverse batch of nominations that the SAG Awards have ever had, which is great! But I still don’t see the Academy recognizing Straight Outta Compton­—it’s just not the type of film they tend to recognize. But its nomination here has made it more a part of the conversation than it would have been otherwise.

The TV Side of Things: Oh yeah and there were also nominations for television. The TV part of the SAG Awards is not nearly as much of a precursor for the Emmys as the film ones are for the Oscars, so I find them a bit less interesting. They also weren’t all that surprising—with all the nominations being pretty much par for the course. The only big surprise was Rami Malek for Mr. Robot, but I’ve heard he’s great so it doesn’t seem like a surprise that anyone will be unhappy with.  The only snub I’m upset about is the lack of nominations for Fargo. I mean, come on, that show is incredible.

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