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Five Things I Learned from the SAG Nominations

Five Things I Learned from the SAG Nominations

Thompson on Hollywood

The Screen Actors Guild Award nominations are more revealing in many ways than the much-touted Golden Globes, because they reveal how the actors think. That’s important because the actors branch of the Academy is by far the most dominant, some 1200 votes out of 6000. Thus you can glean from the nominations below several things:

1. The actors love Up in the Air, Inglourious Basterds and Precious, which earned three nominations each, but Up in the Air was scratched from the outstanding performance by a cast category, the actors’ equivalent of the best picture category. The other winners were An Education, Nine and The Hurt Locker.

2. The Hurt Locker is a leading awards contender: its star Jeremy Renner grabbed the fifth best actor slot.

3. SAG best actress nominee Sandra Bullock could land an Oscar nom for The Blind Side. It’s classic: a popular brunette comedienne goes blonde to play a character role in a hit drama.

4. The SAG supporting actors mirror the Golden Globes, but I’m not positive InvictusMatt Damon will grab a nom on Oscar noms morning (he doesn’t have much to do in the movie). Plummer is in for The Last Station, Harrelson for The Messenger, Tucci for The Lovely Bones, Waltz for Inglourious Basterds. I still think momentum will pick up for It’s Complicated’s Alec Baldwin.

5. Harvey Weinstein is a mighty campaigner. Don’t look for Diane Kruger to grab a supporting actress Oscar nom. But her inclusion (at the expense of A Single Man‘s Julianne Moore) means Inglourious Basterds is very popular.

No one ever expected James Cameron’s Avatar to be an actors’ picture. (Neither was The Lord of the Rings trilogy.) As we head toward Oscar nominations, Avatar and The Hurt Locker are duking it out for best picture and director.

Outstanding Performance by a Cast in a Motion Picture

“An Education”

“The Hurt Locker
“Inglourious Basterds”



Outstanding Performance by a Male Actor in a Leading Role

Jeff Bridges, “Crazy Heart”

George Clooney, “Up In The Air”

Colin Firth, “A Single Man”

Morgan Freeman, “Invictus”

Jeremy Renner, “The Hurt Locker”

Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Leading Role

Sandra Bullock, “The Blind Side”

Helen Mirren, “The Last Station”

Carey Mulligan, “An Education”

Gabourey Sidibe,“Precious”

Meryl Streep, “Julie & Julia”

Outstanding Performance by a Male Actor in a Supporting Role

Matt Damon,  “Invictus”

Woody Harrelson, “The Messenger”

Christopher Plummer, “The Last Station”

Stanley Tucci, “The Lovely Bones”

Christoph Waltz, “Inglourious Basterds”

Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Supporting Role

Penelope Cruz, “Nine”

Vera Farmiga, “Up In The Air”

Anna Kendrick, “Up In The Air”

Diane Kruger, “Inglourious Basterds”

Mo’Nique, “Precious”

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What is it with SAG (and usually the Emmys) where virtually all of the actors nominated in the TV movie or Mini-series category are Feature Film stars (this year it was all 10 male and female)? What? Are actors who work primarily in TV not worthy? Are we all supposed to stand in awe because some big movie star came off their pedestal and slummed on TV?


These are mostly very good, although it’s so disappointing that Julianne Moore, Marion Cotillard, Christian McKay and the “Up in the Air” ensemble cast were shut out. And I still held out hope that Michael Stuhlbarg, Peter Sarsgaard and/or Michael Fassbender might be nominated, if for no other reason than because I found those performances so fascinating.

Anne Thompson

Thanks for the reminder on the SAG LOTR noms for best cast. I was referring to Oscar noms on The Lord of the Rings, which were not heavy with actors, except for McKellan. Clearly many actors liked the films or they would never have landed best picture nominations. TLOR is a similar case to Avatar–unlikely that Worthington, Saldana, Lang or Weaver will get nominations, but that won’t stop the movie from getting to the top of the top ten pile.


A couple of things-

A) The Guild would likely disagree with your assessment of the “Lord of the Rings” films as “not actor’s movies,” seeing as all three installments received Best Cast nominations (with the final film winning) and Ian McKellen earned a supporting actor nomination for the first picture (mirrored at the Oscars.)

B) A case might be made that Weinstein’s campaigning skills have become a bit self-defeating, seeing as “A Single Man” is also from his stable, if indeed Kruger’s nom is to blame for Moore’s exclusion. In 2002, Harvey W., despite some of the most robust personal tubthumping in recent years for Martin (“Gangs of New York”) Scorsese, did mange to also snare an Oscar nom – and even a DGA win – for “Chicago’s” Rob Marshall.


I think you are right that Avatar and Hurt Locker are at a numbers disadvantage. Cameron because he has animated characters and Hurt Locker because it only has largely male roles. Hurt Locker also has the documentary vibe, in which case many of its crafts are seemingly “invisible” such as the art direction and music. They aren’t supposed to get noticed, but to blend so as not to distract. So some other films might win the numbers game in nominations, but might not take home the final prize. Does anybody believe either of the actresses in Up in the Air will win over Meryl Streep or the actresses of Precious? Does anybody believe that Reitman has a real chance against a weight war film or an FX extravaganza that must have been hard to make, or Bigelow’s full sweep of every critics directing award? Interesting year in film, that’s for sure…


It’s too easy to say that the SAG Ensemble category is basically their “Best Picture” category. It’s just an acting category. A critics group that awards Star Trek or Precious its Ensemble award isn’t saying that’s their best film of the year. When SAG gave the award to The Birdcage in 1996 it certainly wasn’t calling The Birdcage the best film of the year.

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