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7 Surprises From This Morning’s SAG Award Nominations

7 Surprises From This Morning's SAG Award Nominations

The SAG Awards announced its annual nominations this morning, and they definitely offered a few unexpected shakeups to the overall awards race. You can read our take on television side of things here, but as far as the film races go, “Birdman,” “Boyhood” and “The Imitation Game” solidified their statuses as frontrunners with three nominations apiece (including Best Ensemble Cast).

But there were a few major surprises too — and if the Golden Globes second those votes tomorrow morning, it could make the road to Oscar either a lot harder or a lot easier for some of the other contenders. Of course, it’s worth keeping in mind that last year, six of the 20 nominees in SAG’s film acting categories didn’t make Oscar’s cut (Tom Hanks, Forest Whitaker, Emma Thompson, Daniel Bruhl, James Gandolfini and Oprah Winfrey). In any case, the first industry group has offered its take on the season, and here’s how it shook down:

Jennifer Aniston.

The fifth slot in the Best Actress race has been one of this awards season’s biggest question marks, and SAG gave Aniston a huge boost by putting her in a group alongside guaranteed Oscar nominees Julianne Moore, Reese Witherspoon, Rosamund Pike and Felicity Jones. If the Globes do the same thing tomorrow (which we suspect they will), Aniston’s Oscar heat is going to pick up speed.

“Selma” and “Unbroken” shut out.

Two films may or may not have been hurt by the fact that they screened so late: Ava DuVernay’s “Selma” and Angelina Jolie’s “Unbroken” received a grand total of zero nominations this morning, which is not so much a big deal for the latter (it hasn’t received much buzz in the acting races), but definitely hurts the former. The ensemble cast — lead actor David Oyelowo and, to a lesser extent, supporting actor Tom Wilkinson — seemed like good bets. But then again, Paramount wasn’t able to send screeners for the film and voters had to judge it based on a handful of screenings. That’s exactly what happened when another Paramount film, “The Wolf of Wall Street,” opened late last year. And that film went onto get loads of Oscar nominations, so this outcome might not actually mean anything other than voters didn’t see it — yet.

Naomi Watts gets in for “St. Vincent.”

Other than perhaps Aniston, the acting nomination most pundits didn’t see coming was Naomi Watts for “St. Vincent.” Her role as a pregnant Russian stripper in the Bill Murray-led box office hit was on very few prognosticators’ lists for Best Supporting Actress, but SAG has definitely changed that by giving her a nomination today. Watts (who also got a nomination for being part of the Ensemble Cast for “Birdman”) is still on very shaky ground when it comes to getting a third Oscar nomination, but this is definitely one of the most interesting (and refreshing) nominations this morning.

No Jessica Chastain or Laura Dern.

Watts knocked out two women who were on many prognosticators’ lists: Jessica Chastain for “A Most Violent Year” and Laura Dern for “Wild.” Both of them now really need Golden Globe nominations tomorrow. Last year, only one actor — Jonah Hill — got an Oscar nod without a SAG or Globe mention before it. That’s obviously not a set-in-stone rule, but the odds will definitely be against Chastain or Dern if the HFPA don’t go for them.

The ensemble nomination for “The Grand Budapest Hotel.”

It shouldn’t be much of a surprise given how epic an ensemble it is (there are a whopping 11 Oscar nominees in its cast — and they are all great), but it was definitely no sure thing that Wes Anderson’s “The Grand Budapest Hotel” would make the Best Cast cut with SAG. “Into The Woods” or “Foxcatcher” (not to mention “Selma” and “Unbroken”) seemed more likely, but SAG went with “Budapest Hotel” in perhaps the most inspired move of the morning. It’s the first SAG nomination ever for a Wes Anderson film, and gives Edward Norton the biggest haul of the morning (he also got nods for his performance in “Birdman” and for being part of the cast of that film).

Jake Gyllenhaal makes the cut for “Nightcrawler.”

This wasn’t entirely shocking, but Jake Gyllenhaal’s Best Actor nomination for Dan Gilroy’s “Nightcrawler” is a big vote of confidence in an incredibly crowded race. Had more voters seen “Selma,” it’s easy to imagine Jake would have been the one to sit things out for David Oyelowo. But maybe not. If he’s a Globe nominee tomorrow, you can officially watch out for Jake.

The extreme lack of diversity.

Unfortunately, it wasn’t surprising (at least if one assumed “Selma” would get shut out) that the SAG nominations were really, really white and male. Every single nominated film was directed by a white man, and every single acting nominee (on the film side) was also white. Let’s hope this is one area where the Golden Globes and Oscars don’t follow suit.

Peter Knegt is Indiewire’s Contributing Editor and awards columnist. Follow him on Twitter.

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