Wednesday morning’s Screen Actors Guild nominations were packed with surprises. SAG recognition will add momentum to certain frontrunners, like Leonardo DiCaprio (“The Revenant”), Michael Fassbender (“Steve Jobs), Brie Larson (“Room”) and Saoirse Ronan (“Brooklyn”), but several other films will have to wait for other awards groups to support their Oscar bids.
While the SAG nominating committee, which changes every year, often tends to be a tad more mainstream than the Oscars, this year they went defiantly indie, showing the impact that targeted early campaigning can have. They also clearly appreciate intense drama over comedy, as Michael Shannon and Sarah Silverman both scored upset nominations for Broad Green indie dramas “99 Homes” and “I Smile Back,” respectively. And they made a strong statement for diversity, awarding both Netflix’s “Beasts of No Nation” and Universal hip-hop biopic “Straight Outta Compton” coveted Best Ensemble slots.
Dame Helen Mirren also had a very good day, scoring a surprise Best Actress nomination for The Weinstein Co.’s early-year hit “Woman in Gold” as well as a supporting nod for new indie Bleecker Street’s “Trumbo,” in which she plays venal anti-Communist crusader Hedda Hopper. Her “Trumbo” co-star Bryan Cranston (“Breaking Bad”), who is hugely popular with SAG, also scored a Best Actor nomination, and the film about the Hollywood blacklist landed in Best Ensemble, thus leading the SAG film nominations with three.
Upstart Netflix picked up “Beasts of No Nation” for $12 million and now looks to have an awards contender, even though the film stumbled in theaters without much marketing support. The film also landed a Supporting Actor nomination for Idris Elba. (Look at the total of TV and film nods and Netflix led the industry field with ten.) Another indie, A24’s “Room,” picked up a supporting actor nod for young actor Jacob Tremblay in addition to Larson. But the film received no ensemble love, and supporting actress candidate Joan Allen was overlooked.
Also missing an ensemble mention were Todd Haynes’ “Carol,” which landed nods for both Best Actress Cate Blanchett and Rooney Mara in supporting; Steven Spielberg’s “Bridge of Spies,” whose Mark Rylance landed a supporting slot (as well as a nomination for PBS miniseries “Wolf Hall”); and “The Martian,” which saw no love at all, not even for Matt Damon, who may have made his affable Jimmy Stewart-style role as an astronaut stranded on Mars in Ridley Scott’s box office behemoth look too easy.
Best Actor nominees DiCaprio, Cranston, Fassbender, Eddie Redmayne (“The Danish Girl”) and Johnny Depp (“Black Mass”) now move forward into Oscar contention with wind in their sails.
Three year-end films were affected by the early SAG deadline (ballots were due Monday December 7). Screeners for David O. Russell’s “Joy” and Alejandro Gonzales Inarritu’s “The Revenant” did go out to the nominating committee, but late, while Quentin Tarantino’s “The Hateful Eight” screeners were not ready in time. The Weinstein Co. mounted an intense last-ditch weekend of SAG screenings and Q & As, which they email blasted. The screeners will eventually go to Academy voters. This happens every year with such films as Tarantino’s “Django Unchained” and DiCaprio vehicle “Wolf of Wall Street,” which eventually landed Oscar nominations.
Interestingly, even though Fox sent out late SAG screeners for “The Revenant,” the committee nonetheless accorded DiCaprio a nod. The movie was screened frequently, and earlier than “The Hateful Eight” or “Joy,” which saw no SAG love. Squeezing into Best Ensemble was Paramount’s financial expose “The Big Short,” with Christian Bale landing a supporting nod. Ensemble nominees get a huge boost in Oscar viability.
So this year, clearly, there will be some changes among Oscar nominees from SAG—Academy voters always bring some classy additions to the mix—but the winners are usually closely matched. The SAG Ensemble award, especially, often presages the eventual Oscar Best Picture winner. SAG ensemble nominee “Spotlight” is expected to win that one on SAG Awards night January 30, 2016, even though only Rachel McAdams landed a supporting nom from the sprawling cast—presumably stars Michael Keaton and Mark Ruffalo not only stole votes from each other but suffered some category splitting between Best Actor and Supporting.
Actors who land noms from SAG alone are more likely to land an Oscar nod than from the Golden Globes alone. Land both groups, and you have better odds of landing an Oscar slot. Those who get neither reduce their chances (more details here).
Among those left out of SAG consideration were veterans Sylvester Stallone (“Creed”), Charlotte Rampling (“45 Years”), Maggie Smith (“The Lady in the Van”), Michael Caine, Jane Fonda and Rachel Weisz (“Youth”) and Ian McKellen (“Mr. Holmes”), who all have better shots with the Academy. Likely settling for a Golden Globe comedy nod (the announcement is Thursday) is comedienne Lily Tomlin (“Grandma”). Also with an Oscar advantage are late-breaking critics’ faves Paul Dano (Roadside Attractions’ “Love & Mercy”) and Kristen Stewart (“Clouds of Sils Maria”), who had no IFC awards campaign but will now get one.
“The Big Short”
Johnny Depp “Black Mass”
Leonardo DiCaprio “The Revenant”
Brie Larson “Room”
Saoirse Ronan “Brooklyn”
Idris Elba “Beasts of No Nation”
Rooney Mara “Carol”
Kate Winslet “Steve Jobs”