Wednesday, December 14, 2011

2011 SAG Nominees

I've more or less avoided commenting on the 2011-12 Awards Season so far, due to a number of factors. However, with this morning's unveiling of the Screen Actors Guild nominees and tomorrow's Golden Globe nominee announcement, I figured it was time to put in my 2 cents on the state of the race so far.

For a full list of the SAG nominees, click HERE.


Starting with Best Ensemble (the closest thing SAG has to a Best Picture award, even though it really isn't, and shouldn't be voted on as such), we've got a mix of the predictable and the surprising. For all of the awards love that I'm expecting The Artist to receive over the next few months, it never seemed like an ensemble piece. Dujardin and Bejo (both nominated) seemed like the only major players in the modern-day silent film. Clearly, SAG thought differently. Other mentions, however, like The Descendants, Midnight in Paris, and The Help seem rather obvious. And then (thankfully) there's Bridesmaids, which could prove to be the awards season party-crasher in a year where (FINALLY) nothing/no one seems like a "lock" to win. Remember last year when almost every critics group gave Best Actress to Natalie Portman? Yeah, not happening this year. We finally have a really interesting awards race, and Bridesmaids' pitch-perfect female ensemble is just icing on the cake. By the time the stardust has cleared and the champagne has stopped flowing at the end of February, I'm sure that more tradtional, "Oscar bait" films (War Horse) will have made there mark, but if ever there was a year for things to get crazy, this is it.

Next we go to Male Actor in a Leading Role and Female Actor in a Leading Role. Though response to J. Edgar has been pretty muted, I guess I shouldn't be that surprised that DiCaprio made it in here. SAG does love to reward actors in Eastwood films (part of me thought they might toss a nod to Judi Dench, who was, admittedly, the best thing about J. Edgar). At the same time, you'd think that a branch full of actors might have noticed the "we did it in one take!" nature of DiCaprio's performance (it shows). Then there's Demian Bichir for A Better Life, and I have to confess, I have no idea where this came from. If there was going to be a "surprise" here, I thought it would be Shame's Michael Fassbender or even Take Shelter's Michael Shannon (both wrongfully snubbed). "But where the hell are Fassbender and Shannon!?" - George Clooney, demanding answers.

Other than DiCaprio and Bichir, though, the male lineup is filled out by our three presumed front-runners: Dujardin, George Clooney (The Descendants), and Brad Pitt (Moneyball). I haven't been able to see The Artist, but between Clooney and Pitt, I hope this one goes to the former. As much as I like Pitt as an actor, he keeps getting recognized for his weaker performances (though Moneyball is a much better performance than Benjamin Button). And as for Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy's Gary Oldman, well, better luck next time. "We're not so very different, you and I. We're both searching for a GODDAMN OSCAR!!!"

Much more interesting, however, is how the leading ladies are shaping up. It's an unusually contentious year, with veterans (Streep, Close) and newcomers (Elizabeth Olsen, snubbed) fighting it out for five spots. Michelle Williams, who has picked up two critics awards thus far, is starting to become more of a threat than I thought she would be. Then there's Tilda Swinton, who finally seems to be on her way to a second Oscar nomination. "Wait...I actually got in? Wha..."

The film may have barely any exposure (as of now, it's not scheduled to open anywhere in the US outside of New York and L.A., which seems ridiculous), but that doesn't have an bearing on awards bodies. With back-to-back snubs (09's Julia and 10's I am Love), Swinton's passionate fan base has finally expanded, and the build-up could be enough to push her through to second Oscar nomination (about time). Then there's the above-mentioned Olsen, along with Charlize Theron, who still stand as potential threats.

As far as the supporting categories go, the women seem to be taking shape, while the men seems as all-over-the-place as ever. Berenice Bejo, previously thought to be gone, has finally come back. More predictable are The Help's Octavia Spencer and Jessica Chastain (at which point I'll assume that this is the performance she'll be primarily rewarded for in the future). "White people, man. White people..." - Octavia Spencer.

Melissa McCarthy from Bridesmaids is a nice surprise, and it's good to see that the handful of critics awards she's picked up haven't been for nothing. All the same, it's too bad that co-star Kristen Wiig has been so thoroughly ignored. Hopefully the Globes will change that tomorrow morning. Finally, there's Janet McTeer from Albert Nobbs, who's been earning some of the film's strongest reviews. On the other hand, this looks like the end of the road for Coriolanus' Vanessa Redgrave.

As for the men, the category has some mild front-runners, but the other slots have always seemed like question marks. Beginners' Christopher Plummer could very well take this, although SAG might fall in love with Branagh's interpretation of Laurence Olivier. Nick Nolte (Warrior) was once brought up as a possibility, but the film's failure at the box office seemed to be the end of him until now. As far as Jonah Hill and Armie Hammer are concerned, though, they probably ought to be happy that they made it in here at all.


I won't cover this as extensively, but there's a few things that need to be said. I've come to expect Community being snubbed, but where on earth is Parks and Recreation in the comedy categories? "This is LITERALLY the most disappointing snub of the year."

That cast should be filling out any number of slots, especially Amy Poehler, Rob Lowe, Nick Offerman, and Adam Scott. Jumping over to drama, an even bigger issue: how on earth did SAG pass up Showtime's outstanding Homeland, far and away the best new show of the year? At the very least, you'd think they could throw Claire Danes and Damian Lewis nominations (the former of whom was absolutely incredible in the season's penultimate episode). Unless the show was (for whatever reason) ineligible, this borders on inexcusable, especially considering the fact that Dexter managed to make it in. Yes, season 6 is a step up from whatever the hell season 5 was, but there's a limit. Claire Danes after seeing that Dexter made it in over Homeland.

Another bone to pick with SAG, though, comes down to the structure of the awards: why on earth do the TV awards not have separate categories for lead and supporting roles? There are so many good performances on TV right now, and the current roster of categories leaves the categories prone to defaulting to lead performances (except in the comedy categories). Oh well, at the very least Breaking Bad and Game of Thrones are nominated, although Aaron Paul and Peter Dinklage have fallen victim to the limited acting categories. At least they didn't do something crazy like nominating Colin Hanks for Dexter. Yeesh. "Yo, Claire: u mad?" - Jessica Lange.

One nice surprise, however, is the inclusion of American Horror Story's Jessica Lange in drama. The role is clearly supporting, and the show is batshit-insane and messy as hell, but Lange is one of the most consistently compelling (and deliciously campy) aspects of that glorious train wreck (season 1, and Connie Britton is already about to give birth to the antichrist...seriously).

The SAG awards air on January 29th; here's hoping that the guild members at least make some inspired choices from their relatively uninspired choices.

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