As the largest voting bloc within the Motion Picture Academy, members of the Screen Actors Guild have a big influence upon the Oscar race. It is generally presumed, therefore, that nominees for SAG’s Motion Picture Ensemble Award (i.e., “Outstanding Performance by a Cast in a Motion Picture”), which were announced this morning along with other nominees, are indicators of significant strength in the Best Picture competition.
And so today’s Ensemble Award nominees — The Big Sick, Get Out, Lady Bird, Mudbound and Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri — are sitting pretty. It also means that six other leading Best Picture contenders that weren’t nominated — The Post, Call Me By Your Name, The Shape of Water, The Florida Project, Darkest Hour and Phantom Thread — might have something to worry about.
And I mean especially The Post. This morning’s SAG nominations were like an impact grenade upon that Steven Spielberg film. Smoke, chunks of plaster on the floor, ringing in the ears.
No significant support for a tale of 1970s journalists in Nixon-era Washington, D.C. — too long ago, right? No love or allowances for the exquisite acting delivered by some fine, laid-back people in the sunny, far-away Lombardy region of Italy in the early ’80s. Not enough interest in Londoners facing the threat of Nazi Germany in mid 1940, No particular affection for struggling underclass types in an Orlando hotel. No particular affection for neurotic fashion-world elites in mid ’50s England.
Four of the five ensemble nominees are small-town American stories, self-enclosed and unto themselves, suburban or rural-ish. The only cosmopolitan big-city flick is The Big Sick.
Was identity politics a factor in the decent-but-no-great-shakes Mudbound and the horror genre comedy Get Out making the cut? Of course not. They were selected by merit and merit alone.
SAG nominees for Best Actor: Timothee Chalamet (Call Me by Your Name), James Franco (The Disaster Artist), Daniel Kaluuya (Get Out), Gary Oldman (Darkest Hour), Denzel Washington (Roman J. Israel, Esq.). Likeliest winners: Oldman or Chalamet.
HE comment: Kaluuya? For playing cool, anxious and freaked in a horror comedy? SAG members honestly believe that Kaluuya’s performance was craftier and more planted or affecting than The Post‘s Tom Hanks, Stronger‘s Jake Gyllenhaal and Phantom Thread‘s Daniel Day Lewis? They really think that, or they want to think that? C’mon! SAG nominees for Best Actress: Judi Dench, Victoria & Abdul, Sally Hawkins (The Shape of Water), Frances McDormand (Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri), Margot Robbie (I, Tonya), Saoirse Ronan (Lady Bird). Likeliest winner: Ronan or…?
HE comment: The absence of Meryl Streep, despite having given an expert emotional performance as Katharine Graham in The Post, suggests that Streep fatigue has really and truly settled in among SAG members. Jessica Chastain‘s brittle performance in Aaron Sorkin‘s Molly’s Game didn’t make the cut, but I never thought it would. Idris Elba‘s third-act speech aside, Molly’s Game is a chilly, largely unpleasant thing to sit through.
SAG nominees for Best Supporting Actor: Steve Carell (Battle of the Sexes), Willem Dafoe (The Florida Project), Woody Harrelson (Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri), Richard Jenkins (The Shape of Water), Sam Rockwell (Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri).
HE comment: The Carell nomination has no traction. Harrelson is fine in Three Billboards but he’s not happening. Neither is Jenkins. This is between Dafoe and Rockwell.
SAG nominees for Best Supporting Actress: Mary J. Blige (Mudbound), Hong Chau (Downsizing), Holly Hunter (The Big Sick), Allison Janney (I, Tonya), Laurie Metcalf (Lady Bird).
HE comment: Metcalf or Janney.
There was once a vague intelligence and refinement factor that emanated from this group, but the whole brand has gone downhill to some extent since the SAG-AFTRA merger of 2012.