In a typical, non-BLM year without the hovering, wrath-of-God, Cecil B. DeMille woke cloud (“Do you want to face excommunication for voting or even thinking what some of us might perceive as ‘the wrong way’?”), this year’s SAG winners would have probably tipped for The Trial of the Chicago 7 (ensemble) with the four acting winners being Carey Mulligan, Anthony Hopkins, Daniel Kaluuya and (yes) Glenn Close.
But this was the year and so last night the SAG acting awards went a different way.
SAG/AFTRA felt they had to vote virtuously this year. And was that such a bad thing? Their award picks have to be like their Instagram page. In their own way they meant well. Why did Viola “the black Meryl Streep” Davis win? I suspect that if Andra Day was a Best Actress SAG nominee she and Davis would’ve split the vote with Carey Mulligan the winner, which is what might happen at the Oscars.
Just remember who the SAG/AFTRA members are. There are 160,00 of them, first of all, and they are not, by any notion of any organizational definition, creme de la creme types…be honest. There’s a fair amount of chaff in the Academy, but SAG/AFTRA is mostly chaff.
There’s a certain elite subset of this org, I suspect, that probably wanted to vote for Day but voted for Davis because a Day vote wasn’t possible. I’m talking about name-brand actors and actresses with attuned social awareness, liberal beliefs, hefty salaries, nice homes, Instagram and Twitter accounts.
THR‘s Scott Feinberg: “SAG Award winners are chosen by the entire membership of SAG-AFTRA, the world’s largest union of actors, comprised of about 160,000 members. Academy Award winners are chosen by the entirety of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, an organization of 9,395 people from every facet of the film industry, 14 percent of whom are actors and, in most cases, presumably belong to SAG-AFTRA. So yes, there is some overlap.”
There was definitely a let’s-give-it-to-the-POCs vibe last night. And yet, when it came time to award Best Ensemble — the SAG equivalent of Best Picture — they gave it to the white, mostly Jewish guy movie! So odd. Can’t make sense of that.
In SAG’s Best Actress lineup, there was only one black actress or even actress of color in the lineup. That was an easy call for a group and an industry and a community for an entire year top to bottom prioritizing actors of color and women.
For ensemble it was tougher because there was one white-guy movie and then four movies with casts of color. So figuring out which one to vote for was harder and likely those votes split up. Ma Rainey split with Minari, probably, handing the win to Chicago 7.
A friend claims that that Viola Davis WAS favored to win early on. (I don’t recall that but whatever.) And then Mulligan came along and then Andra Day arrived and then things shifted.
But the inconsistency of it is kind of funny. The way it plays — four neat POC acting winners like woke ducks in a row and yet Best Ensemble goes to the all-white-guy movie — it just shores up the perception that the votes in the acting categories were not sincere.
Every performer nominated was good (even Davis, in her over-the-top and out-of-period “I’m gonna tear whitey a new one!” way, which all you have to do is look at six photographs of the real Ma Rainey to see was probably totally historically inaccurate). But this just has the total ring of “Look how hard we’re trying.”
Knowing Carey Mulligan as I do (or used to), I know she’s not having a Mommie Dearest fit at home this morning, sticking pins in voodoo dolls of Viola Davis and Andra Day. But in her heart of hearts, she’s probably thinking such thoughts. She’s only human.
Yes, at the end of the day Nomadland will probably win the Best Picture Oscar. Chloe Zhao‘s magic-hour film is almost the definition of a reasonably artistic but inoffensive feel-good empowering Oscar movie. And it has the POC thing going for it as well. In this year of anti-Asian hate crimes, the fact that Nomadland would be the second Best Picture winner in a row to be directed by an Asian filmmaker…oh, sorry! I shouldn’t have said that!
Will Day and Davis will really split the “Look at me! I love POCs!” vote. Once you have Day in the category, since both performances are about historical figures who sang, Day’s performance is so obviously greater in every way that who in their right mind would vote for Davis?