The 19th Annual SAG Award nominations were announced on Wednesday, bringing quite a few surprises to the film race. “Lincoln,” “Les Misérables,” and “Silver Linings Playbook” led the way with four nominations each, decided on by a select committee of approximately 2,000 SAG actors. The first of the guild awards to be announced, the SAG Awards are generally considered a precursor to the Academy Award nominations. However, this year there is likely to be less crossover than usual between the two, due to some last-minute entries and the fact “Beasts of the Southern Wild” was deemed ineligible for SAG consideration.
The biggest shock had to be the inclusion of Nicole Kidman for supporting actress for the critically reviled “The Paperboy.” Painted up with an orange-hued spray tan to play an lusty sexpot, Kidman’s performance in Lee Daniels’ film might be most memorable for a scene where she urinates on Zac Efron. Still, she managed to edge out Amy Adams of “The Master,” who was considered a lock. More bad news for “The Master,” Joaquin Phoenix failed to earn a best actor nod, despite critical accolades. His omission made room for Bradley Cooper of “Silver Linings Playbook” or Hugh Jackman for “Les Misérables,” depending on who you ask. While many people will attribute Phoenix’s lack of recognition to his recent bad-mouthing of Oscar campaigning, I suspect it’s simpler than that. Despite all the critical raves, audiences failed to connect with Paul Thomas Anderson’s beautiful but cold film. Still, Phillip Seymour Hoffman edged into the less competitive supporting actor race with a nod—even though it’s really a lead performance.
Also surprising was the strong showing of “The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel,” edging into the ensemble race over films like “Zero Dark Thirty,” “Moonrise Kingdom,” and “Django Unchained.” In addition, Maggie Smith was recognized in the supporting actress category. While I’m not surprised by the love for a cast made up of beloved character faces—Smith, Bill Nighy, Judi Dench, Tom Wilkinson—I think this speaks more to the fact that “Zero Dark Thirty” and “Django Unchained” entered into the race too late for many people to see in time. “Django” was the last film to start screening, and the omission of Leonardo DiCaprio in the supporting actor race seems peculiar. Or it’s possible he split votes with the other standouts in the film, Christoph Waltz and Samuel L. Jackson. But I suspect it was due to the fact screeners weren’t made available to SAG nominating committee members in time. Same thing with “Zero Dark Thirty,” though lead actress Jessica Chastain did snag a nod. But she could have been a given, considering all the critics awards she’s been landing lately and the fact that actors already adore her. Or, its possible “Zero Dark Thirty” is seen more as a one-woman show, not an ensemble film.
On the pleasant surprises side, the inclusion of Naomi Watts as a mother caught in the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami was a good sign for the excellent "The Impossible," which has flown under the radar thus far. And Javier Bardem inclusion in the supporting actor race for his villain in “Skyfall” was a nice boost. Neither is a lock for an Oscar nomination, but this recognition helps. Still, their inclusion made way for perhaps the two biggest disappointments—Emmanuelle Riva of “Amour” and Matthew McConaughey of “Magic Mike.” While critics love Riva, her portrayal of an elderly woman going through dementia is a difficult watch, and it’s likely many voters avoided the film, which made room for Watts and Helen Mirren of “Hitchcock.” And McConaughey might be seen as too lightweight amongst his competition. Still, both are firmly in the Oscar race.
Which brings up the question as to how much the SAG Awards will affect the Oscars. Though there is generally strong crossover, this is likely to be the year with the least amount of matching up. I don’t expect Kidman’s nod to translate to an Oscar nomination, and “The Master” actors are still very much in the race, particularly Adams. “Django” is still a strong player; DiCaprio could easily earn a nomination, but rumor has it he won’t be doing much press or campaigning. With a last-minute rally from critics, don't count out Ann Dowd of "Compliance," either. Also likely to factor into Oscar consideration is "Beasts of the Southern Wild" actors Quvenzhané Wallis and Dwight Henry.
As for the ensemble category, it’s important to remember that despite what people say, ensemble does not translate to best picture. Look at last year, when “The Help” bested “The Artist.” Which means “Zero Dark Thirty” is still very much in the best picture race. Also, just because a film doesn't have a strong showing in the acting categories doesn't mean it's out of the running, such as Ang Lee's "Life of Pi" and "Moonrise Kingdom."
Full list of nominees here.