The Screen Actors Guild Gets into the Game

15 Dec

Okay, well, it’s been a busy week. The Screen Actors Guild announced its nominees on Wednesday for the year’s best performances in film and television. The film nominees are as follows:

  • OUTSTANDING PERFORMANCE BY AN FEMALE ACTOR IN A LEADING ROLE
  1. Glenn Close (Albert Nobbs)
  2. Viola Davis (The Help)
  3. Meryl Streep (The Iron Lady)
  4. Tilda Swinton (We Need to Talk about Kevin)
  5. Michelle Williams (My Week with Marilyn)
  • OUTSTANDING PERFORMANCE BY A MALE  ACTOR IN A LEADING ROLE
  1. Demián Bichir (A Better Life)
  2. George Clooney (The Descendants)
  3. Leonardo DiCaprio (J. Edgar)
  4. Jean Dujardin (The Artist)
  5. Brad Pitt (Moneyball)
  • OUTSTANDING PERFORMANCE BY A FEMALE ACTOR IN A SUPPORTING ROLE
  1. Berenice Bejo (The Artist)
  2. Jessica Chastain (The Help)
  3. Melissa McCarthy (Bridesmaids)
  4. Janet McTeer (Albert Nobbs)
  5. Octavia Spencer (The Help)
  • OUTSTANDING PERFORMANCE BY A MALE ACTOR IN A SUPPORTING ROLE
  1. Kenneth Branagh (My Week with Marilyn)
  2. Armie Hammer (J. Edgar)
  3. Jonah Hill (Moneyball)
  4. Nick Nolte (Warrior)
  5. Christopher Plummer (Beginners)
  • OUTSTANDING PERFORMANCE BY A CAST IN A MOTION PICTURE
  1. The Artist
  2. Bridesmaids
  3. The Descendants
  4. The Help
  5. Midnight in Paris

Demián Bichir (l) seen here with José Julián (r) in A Better Life, is also an Independent Spirit Award nominee. In 2008, he portrayed Fidel Castro opposite Benecio Del Toro in Steve Soderbergh's Che Guevara biopic.

Well, one of the biggest surprises, possibly the biggest surprise, is the nomination for A Better Life‘s Demián Bichir–and good for him! Michael and I saw this movie over the summer, and at the time there was a lot of Oscar talk for the actor, but all that seemed to have dissipated by the fall and the arrival of the likes of The Artist, The Descendants, J.Edgar, and Moneyball. I have to say that I am thrilled. The plot of A Better Life concerns a Mexican born gardener raising his teenage son in Los Angeles. The father’s fortune briefly takes a turn for the better only to spin back the other way–only worse. The movie in many ways reminded me of Vittorio Di Sica’s classic The Bicycle Thief  (1948) although the film’s credits indicate that it is based on a short story by Roger L. Simon. Whatever. Bichir is perhaps best known in this country for his role on Showtime’s Weeds, but in Mexico he is a six time nominee for the Ariel award, that country’s Oscar equivalent; he actually won for 1994’s ‘Til Death. I’d love to see him in the upcoming Oscar race. I actually applaud the Screen Actors’ Guild for nominating Leonardo DiCaprio for the J.Edgar Hoover biopic, a case of an exceptional performance being trapped in a silly movie. Is this the lineup we should expect come Oscar time?   Gary Oldman reportedly does sublime work in Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy, but he hasn’t made much of a splash in the race just yet. We’ll know more after the movie opens wide, and it has time to generate more support. Also, Ryan Gosling still has two chances with the likes of Drive and The Ides of March. Plus, don’t forget about Shame‘s Michael Fassbender. On the other hand, since the Academy and the Screen Actors Guild draw from the same voting pool, the omissions of Oldman, Gosling, and Fassbender might be significant. I don’t like to call winners this early in the game, but I’m starting to see this as a race between Clooney and Pitt, and  right now, I think Pitt is winning thanks to the one-two punch of Moneyball and The Tree of Life. Stay tuned.

One of the year's most joyous pop culture moments was at the recent Emmy awards when Best Actress in a Comedy winner Melissa McCarthy (Mike and Molly) was joined onstage beauty pageant style by her fellow nominees, including Tina Fey and Amy Poehler, and given a tiara and a bouquet of roses as well as a trophy.

The other big surprise is the inclusion of recent Emmy winner Melissa McCarthy in the Best Supporting Actress race (or whatever SAG calls it). For my money, McCarthy was easily the best thing about Bridesmaids, and I always hoped she would score a nod of some kind though I was reluctant to give it too much thought because I thought the movie might be wwwwaaaaayyyyyyyyy too broad to be appreciated during the traditional high-tone awards season. My guess is that McCarthy’s Emmy win for Mike and Molly helped pave the way for her mention here–though it is also likely that her work in Bridesmaids prompted Emmy voters to take a second look at her TV work. I expect to see her among this week’s Golden Globe nominees–and, yes, she was also nominated for one of the Broadcast Film Critics Association’s “Critics’ Choice” awards. An Oscar nomination should follow though the competition is tough, starting with Jessica Chastain and Octavia Spencer (The Help), but there’s someone else that should not be underestimated, and that is Janet McTeer, who’s actually earning stronger reviews than her Albert Nobbs co-star (and co-producer) Glenn Close.

Speaking of Close, her campaign now officially seems back on track after being overshadowed by the likes of Meryl Streep and Tilda Swinton. Of course, most Dallasites have only had the chance to see the nominated performances of Viola Davis and Michelle Williams at this point. I’m crazy about Davis, but I was seriously underwhelmed by Williams. I generally like her as an actress, but her impersonation of screen legend Marilyn Monroe  falls flat. I didn’t buy her as Monroe for a second.  Maybe I’m in the minority–or maybe Williams is benefitting from a well-funded, non-stop campaign by the Brothers Weinstein. Well, I’ll let that go for now. I’m still hoping to be knocked out of my socks by Charlize Theron in Young Adult. At this point, there’s no reason to think Robin Wright will be remembered for her stunning work in The Conspirator.

The fanboys, the bloggers, and even Time magazine's Richard Corliss believe Andy Serkis has what it takes to earn an Oscar nod: "... a performance so nuanced and powerful, it may challenge the Academy to give an Oscar to an actor who is never seen in the film!"

The Best Supporting Actor race is still wide open. Yes, Christopher Plummer seems like a sure thing for an Oscar nod, but I still remember when he seemed like a sure thing for playing Mike Wallace in 1999’s The Insider–and that didn’t happen. I guess the truth, per one insider after another lo these many years that I have followed movie awards, is that there are always more eligible candidates for Best Supporting Actor than there are in any other acting category–and that should show you what drives this business–so it’s always a bit of a nail-biter, waiting to see who will score those coveted five slots on Oscar’s final ballot.  Midnight in Paris‘s Corey Stoll is looking more and more like a longshot, but I still think it’s too early to discount Max Von Sydow (Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close) or Albert Brooks (Drive). Last year’s “surprise” Best Supporting Actor nominee John Hawkes (Winter’s Bone) might be invited back for his turn as a charismatic, if clearly twisted/demented, cult leader in Martha Marcy May Marlene.  Meanwhile, what about Kevin Spacey and Jeremy Irons for Margin Call? Or even Spacey for his triumphant return to sleazy form in Horrible Bosses? Also, there is a concerted effort afoot to rally an Oscar nomination for Andy Serkis, per  his motion-capture work as Caesar in Rise of the Planet of the Apes. Serkis is not new to the motion-capture biz as he performed similar roles in the Lord of the Rings series as well as the 2005 King Kong remake. Getting Academy voters to play along will be a stretch. That noted, I think Armie Hammer’s nomination in this category is a tad generous, but I’ll refrain from spilling too much at this point.

Okay, well, the popular line of thinking is that the SAG award for Best Ensemble is a significant precursor to the Oscar for Best Picture. That’s frequently true, but it’s not 100%. Right off the top of my head I can list Apollo 13 (1995), The Birdcage (1996), The Full Monty (1997), Traffic (2000), Gosford Park (2001), Sideways (2004), and Little Miss Sunshine (2006) as a handful of films that topped the SAGs but did not win the Academy’s highest honor.  The Birdcage was barely even nominated for any Oscars. That noted, I feel confident that The Descendants and The Help are well on their way to Best Picture nods, and the inclusion of Midnight in Paris is a nice touch. As noted, aside from MCarthy I wasn’t a huge fan of Bridesmaids, but I adore Kristen Wiig, as well a Maya Rudolph, so I’m glad for their success. Okay, take a deep breath because the Golden Globe nominations are next.

Thanks for your consideration…

To find out more about the TV nominees, check out the official website of the Screen Actors Guild Awards:

http://www.sagawards.org/

Please click here for a complete list of nominees for the Independent Spirit Awards:

http://www.spiritawards.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/11/SA_12_nomonesheet.pdf

Demián Bichir at the Internet Movie Database:

http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0065007/

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2 Responses to “The Screen Actors Guild Gets into the Game”

  1. K.S. 29 December 2011 at 2:42 pm #

    Regarding Melissa McCarthy’s turn in “Bridesmaids”: maybe I was expecting more, or, perhaps I was simply more used to her turn as Suki in “Gilmore Girls” and, therefore, unable to fully appreciate her character. That said, her character may have been the best thing about “Bridesmaids,” but in my own personal estimation, that doesn’t seem like much of an accolade. Thanks for your consideration…

    • listen2uraunt 29 December 2011 at 5:47 pm #

      K.S., I pretty much agree. She is the best thing about the movie, but that is limited praise indeed. An Oscar nod would be fun after all the buildup and because it would shake things up a bit at Oscar time. Of course, I had almost no sense about who she is or was when I saw Bridesmaids, but now that I’ve seen her on SNL, I think I’ve pretty much seen everything she has to offer; however, one thing she does have in her favor is that few truly supporting performances are ever nominated anymore, but that’s a blog piece for another day. Thanks for your consideration.

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