It's a pretty safe bet that when the Screen Actors Guild announces its film ensemble award nominees Wednesday morning, we won't be seeing the casts from "All Is Lost" or "Gravity" on the list.
When it comes to this award, SAG voters are all about quantity. For five years running, the film ensemble winner has gone to the movie with the most cast members cited. This has led to some odd choices. Personally, I'm partial to the ensemble led by Daniel Day-Lewis over the one headed by Ben Affleck, but again, it seems to be a numbers thing. The last movie to win ensemble without sporting the most cast members: "No Country for Old Men." And yes, if the highly populated "American Gangster" had somehow prevailed over that 2007 Coen brothers masterpiece, we'd have asked Javier Bardem's coif-challenged killer to put us out of our misery.
This year, SAG's reward-in-bulk philosophy probably means that truly great ensembles ("Nebraska," "Inside Llewyn Davis") will be passed over in favor of the movies featuring sprawling, uneven casts. Yes, Forest Whitaker and Oprah Winfrey and David Oyelowo did fantastic work in "Lee Daniels' The Butler." I'll even tip my hat to John Cusack for his sweaty, vote-trolling Richard M. Nixon, a performance that bears out what Neil Young sang all those years ago in "The Campaigner," that even our 37th president has got soul.
But the rest of the movie's presidential parade felt more like a trip to Madame Tussaud's. Are you telling me, SAG voters, that Liev Schreiber's constipated LBJ is worthier than, say, Stacy Keach's mildly menacing "In the Ghetto" karaoke crooner in "Nebraska"? Shouldn't uniform excellence be the operating principle at work for this award?
Yes, it's a rhetorical question. SAG celebrated "Bobby" in 2006, for crying out loud. Which means that "The Butler's" spotty cast will likely be nominated alongside the hefty, high-profile ensembles from "12 Years a Slave" and "American Hustle." The "August: Osage County" players will probably find their way in too, because SAG voters love ACTING and the film is, if nothing else, a theatrical showcase for a gaggle of legends and well-loved performers.
The fifth slot could go to "Nebraska" or "Llewyn Davis" or perhaps "The Wolf of Wall Street" (though Martin Scorsese's movie screened late and Paramount did not send out DVD screeners to SAG nominating committee members), but we'll go with "Blue Jasmine" because actors adore Woody Allen. And why not? Anyone who can turn Andrew Dice Clay into a dramatic talent (and a pretty good one at that) has earned some serious devotion.
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