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Why no SAG Awards love for Kristen Stewart?

Kristen Stewart takes her boys out as Princess Diana in "Spencer."
Can Kristen Stewart bounce back from a SAG Award snub for “Spencer”?
(Neon)

I’ve got “Be My Baby” playing on a loop (RIP Ronnie Spector) while contemplating how to best celebrate Veganuary tonight (that Impossible burger recipe looks promising ... you can’t go wrong with special sauce) and wondering if Paradise pajaro manzanita is really my zodiac plant ... but then, I’m a Capricorn, so I’m probably just over-thinking it.

Also, Screen Actors Guild Awards nominations were announced this week, meaning the Oscar acting races have become a little clearer. I’m Glenn Whipp, awards columnist for the Los Angeles Times, host of The Envelope’s Friday newsletter and the guy who always thought he was astrologically aligned with the harmony manzanita, but apparently this whole zodiac/plant thing is complicated, man, with a lot of ins, lot of outs, lot of what-have-yous.

SAG Awards: Where’s Kristen Stewart?

OK, “Spencer” isn’t “The Crown.” To me, that’s a selling point. But apparently not everyone likes their Princess Diana stories to be told as psychological horror tales that owe more to “The Shining” than “The Queen.” The biggest surprise when the Screen Actors Guild Awards nominations were revealed Wednesday was the absence of Kristen Stewart, who was quite marvelous as an imprisoned, embattled Diana in “Spencer.” That omission likely dooms her Oscar chances, as no one has won the lead actress Academy Award without being nominated by SAG.

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My pal Matt Brennan and I woke up early Wednesday morning to break down the SAG Awards nominations, with Matt handling the TV side, while I looked at the movie choices. Who’s up? Who’s down? And where’s “West Side Story”?

"West Side Story" did not do well with SAG Awards voters.
There was no dancing for the makers of “West Side Story,” largely overlooked by SAG Awards voters.
(Niko Tavernise/20th Century Studios

)

Judi, Judi, Judi and that Branagh guy

A couple of years ago, Kenneth Branagh was driving to Judi Dench’s Surrey home to read her his screenplay and offer her the role of the grandmother for “Belfast,” his personal story about growing up in Northern Ireland in the 1960s during the sectarian strife of the Troubles. Dench and Branagh have worked together now 12 times, so there’s a shorthand and familiarity between them, a connection that Dench chalks up to them almost sharing a December birthday (“many years apart,” the 87-year-old Dench notes).

Still, Branagh, 61, remains a bit in awe of Dench, still remembering what it was like when he first worked with her on a 1987 BBC production of Ibsen’s “Ghosts,” and he couldn’t quite fathom that this legend, this Dame Commander of the Order of the British Empire, was actually taking him seriously. (“Or at least she was doing a wonderful performance of treating me like an equal operator,” Branagh says, smiling.)

Thus, Branagh’s “Belfast” reading for Dench felt like an audition, like he was coming to Dench with his “pack on his back.” And as he was acting out the movie and putting every ounce of energy he had into the reading, in his mind, Branagh was picturing Dench sitting across from him, stroking a blue-eyed Persian cat like the Bond villain Blofeld, and saying, “So, Mr. Branagh ... you really think this is a movie ....”

I can understand why he’d feel just a bit nervous, because when I interviewed the two of them together recently, Dench was not afraid to playfully give Branagh grief for certain lapses, one of which dates back decades. But she’s still holding onto it! Perhaps his contrition during our conversation will lay the long-standing complaint to rest.

Judi Dench and Kenneth Branagh, reunited again for "Belfast."
Judi Dench and Kenneth Branagh, reunited again for “Belfast.”
(Christopher Proctor/For The Times)

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Oscar predictions for crafts categories: ‘Dune’ and done

Maybe you saw “Dune” and found it cold and a little bit tiresome in the way it seemed to be allergic to fun. Or perhaps you found Denis Villeneuve’s epic adaptation arresting and involving, full of meaning and spectacle and can’t wait for “Dune: Part II” to drop in 2023.

Whatever your take, we can all probably agree that a lot of effort went into the craft of the movie and that even in the midst of its most inert dramatic moments — basically, its entire second half — you could find something interesting to look at, latch onto and spark a moment of wonder. (If I was a kid, I would have asked for a toy of one of those dragonfly fighter planes — apparently they’re called ornithopters — for Christmas and a sandworm stocking stuffer.)

My point: “Dune” is going to clean up in the Oscars’ crafts categories, making a best picture nomination likely as well. I took a look at those races in a recent column, which gave me the opportunity to contemplate Jessica Chastain’s layers of makeup in “The Eyes of Tammy Faye” and Jared Leto’s bald, overweight, aged “House of Gucci” misfit. Now let’s never speak of them again.

Jessica Chastain as Tammy Faye Bakker in the film "The Eyes of Tammy Faye."
Jessica Chastain as Tammy Faye Bakker in the film “The Eyes of Tammy Faye.”
(Searchlight Pictures)

Feedback?

I’d love to hear from you. Email me at glenn.whipp@latimes.com.

Can’t get enough about awards season? Follow me at @glennwhipp on Twitter.


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