With the actors branch representing by far the biggest slice of the motion picture academy’s pie, the Screen Actors Guild Awards nominations announced Wednesday morning will be closely scrutinized by Oscar prognosticators for clues of which way this year’s awards season winds are blowing. On that score, the nominations deliver a number of curveballs, further muddying what is already a fairly wide open awards season, while on the television side, there were several surprises as well.
Snub: No nominations for “Little Women”
Director Greta Gerwig’s highly anticipated take on Louisa May Alcott’s classic novel came into awards season as a presumed heavy-hitter, led by a powerhouse ensemble cast featuring Saoirse Ronan, Florence Pugh, Emma Watson, Laura Dern, Timothée Chalamet, Chris Cooper and Meryl Streep. But on the heels of Monday’s Golden Globe nominations, in which the film scored just two nominations for Ronan and its score, the film was completely shut out by SAG, portending a possible uphill climb ahead.
Surprise: “Parasite” scores an ensemble nod
Bong Joon Ho’s dark class satire has been one of this awards season’s wild cards from the start, a genre-scrambling, Korean-language film with ambitions of breaking out of the academy’s international film box to land a place in the best picture Oscar race. While “Parasite” didn’t earn any individual nominations, its spot in the ensemble category — SAG’s closest proxy to a best picture nod, and a category even Netflix’s mighty foreign language contender “Roma” couldn’t crack last year — along with ecstatic reviews, a slew of critics’ group awards and its strong showing in the Golden Globe derby suggest it’s probably a lock to get there.
Snub: No lead actor nominations for Robert De Niro (“The Irishman”), Eddie Murphy (“Dolemite Is My Name”) and Antonio Banderas (“Pain and Glory”)
This year’s lead actor Oscar category is the most competitive in memory, so it’s no wonder that, as awards season has rolled on, the placings in the horse race have continually shifted. Though De Niro’s character is central to Martin Scorsese’s mob epic “The Irishman” (indeed, he is the Irishman), the actor failed to make the cut both with the Globes and SAG, though the film did earn nominations for its entire ensemble as well as supporting nods for Al Pacino and Joe Pesci. (De Niro will also receive this year’s Life Achievement Award during the SAG Awards, some consolation you could say.) Meanwhile, Murphy and Banderas, who have been very much in the mix for what many consider career-best performances, were passed over.
Surprise: Taron Egerton in as lead actor for “Rocketman”
Though Egerton earned strong reviews for his turn as Elton John in the biopic of the singer, given how packed the lead actor category is this year, he has generally been considered on the bubble for serious awards consideration. Nevertheless, as Rami Malek demonstrated last year with his Oscar-winning turn as Freddie Mercury in the critically dismissed “Bohemian Rhapsody,” actors clearly love seeing other actors play rock stars. With better overall reviews than “Rhapsody,” and in the wake of his Globes nod and now a SAG nomination, Egerton’s Oscar prospects have suddenly taken off like a rocket.
Surprise: Lots of love for “Bombshell”
Director Jay Roach’s take on the sexual harassment scandal at Fox News that brought down Roger Ailes was widely expected to land Charlize Theron a SAG nomination for her turn as former Fox host Megyn Kelly and possibly one for Margot Robbie as an ambitious aspiring anchor. But no one predicted the film, which has received middling reviews, would actually top every other movie in total SAG nominations with four — an ensemble nod as well as individual nominations for Theron, Robbie and Nicole Kidman, who plays Gretchen Carlson.
Snub: The “Knives Out” ensemble
Buoyed by its stellar reviews and robust box office performance, writer-director Rian Johnson’s brain-tickling whodunit has been looking to edge its way into this year’s awards race as a sleeper. But though it boasts one of the most starry casts of the year — including Chris Evans, Daniel Craig, Christopher Plummer, Toni Collette, Michael Shannon and Jamie Lee Curtis — and made a strong showing in the Globe nominations, where it picked up three nods including best picture in the musical or comedy category, the film was unable to make a dent in the SAG nominations.
Snub: “The Two Popes” stars Jonathan Pryce and Anthony Hopkins
The third of Netflix’s trio of major Oscar hopefuls, along with “The Irishman” and the divorce drama “Marriage Story,” director Fernando Mereilles’ Vatican-set drama “The Two Popes” is considered to have its best hopes of reaping awards glory for the performances of revered veterans Pryce and Hopkins, who play Pope Francis and Pope Benedict XVI, respectively. But while both actors received Golden Globe nominations earlier this week, they found themselves excommunicated from the SAG list.
Snub: No love for “Richard Jewell”
Chronicling the real-life story of a security guard falsely accused of planting a bomb at the 1996 Atlanta Olympics, Clint Eastwood’s latest film has earned admiring reviews for the performances of Paul Walter Hauser as Jewell, Kathy Bates as his mother and Sam Rockwell as the attorney who helped clear his name. But in recent days the film has been dogged by a controversy over its portrayal of reporter Kathy Scruggs and, in the wake of its single Globe nod for Bates, the fact that it was a no-show in Wednesday’s SAG nominations could spell trouble — or just that enough voters hadn’t seen it yet.
Surprise: Steve Carrell and Bill Crudup both nominated for Apple’s “The Morning Show”
While no one would look askance at Jennifer Aniston’s nomination for her leading role as a morning show host dealing with the fallout from a #MeToo scandal, there’s been less attention to Steve Carrell’s high-pitch performance as her disgraced co-anchor and Billy Crudup as a slimy network executive. Their nominations are especially striking given that the Apple TV+ original did not land an ensemble nomination or a nod for Reese Witherspoon (who was also shut out of individual honors for “Big Little Lies”).
Snub: “Veep” ensemble and star Julia Louis-Dreyfus not nominated for the final season
Nominated five times previously for the SAG ensemble prize, with three wins, HBO’s political satire continued its streak of final-season disappointments Wednesday morning, following Julia Louis-Dreyfus’ surprise Emmy loss and drawing a blank in the Golden Globe nominations. Completely left out of the individual acting categories as well, SAG voters sent “Veep” out with a proverbial whimper.
Snub: Merritt Wever, “Unbelievable”
Nominee Toni Collette is terrific as a hardened veteran detective in Netflix’s limited series about the handling of rape cases in Oregon and Colorado, but it’s difficult to imagine her without Wever’s greener, at times more mercurial partner, in a performance that wears the empathy and emotional stress of facing other people’s trauma so lightly she might not be acting at all.
Snub: Meryl Streep, “Big Little Lies”
Admittedly, Streep faced stiff competition in her category from castmates Laura Dern, Kidman and Witherspoon — likely splitting the vote — and “Lies” nabbed a coveted ensemble nomination for its controversial second season. But it’s still baffling not to see Streep’s mesmerizing, impossibly specific performance as the mother of a rapist and domestic abuser determined to know the cause of his death.
Snub: Billy Porter, “Pose”
As Pray Tell, the magnetic ballroom emcee of FX’s period bauble, Emmy winner Porter struts and snipes to perfection, nailing the patois of a born performer without losing an ounce of his humanity. Porter will surely be happy to polish his prize from the television academy, but SAG overlooking him (and the series) two years running is worthy of one of Pray’s trademark insults.
Surprise: “The Handmaid’s Tale”
Though Hulu’s flagship drama has now been nominated in the ensemble category three years running (as has star Elisabeth Moss), it’s something of a surprise that the series — whose moment at the center of the TV zeitgeist has passed, along with its effusive critical reception — managed to nab a place in the category, especially given the absence of ...
Snub: “Succession” / “Watchmen”
Both, like Season 1 of “The Handmaid’s Tale,” are acclaimed dramas with timely sociopolitical themes — and both, despite being the focus of the water cooler conversation throughout the summer and fall, were passed over. Too bad: Jesse Armstrong’s lacerating satire of a wealthy media magnate and his conniving children and Damon Lindelof’s ambitious reimagining of the famed graphic novel are perfect candidates for the ensemble prize, with large casts in which every performance clicks into place like the gears of a watch.