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Why ‘Parasite’ cracking the SAG Awards nominations is a key nod in quest for Oscar history

Woo Silk Choi, Kang-ho Song, Lee Jeong-eun and Kim So Dam in “Parasite,” which is only the second foreign film to ever earn a SAG ensemble nomination.
Woo Silk Choi, Kang-ho Song, Lee Jeong-eun and Kim So Dam in “Parasite,” which is only the second foreign film to ever earn a SAG ensemble nomination.
(Neon)

Just three movies have ever won the best picture Oscar without also earning a SAG Awards film ensemble nomination, meaning “The Irishman,” “Parasite” and “Once Upon a Time ... in Hollywood” came away from Wednesday’s nominations on even firmer footing.

Then again, two of those exceptions — “Green Book” and “The Shape of Water” — came in the last couple of years, meaning that if you’re a “Marriage Story” fan or a believer in a late-arriving aspirant like the upcoming war drama “1917,” there’s still a chance.

The acclaimed “Parasite,” which has been scoring well with critics groups, including the Los Angeles Film Critics Assn., might have been the morning’s biggest surprise, becoming the second foreign language film to earn an ensemble nomination, 21 years after “Life Is Beautiful.”

The nod comes the same morning that “Parasite” picked up a key nomination from the American Cinema Editors, lending further credence to the idea that Bong Joon Ho’s dark thriller has a shot at becoming the first international movie to win the best picture Oscar.

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Taika Waititi’s sentimental satire “Jojo Rabbit” and “Bombshell,” the upcoming #MeToo drama about sexual harassment at Fox News, filled out the film ensemble category (considered the group’s top prize).

Wednesday’s announcement of the Screen Actors Guild Award nominations included some major snubs and surprises in both film and TV

Critics haven’t been particularly kind to either movie, but that didn’t stop SAG Awards voters from extravagantly rewarding them. “Jojo’s” Scarlett Johansson picked up a supporting actress nod. And “Bombshell” cast members Charlize Theron, Nicole Kidman and Margot Robbie all earned nods — making Jay Roach’s drama, opening Friday from Lionsgate, the year’s most nominated film in top categories. (“The Irishman” and “Once Upon” also landed four nominations, grabbing one a piece in the lower profile stunt ensemble category.)

Johansson also found favor in the lead actress category for her star turn in “Marriage Story,” along with castmates Adam Driver and Laura Dern. But Noah Baumbach’s Netflix drama failed to earn an ensemble nomination, the kind of strange choice SAG Awards voters make annually.

And it’s not like the “Marriage Story” cast doesn’t sport a deep bench beyond the three actors cited. Alan Alda, Ray Liotta, Julie Hagerty, Merritt Wever and Ahzy Robertson all have key, juicy scenes in the film. Given the strong correlation between an ensemble nomination and an Oscar best picture victory, its absence is a setback in the best picture conversation. (Though, again, that correlation has been weakening.)

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The “Marriage Story” omission wasn’t the only lapse in this year’s nominations, voted on by a random sampling of 2,500 SAG-AFTRA members. Robert De Niro’s subtle lead turn in “The Irishman” was overlooked, just as it was by Golden Globes voters. Greta Gerwig’s smart adaptation of “Little Women” was shut out, as were Netflix’s “The Two Popes” and “Dolemite Is My Name” and A24’s “The Farewell.”

With “Little Women,” which also disappointed at the Globes, it’s worth noting that late-arriving movies have historically not performed well with SAG Award voters. Gerwig’s film doesn’t open until Christmas, skipped the fall festival circuit and only recently began screening for awards groups. The same applies to Sam Mendes’ World War I drama “1917" and Clint Eastwood’s controversial biopic “Richard Jewell,” both also shut out by SAG.

Destin Daniel Cretton’s death row drama “Just Mercy” — which earned a supporting actor nomination for Jamie Foxx — also won’t hit theaters until Christmas, but Warner Bros. has been widely screening the movie since its premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival in September.

Antonio Banderas, a Golden Globe nominee feted by both the Los Angeles and New York film critics groups for his beautiful work in Pedro Almodóvar’s “Pain and Glory,” failed to make the cut in the competitive lead actor race.

The surprise nominee in that category, which included Driver, Christian Bale (“Ford v Ferrari”), Leonardo DiCaprio (“Once Upon a Time”) and Joaquin Phoenix (“Joker”), was Taron Egerton for his energetic turn as Elton John in “Rocketman.” Egerton remains a bit of a long shot for the Oscars, but the film has sturdy support among older academy voters who know the lyrics to every John song by heart and aren’t shy about letting you know that while watching the movie.

British actor and singer Taron Egerton, who plays Elton John in the biopic “Rocketman,” photographed at the Corinthia hotel in London.
SAG Award nominee Taron Egerton, who plays Elton John in the biopic “Rocketman,” was photographed at the Corinthia hotel in London.
(Matthew Lloyd / For The Times)

For lead actress, voters nominated Cynthia Erivo (“Harriet”), Lupita Nyong’o (“Us”) and Renée Zellweger (“Judy”) along with Theron and Johansson. Nyong’o has been doing well with critics groups, winning New York and coming in second in L.A., and her nod here will be a further reminder of just how good she was playing dual roles in Jordan Peele’s fearless, entertaining horror movie “Us.” (Horror is not typically an awards friendly genre, but Peele’s “Get Out” proved a major exception to that rule two years ago, and this year, Emily Blunt won a supporting actress SAG Award for “A Quiet Place,” though she was not nominated for an Oscar.)

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Those left out of SAG Awards slate can take solace that, typically, about 75% of the SAG Awards nominees go on to earn Oscar nominations, leaving room for a few surprises and necessary corrections. Regina King, for example, won the supporting actress Oscar this year for “If Beale Street Could Talk” after being snubbed by SAG voters.

The television nods had their own peculiarities, with voters — another random sampling of 2,500 SAG-AFTRA members — nominating Steve Carell, Billy Crudup and Jennifer Aniston from the recently launched Apple TV+ flagship series “The Morning Show” but ignoring the cast in the ensemble category. (It was not a good day for Reese Witherspoon, overlooked for both “The Morning Show” and “Big Little Lies.”)

**EXCLUSIVE: FOR SUNDAY CALENDAR 6/9/2019 ISSUE. DO NOT USE BEFORE. Nicole Kidman and Meryl Streep i
The ensemble cast of HBO’s “Big Little Lies” was nominated for a SAG Award, but none of the individual performers, including Nicole Kidman and Meryl Streep, landed a nomination for the series.
(Jennifer Clasen / HBO)

With HBO’s “Big Little Lies” and “Game of Thrones,” Netflix’s “The Crown” and “Stranger Things” and Hulu’s “The Handmaid’s Tale” nominated for drama series ensemble, voters turned a cold shoulder to HBO’s buzzy dramas “Succession” and “Watchmen” and ignored FX’s “Pose,” despite the Emmy love for star Billy Porter.

HBO’s “Veep” failed to earn a single nomination for its farewell season, including in the comedy ensemble category (which it previously won three times). Instead, the nominees are HBO’s “Barry,” Prime Video’s “Fleabag” and “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel,” Netflix’s “The Kominsky Method” and Pop’s “Schitt’s Creek.”

Netflix continued its dominance with SAG voters in the television categories, though the streamer fell two shy of the 15 nominations it earned last year. Adding in seven nods on the movie side, it achieved the notable accomplishment of landing at least one nomination in every single SAG Awards category, both film and television. And De Niro, its most prominent snub, will still be at the show, receiving SAG’s Life Achievement Award.

The 2020 ceremony will take place Jan. 19 at the Shrine Auditorium.


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