Bright and early Wednesday morning – we’re talking 7 a.m. Pacific, folks – Anthony Mackie and Anna Faris will announce this year’s Screen Actors Guild nominees. Will you be up? Probably not! But I will be, ready to tell you really important information, like how meaningful XYZ actress finds her nomination because it’s from her peers.
In the meantime, here’s a primer on what you can expect from the nominations. Make sure to hit an industry party Tuesday night and drop some knowledge.
1. The Oscar race will come into focus.
The SAG Awards generally serve as a pretty solid predictor of who will go home with an Academy Award come February. For 2014 films, both SAG and the Academy gave their top four prizes to the same actors: Eddie Redmayne and Julianne Moore in the lead categories, and J.K. Simmons and Patricia Arquette in supporting. Overall, the two voting bodies overlapped on a whopping 17 nominees, so expect to see your eventual 2015 Oscar winners’ names come up Wednesday. Oh, and by the way: There are roughly 160,000 actors with SAG-AFTRA cards, but only 2,200 randomly selected members from the film committee selected this year’s movie nominees.
Despite a robust ensemble cast that includes Samuel L. Jackson, Jennifer Jason Leigh and Kurt Russell, “The Hateful Eight” may be shut out by SAG. That’s because The Weinstein Co. didn’t send screeners to the guild, according to the company’s president of publicity, Dani Weinstein. Director Quentin Tarantino was adamant about voters seeing the film in 70mm instead of at home, so it remains to be seen how many SAG members actually turned up to see the film at early screenings. Last year, Paramount Pictures was unable to get screeners of “Selma” to the nominating committee because director Ava DuVernay hadn’t finished the film before the submission deadline. As a result, the film didn’t earn any SAG nominations and star David Oyelowo was snubbed for an Oscar nom, though it did go on to score a best picture nod at the Oscars.
3. Where will Rooney and Alicia land?
Category fraud: Ever heard of it? Let me help you out. Basically, it’s when studios launch a campaign for an actor to be nominated in a certain category – for example, lead performance -- even though the actor seemingly belongs in another – for example, supporting performance – to increase an actor’s shot at an award nod. This year, two actresses are at the center of the category fraud discussion: Alicia Vikander (“The Danish Girl”) and Rooney Mara (“Carol”). Each is being pushed as a supporting contender, despite the fact that each is arguably the star of her respective film. This didn’t fly with the Hollywood Foreign Press Assn., which votes on the Golden Globes, and recently ruled that Vikander and Mara would have to compete in the lead category. So which way will SAG voters go? The lead category does appear to be especially crowded this season, with strong performances from Brie Larson (“Room”), Saoirse Ronan (“Brooklyn”), Charlotte Rampling (“45 Years”), Jennifer Lawrence (“Joy”) and Mara’s co-star in “Carol,” Cate Blanchett.
Vikander, for one, seemed to be fine with the supporting campaign when I asked her about it a couple months ago. “I think the only thing that I’ve thought about it is that her character is a supporting role in the sense of the story,” she said, referring to her part as the wife of a transgender artist played by Eddie Redmayne. “I would say that it comes down to if I’m considered for anything – that’s just amazing. And the rest is not me. It’s not my decision.”
4. Less “Joy” for David O. Russell?
Director David O. Russell’s films typically resonate with SAG voters: His last two films, “American Hustle” and “Silver Linings Playbook,” each had strong showings in big categories. But his latest effort, “Joy,” which is being released on Christmas, may not be nominated for outstanding cast – even though the film is filled with heavyweight talents like Lawrence, Bradley Cooper and Robert De Niro. While Lawrence is earning positive reviews for her turn as a single mom who invented the Miracle Mop, the movie overall has not been beloved by critics. So while the 25-year-old star has a shot at a nomination, an ensemble nod seems less likely. And SAG’s cast prize is largely seen as an indicator of which films will go on to be nominated for best picture, meaning the “Joy” team could need some cheering up over the holidays.
5. Another white-out?
Last year’s Oscar nominees were all white, prompting much-needed discussion about diversity in Hollywood. And yet after all the think pieces and Twitter outrage, we may be facing another award season with embarrassingly few nominees of color. On Wednesday, the only black actor to be recognized by SAG may well be Idris Elba, who stars as an African warlord in “Beasts of No Nation.” Will Smith has a shot for his turn as a forensic pathologist in the NFL drama “Concussion,” but many pundits believe his odds are longer than Elba’s. As far as ensemble noms go, we’ve already discussed the predicament for “The Hateful Eight,” which features Jackson and Demian Bichir in prominent roles. And despite the fact that they were each critically acclaimed, big box office draws, the racially diverse “Straight Outta Compton” and “Creed” are still considered long shots. In short, when it comes to diversity in 2015 it could be all talk, no action.
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