All in the family: a note on the SAG nods

Posted by · 7:00 pm · December 18th, 2008

I know I shouldn’t get upset. As Sasha Stone over at Awards Daily repeatedly intones, when it comes to awards analysis, “the trick is not minding.” You should coolly observe the trends, learn from them and be guided always by your head rather than your heart.

But damn it, I’m only human. I can’t help getting invested in certain contenders. And I don’t mind admitting that I was utterly dismayed by this morning’s thoroughly unadventurous and, worse yet, insular set of SAG nominations. Did the voters really carefully consider all the possible options before putting pen to ballot paper? Did they really take time to decide which of the year’s performances and ensembles most moved and challenged them? Or did they simply reel off the five names in each category that they’ve heard the most about, and think are most likely to feature in the Oscar race?

Maybe the answer to the first two questions is “yes.” But I doubt it. I find it hard to imagine that any actor adequately attuned to their own craft could consider all the female supporting performances of the year and somehow decide that Amy Adams’ performance in “Doubt” was more rich and complex than what Rosemarie DeWItt achieved in “Rachel Getting Married,” or Marisa Tomei in “The Wrestler.”

I don’t believe (or at least I don’t want to believe) that actors who supposedly have some experience of ensemble work can fail to notice that the ensembles of “Synecdoche, New York,” “The Dark Knight,” “Happy-Go-Lucky,” “Vicky Cristina Barcelona” or even “Rachel Getting Married” are denser, more intricate and infinitely more integrated than those of “Frost/Nixon” or “Doubt.”

A great ensemble is about more than the prestige of the names within it. You’d expect actors to understand that, and last year’s off-the-wall nominations for “Hairspray” and “3:10 to Yuma” suggested that maybe, just maybe, they did. This year, however, was back to business as usual, as they turn their highest and most unique award into yet another Best Picture-emulating copycat list.

(More thoughts, and predictions, after the cut.)

Meanwhile, anyone who has kept up with my posts over the months will know which snubs sting the most for me. I accept that Kristin Scott Thomas, who has been losing momentum for some time now, was never likely to make the cut, but the omission of Sally Hawkins — by some measure the critical favourite of the season thus far — looks like a pointed snub to me, one that indicates a clear reluctance to embrace someone from outside the fold, however significant (and acclaimed) her achievement.

I shouldn’t be surprised, really. In the Best Actress category, SAG has a history of ignoring bright young Brits who go on to score Oscar nods: Keira Knightley (“Pride and Prejudice”), Samantha Morton (“In America”) and Emily Watson (“Breaking the Waves”) were all SAG-snubbed. Watson’s case is an an especially comparable one: a widely unknown actress with a wad of critics’ awards for a difficult, divisive little film, it’s the kind of performance that makes it onto the Oscar list by virtue of a select, passionate band of discerning voters who put it in poll position on their ballots.

So I remain confident that someone like Hawkins can claw her way into the Oscars on #1 votes. The same goes for the Supporting Actress category: how many #1 votes is Amy Adams going to receive ahead of her film’s undisputed standout, Viola Davis? I think DeWitt and Tomei could still easily displace her on the Oscar ballot if more people single them out as their clear favourite in the category, rather than simply a third wheel in a film they kinda liked.

I realize I’m whining. I apologise for that, which is why I want to conclude this piece with two nominations that did make me happy. (Well, three if we count the non-nomination of Clint Eastwood.) I know some people were surprised to see Richard Jenkins and especially Melissa Leo make the cut, but I certainly wasn’t — and not just because they absolutely deserve to be there.

Jenkins and Leo are long-serving American character actors who have worked frequently and broadly across film and television, and are consequently a lot more familiar to their peers than they are to most audiences. They are consummate SAG members, and actors like that are always going to score here. But the fact that their nominations are richly deserved rewards for remarkable performances doesn’t change the fact that SAG awards remain, by and large, an insiders’ game. Here’s hoping the Academy opens the door a little wider.


Best Ensemble: “Slumdog Millionaire”

Best Actor: Sean Penn, “Milk”

Best Actress: Anne Hathaway, “Rachel Getting Married”

Best Supporting Actor: Heath Ledger, “The Dark Knight”

Best Supporting Actress: Viola Davis, “Doubt”

Best Stunt Ensemble: “The Dark Knight”

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29 responses so far

  • 1 12-18-2008 at 7:38 pm

    Hugo said...

    Sally deserves Oscar, BAFT and all the other prizes

  • 2 12-18-2008 at 7:39 pm

    Mr. F said...

    I’m also a bit pissed about Sally Hawkins omission. I bet all they wanted was to have Brangelina at the show just so they can get some ratings.

  • 3 12-18-2008 at 7:45 pm

    Chad said...

    Who’s they Mr. F? The actor filling out his ballot? I’m sure he doesn’t care one bit if the SAG Awards get ratings. People have bad taste and all these awards suffer from herd mentality.

    “Did the voters really carefully consider all the possible options before putting pen to ballot paper? Did they really take time to decide which of the year’s performances and ensembles most moved and challenged them?”

    Of course not.

  • 4 12-18-2008 at 9:00 pm

    John K said...

    God, I am so tired of Angelina Jolie, in every possible respect.

    You know, “Top 10 Ensembles” might be an interesting future edition of The Lists.

  • 5 12-18-2008 at 9:05 pm

    Helena said...


    I have no problem with Jenkins presence, but at same time I do feel that DiCaprio equally deserved to be in the mix for his rich performance in “RR”.

    I would like to see both men make the Oscar mix.

  • 6 12-18-2008 at 9:37 pm

    Rob Scheer said...

    Man, I will be so fucking happy if Hathaway ends up emerging as the Best Actress rache’s leading candidate.

  • 7 12-18-2008 at 9:39 pm

    Rob Scheer said...

    I finally saw “Benjamin Button” this week, and I’m happy to say it actually exceeded my expectations and surpassed the muted word of mouth I’d heard.

    That said, anyone who thinks Pitt’s performance was more nomination-worthy than Leo DiCaprio is smoking fucking crack.

  • 8 12-18-2008 at 9:52 pm

    John said...

    Can somebody please explain why Kristin Scott Thomas has been totally ignored this awards season? A phenomenal performance from a past Oscar nominee and yet “I’ve Loved You So Long” has fallen off the radar for some reason. Is it because she isn’t well-liked behind the scenes?

  • 9 12-18-2008 at 10:30 pm

    Felix said...

    Some of you are some bitter Bettys. Brad and Angelina were nominated by their peers. SAG is not starfuckers like the Golden Globes. They tend not to nominate certain actors just for ratings. If that were true Brad would have received SAG nominations for 12 Monkeys, Seven, Fight Club, Babel, and Assassination of Jesse James. This is his first SAG nomination for a role in which he is getting very positive reviews for. If they wanted ratings they could have also nominated Leo DiCaprio so he and Kate Winslet could have a Titanic reunion . I bet the fans would love to see that. They could have nominated George Clooney for Burn After Reading and while they’re at it Beyonce for Cadillac Records. Higher ratings right there. I know this is a wild concept for some of you but just maybe the nominating committee felt Brad and Angelina’s respective performances are worthy of nominations. Gasp!

  • 10 12-18-2008 at 10:35 pm

    Rob Scheer said...

    No one’s saying they nominated them they out of insincerity. Just misguidedness.

    They are just nott worthy performances. Well, Jolie’s might be, but certainly not worthy of a nomination over the likes of Scott Thomas, Hawkins, Moore and Beckinsale. But the Pitt nomination is insanity.

  • 11 12-18-2008 at 10:42 pm

    Zan said...

    Who’s Moore? As in Julianne Moore? As in Blindness? I hope I’m wrong.

  • 12 12-18-2008 at 10:44 pm

    elliott said...

    I think Blanchett is out this year,

    I don’t know why kris and sasha stone thought she was going to win for that one

  • 13 12-18-2008 at 11:06 pm

    Ligaya said...

    I’m so tired of people who are so tired of Jolie & Pitt – especially those offer no direct correlation or proof of whatever complaint they may have. Some originality please.

  • 14 12-18-2008 at 11:37 pm

    Ligaya said...

    I’m a civilian. I’m not involved in the industry, I don’t know the personalities or the organizations or histories. I don’t know how I ended up here. I just love movies. The conversations that go on here are more than I want to get into.

    I’m very, very happy for Richard Jenkins (Visitor, Burn After Reading) and Melissa Leo, who I discovered in Sundance. I’m very glad for Viola Davis and Taraji P. Henson (I don’t understand the ifs and buts Guy was saying about them). I was hoping Marisa Tomei would be nominated.

    I’ve always considered Kristin Scott Thomas an exquisite actress on par with Meryl Streep and I’m confident she’ll get her due one day.

  • 15 12-18-2008 at 11:45 pm

    John K said...

    “Some originality please.”

    What does that even mean? Why do I need to be “original” in being tired of someone? I’m also tired of Bush. Is the fact that he’s the worst president in United States history a good enough reason? Or do I need to be “original” in that, too. Psh.

    Also, what do you mean, “offer correlation or proof?” I don’t even know what it means to “offer a correlation.” A correlation with what?

    And in terms of offering proof, I can’t PROVE anything. I find Jolie to be overrated and overexposed, and I think her politics are questionable, but I can’t PROVE that because it’s my OPINION.

    If you like Jolie, more power to you. Please stop taking criticisms of her so personally.

  • 16 12-18-2008 at 11:53 pm

    Ligaya said...

    Being a curious civilian, if you’re a SAG member on the nominating committee, what are the criteria used: the strength of the performance, the actor’s body of work, the strength of the film, critical acclaim, festival awards, critic circles awards, box office (campaigning, screenings, Q&As, FYC, ads, ads, ads)?

    And what would be examples of being misguided?

  • 17 12-18-2008 at 11:56 pm

    mikey67 said...

    I haven’t seen enough of the nominated films this year to judge what should have been nominated for Best Ensemble. Milk and Slumdog are both deserving in my opinion. Milk for the set of great individual performances. Slumdog for the collection. I know others don’t agree, but I found the performances to be just right – I was never taken out of the experience of the film due to hte performances. What I don’t really get is why some have suggested the cast of The Dark Knight deserved an ensemble nomination. Between the action and the amazing performance of Heath Ledger, everything else felt phoned in to me. Michael Caine is wasted in that role. Morgan Freeman as Morgan Freeman. Worst of all, Christian Bale couldn’t be more dull. They were all swamped by Ledger. Great film overall, and very very well done on a lot of scores, but the ensemble? Nope.

  • 18 12-18-2008 at 11:58 pm

    gorgeous said...

    I dont know who are you tu write that those films you mentioned are better ensembles than Doubt. I think you should stop considering about these awards coverages because all of its four actors acted amazingly and yet you say they are just names. Blehh. ANd interestingly with your hatred you chose slumdog for the ensemble. Sorry but you are a total jerk, Doubt will win the ensemble no matter what. Do you remember any film receving 5 out of 5 nominations from sag recently.

  • 19 12-19-2008 at 12:01 am

    oscar nominee said...

    An interesting read – some good tips here

  • 20 12-19-2008 at 2:53 am

    Guy Lodge said...

    Ligaya: What “ifs and buts” was I saying about Davis and Henson? They’re both good performance (though not as good, in my opinion, as DeWitt and Tomei). It was Amy Adams’ nod that really rubbed me up the wrong way.

    Gorgeous: It’s an opinion piece, okay? Clearly an unfamiliar concept to some people.

    And I’m amused that you think my predictions (not my preferences, let me add, in case you didn’t notice) would be guided by what you perceive as my “hatred” towards “Doubt” — which you may notice I’m predicting will win Best Supporting Actress. (I don’t hate the film, by the way — it’s really not worth the effort.)


  • 21 12-19-2008 at 3:56 am

    John Foote said...

    Nothing wromng with getting angry when they make decisions we do not agree with — is that not what we do, bring commentary to that very thing? I still go into a blind rage thinking about Benigni winning best actor or Shakespeare in Love winning best film?? The anger we feel Guy gives our edge and passion. Keep it.

  • 22 12-19-2008 at 5:03 am

    Faceit said...

    I hope that Jolie and Pitt will be left out. They dont need no F*** oscar nod, the snub will only benefit them, and the F*** haters should stop complaining . Thats why I like K.Tapley. I dont agree with him in many things but at least he is not biased.

  • 23 12-19-2008 at 9:42 am

    Ivan said...

    Predictions for the winners
    Sean Penn
    Melissa Leo
    Heath Ledger
    Penelope Cruz

  • 24 12-19-2008 at 12:36 pm

    David Giancarlo said...

    @ Rob Scheer

    I hope that that was Moore in Savage Grace and not Blindnes.

  • 25 12-19-2008 at 2:44 pm

    Elva said...

    I think SAG, eliminated the possibility of reaching the contest for the oscar to Sally Hawkins

  • 26 12-19-2008 at 6:26 pm

    katiehall said...

    It breaks my heart that Kristin Scott Thomas was omitted. that’s all.

  • 27 12-19-2008 at 9:03 pm

    Glenn said...

    The problem with SAG is the people voting changes each year. The people who voted last year – and such great nominations they were – are different from those who voted this year and, clearly, the people who voted this year either a) didn’t see all the films they should have or/and b) felt more like predicting Oscar than honouring great work.

    “Slumdog Millionaire” for ENSEMBLE? “Frost/Nixon” too? I prefer the voters who give movies like “Hairspray”, “The Birdcage” and the like their ensemble due. Last year they have “Michael Clayton” three acting nominations yet no Best Ensemble. Why? Because the acting was better individually than as a whole. Clearly that criteria was thrown out the window the moment they wrote some of these nominations down on their form.

  • 28 12-20-2008 at 12:26 pm

    Andy said...

    I don’t tjhink Anne Hathaway is gonna win the Best Actress Award. Her performance is good but not great. Meryl Streep’s performance is awesome and so is Kate Winslet’s. I think the fight is between these two ladies.

  • 29 12-20-2008 at 2:43 pm

    Hugo said...

    Someone may respond, Sally Hawkins is still contender for an Oscar after the snub of SAG?. (Unfair really)