There were some big winners and some big losers today after the 17th Annual SAG Awards nominees were announced on a rainy Thursday in West Hollywood. As the largest voting block in the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, SAG members are a strong bellwether of possible Oscar nominations down the road. They certainly carry a lot more behind the scenes campaigning weight than the Golden Globes do.
While the SAG’s best ensemble award is historically not an indicator of a best picture nomination or win, it usually shows strong support for a film from the actors and in a 10 nominee field that’s usually all you need. So, expected nominees “The Fighter,” “The King’s Speech,” “The Kids Are All Right,” “The Social Network” and “Black Swan” should feel much more secure about their top nomination this morning. On the other hand, the fact neither “Inception” and possible show crasher “The Town” made the cut has got to make executives at Warner Bros. somewhat nervous. It’s hard to be a serious contender without the actors behind you. Additionally, Nicole Kidman’s singular nod for “Rabbit Hole” indicates that picture might be on the cusp of making the 10 or not (here’s hoping it’s the former).
Let’s quickly rundown the acting categories before discussing the biggest take away from this morning’s nods.
OUTSTANDING PERFORMANCE BY A MALE ACTOR IN A LEADING ROLE
Jesse Eisenberg, “The Social Network”
Colin Firth, “The King’s Speech”
James Franco, “127 Hours”
Jeff Bridges, “True Grit”
Robert Duvall, “Get Low”
Lowdown: Eisenberg, Firth, Franco and Bridges are now pretty much locked in for Oscar. The question is whether Mark Wahlberg can make a comeback and knock Duvall out of the race. If the film continues to do well at the box office Wahlberg should benefit here in the long run. “Blue Valentine’s” Ryan Gosling also still has a shot to crack the five too.
OUTSTANDING PERFORMANCE BY A FEMALE ACTOR IN A LEADING ROLE
Annette Benning, “The Kids Are Alright”
Nicole Kidman, “The Rabbit Hole”
Jennifer Lawrence, “Winter’s Bone”
Natalie Portman, “Black Swan”
Hilary Swank, “Conviction”
Lowdown: Swank is not going to get an Oscar nod. It’s just not gonna happen. Chances are we’re looking at Michelle Williams or Leslie Manville instead. The Weinstein Company may have waited too long in sending out screeners for “Valentine” which also hurt Williams and her co-star Gosling in lead.
OUTSTANDING PERFORMANCE BY A MALE ACTOR IN A SUPPORTING ROLE
Christian Bale, “The Fighter”
Mark Ruffalo, “The Kids Are Alright”
John Hawkes, “Winter’s Bone”
Jeremy Renner, “The Town”
Geoffrey Rush, “The King’s Speech”
Lowdown: Hawkes is a surprise because he was a bit below the radar, but it shows the benefit of sending screeners out way early like Roadside Attractions did for “Bone.” Hawkes is also a longtime industry veteran and SAG loves to reward character actors who have worked consistently and, usually, made a lot of friends amongst their peers in the process. How “Conviction’s” Swank could land in lead actress, but Sam Rockwell finds himself passed over in supporting has to be puzzling for distributor Fox Searchlight. Also worth noting Andrew Garfield’s absence here has to be a tad disappointing for Sony Pictures and the “Network” crew.
OUTSTANDING PERFORMANCE BY A FEMALE ACTOR IN A SUPPORTING ROLE
Amy Adams, “The Fighter”
Helena Bonham Carter, “The King’s Speech”
Mila Kunis, “Black Swan”
Melissa Leo, “The Fighter”
Hailee Steinfeld, “True Grit”
Lowdown: Clearly, both “Fighter” actresses are making the Oscar cut (strangely the second time Adams will be in the field with a co-star after “Doubt”), but the big surprise was Kunis. Many would have expected her “Swan” co-star Barbara Hershey here, but something about Kunis’ performance has touched a positive nerve with audiences and actors. While “Grit” didn’t land an ensemble nod, Steinfeld’s nod shows appreciation for the Coen Bros. thriller and foreshadows similar love with the Academy.
Looking over this morning’s results, however, the most significant take away is we’re now likely looking at a three-way race for best picture and the third film is not what many expected. So far, “The Social Network” has dominated with the critic’s groups and “The King’s Speech” ruled the publicity friendly Globes. Both did well with SAG, but “Speech” fared better as all its actors made the cut (that pesky Garfield omission doesn’t help “Network”). It was expected — and may still come to pass — that either “Inception” or “True Grit” would challenge “Speech” or “Network” for the top picture prize. Instead, upstart “The Fighter” is looking like it has a legitimate shot to surprise the frontrunners and take Oscar gold. So, if the David O. Russell drama lands a Producer’s Guild and Director’s Guild nod? Watch out. This race could be getting very, very interesting very, very quickly.
What surprised you most about today’s SAG nods? Share your thoughts below.
Follow Gregory Ellwood and Awards Campaign on Twitter @HitFixGregory