‘The Artist’ and ‘The Help’ tops among 2012 SAG Awards’ film nominees

“The Help” led the Screen Actors Guild Awards nominations Wednesday (December 14) morning with four mentions, including Best Female Lead, Best Ensemble cast and two nominations in the Female Supporting Role category.

As expected, critically adored silent film “The Artist” also made a strong showing with three mentions, including Best Male Lead, Best Female Lead and Best Ensemble cast.

But the SAG nominations did hold a few surprises, as Supporting Actor noms went to “Moneyball’s” Jonah Hill and “J. Edgar’s” Armie Hammer, a performance that was criticized by some critics. The ensemble comedy “Bridesmaids” also made a strong showing, picking up two nominations, including a supporting one for Melissa McCarthy.

The remaining Best Ensemble cast nominations went to the Judd Apatow-produced “Bridesmaids,” Alexander Payne’s dramedy “The Descendants,” racial drama “The Help” and the Woody Allen time travel comedy “Midnight in Paris.” The latter was the only nomination that the film received.

In the Male Lead category, superstar vets like Brad Pitt (“Moneyball”) George Clooney (“The Descendants”) and Leonardo DiCaprio (“J. Edgar” ) will face upstarts Jean Dujardin (“The Artist”) and, somewhat unexpectedly, Demian Bichir (Chris Weitz’s L.A.-set inner-city drama “A Better Life”). This is the fourth nomination for Pitt, and the fifth for Clooney.

Some newer faces will battle it out with established awards veterans in the Female Lead category, where Glenn Close and Meryl Streep were unsurprisingly named for their respective performances in “Albert Nobbs” and “The Iron Lady.” They’ll compete with “The Help’s” Viola Davis, “We Need to Talk About Kevin’s” Tilda Swinton and “My Week With Marilyn’s” Michelle Williams. Including ensemble categories, Streep has been nominated a staggering 13 times (since 1994, no less), and has picked up two wins. This is Close’s first nomination for film, although she’s been named several times for her TV work.

“The Help” co-stars Octavia Spencer and Jessica Chastain will go head-to-head for the Female Supporting Role trophy; both are nominated for their work in the period drama. “The Artist’s” hot streak also continues in the category, where the stunning Berenice Bejo is among the frontrunners for her turn in the silent film. Melissa McCarthy, as the sassy friend with a very real heart, stood out in the excellent ensemble cast of “Bridesmaids,” and Janet McTeer was also nominated for “Albert Nobbs.”

Over in the Male Supporting Role category, revered British thespian Kenneth Branagh (who also directed “Thor” in 2011) is up for the award for his supporting turn in “My Week With Marilyn,” along with Nick Nolte’s “Warrior” performance, and veteran actor Christopher Plummer for “Beginners.” “J. Edgar’s” Armie Hammer is the big surprise in this section, as he spends much of the film covered in thoroughly unconvincing old age makeup. Critics were split on the film — and on his performance. It was also somewhat of a surprise to see Jonah Hill receive a mention, for his largely comedy-free role as Brad Pitt’s sharp-witted righthand man in “Moneyball.”

Among some of the acclaimed films missing from the nominations list are the spy ensemble “Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy,” the ultraviolent neo-noir “Drive” (featuring a formidable turn by Albert Brooks), Martin Scorsese’s “Hugo” and the late entry “Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close,” starring SAG favorites Tom Hanks and Sandra Bullock.

The Lifetime Achievement Award will go to Mary Tyler Moore.

The 18th annual Screen Actors Guild Awards will air Saturday January 29 on TNT.

For a complete list of nominations click here. Read about the TV nominations here. What do you thin of this year’s contenders? Did anyone get snubbed?