‘Silver Linings Playbook’ and ‘Lincoln’ lead SAG film nominees

The film categories in this morning’s Screen Actors’ Guild Award nominations were led by a distinctly contrasting pair, as lofty historical drama “Lincoln” and oddball romantic comedy “Silver Linings Playbook” scored four nominations each. Both landed in the Best Ensemble race, effectively SAG’s answer to the Best Picture award, while three individual cast members from each film also found recognition: Jennifer Lawrence, Bradley Cooper and Robert De Niro for “Playbook,” and Daniel Day-Lewis, Sally Field and Tommy Lee Jones for “Lincoln.”

While most pundits expected that outcome, not everything on the nominee list was that predictable. Cast-iron Oscar contenders “Les Misérables” (with three nominations) and “Argo” (with two) were also seen as locks for the Best Ensemble prize, but not everybody saw the fifth nominee coming: feelgood British comedy “The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel,” which beat out such titles as the heavily-buzzed “Zero Dark Thirty” to score its first major coup of the US awards race.

We shouldn’t be too surprised: the easygoing sleeper hit, its ensemble dripping with veteran thespian royaltyincluding Judi Dench, Tom Wilkinson, Bill Nighy and Maggie Smith, was always likely to appeal more to the acting community than any other professional branch. (Smith was the only individual from the cast recognized, scoring a Supporting Actress nod to bookend her citation in the TV race for “Downton Abbey.”)  The question is now whether “Best Exotic” has enough support to score in the Academy’s elastic Best Picture field — it’s by no means impossible.

The success of “Best Exotic,” however, is far from the biggest surprise in a list with as many eyebrow-raising omissions as inclusions. In the latter column, the name generating the most chatter is Nicole Kidman. While many critics championed her turn as a white-trash jailbird’s wife in Lee Daniels’s steamy Southern melodrama “The Paperboy,” the scatching reviews (and paltry box office) for the film itself had led many to think she was down and out in the awards race — until a grassroots campaign, with Kidman herself leading the publicity offence, clearly made an impression on SAG voters.

Kidman’s wild-card placing in the Best Supporting Actress race came spelled trouble for National Board of Review winner Ann Dowd (“Compliance”) and, even more unexpectedly, LA Critics’ choice Amy Adams, widely seen as a safe bet for “The Master.” Both were left out.

Indeed, the bad news for “The Master” didn’t end there: while SAG regular Philip Seymour Hoffman was nominated in the Supporting Actress race, Joaquin Phoenix — another LA Critics’ winner — was squeezed out of a tight Best Actor field. Some will point the blame at Phoenix’s very public hostility toward the mechanics of the awards season, other will simply conclude that Paul Thomas Anderson’s widely admired but deeply divisive Scientology-themed drama was simply too chilly for the SAG crowd.

Either way, this was a morning of mixed fortunes for The Weinstein Company. The love for “Silver Linings” may be, well, a silver lining, but the underwhelming showing for “The Master” and the complete absence of “Django Unchained” (which seems to suffering from internal competition between Leonardo DiCaprio and Christoph Waltz in the Best Supporting Actor race) will prompt some rethinking.  

If pundits expected a shock nominee anywhere — as paradoxical as that sounds — it was in the Best Actress race, where the ineligibility of “Beasts of the Southern Wild” star Quvenzhané Wallis had seemingly opened up a slot, while SAG’s frequent American bias didn’t bode well for French-language contenders Emmanuelle Riva (“Amour”) and Marion Cotillard (“Rust and Bone”). As it is, they didn’t go too far out of the box, as on-the-bubble contenders Helen Mirren and Naomi Watts both found favor — the latter’s nomination a helpful boost for the harrowing tsunami drama “The Impossible,” still lurking under the radar in the Oscar race.

Between the French dames, meanwhile, they opted for the starrier but less universally acclaimed contender: Cotillard scores her second SAG nod, while 85-year-old veteran Riva, who has thus far won the Los Angeles, Boston and New York Online critics’ prizes, was left out in the cold. Expect this category to veer the most from the SAG lineup on Oscar nomination morning.

In the Supporting Actor category, another European crossover star, Javier Bardem, got a major bump today, as the SAG crowd preferred his fey yet menacing Bond villain in “Skyfall” to such similarly tongue-in-cheek rivals as Matthew McConaughey and the “Django” guys. Bardem’s nomination isn’t as surprising as it might have been even a week ago; now, with a BFCA nomination also under his belt, he’s in a strong position to land the 007 franchise its first ever above-the-line nod.

The complete list of nominees for the 2012 Screen Actors Guild Awards.