By Oliver Lyttelton | www.oliverlyttelton.com December 14, 2011 at 1:02PM
After a few weeks where the critics got to have the limelight, the awards barometer swung back to the practicioners this morning, as the Screen Actors Guild revealed their nominations for their annual awards, making them the first major guild out the gate. And, true to form, for the most part they played it safe with a firmly middlebrow selection of nominees.
That's not necessarily shocking, but what was surprising is the degree to which not just brave performances in difficult films were left out, but even some performances previously thought of as stone-cold locks. With the SAG being one of the more accurate predictors around, it's shaken up the awards race in a fairly major way. As Guy Lodge points out, the last film to win Best Picture at the Oscars without being nominated for Outstanding Cast at the SAGs was "Braveheart" in 1995, so presumed frontrunners "War Horse," "Hugo" and "Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close" are looking less happy. Below, we take a closer look at the big snubs and discuss whether they are out for the count, or if they could fight back along the way to the Kodak Theater.
Tomas Alfredson's spy thriller has, despite a very strong start at the box office, done really poorly throughout the critics' awards so far, but we'd expected, given the depth and breadth of the film's outstanding cast, it would figure into the Outstanding Cast noms at the SAGs. But no dice as not only was Gary Oldman ignored, but the film's ensemble also lost out. Even to those who are cool on the film, we can't see how the strength of Oldman, Benedict Cumberbatch, Mark Strong, Tom Hardy, et al. loses out to "The Artist," which relies on Jean Dujardin, Berenice Bejo and the dog, but then if awards were decided on merit... Stick a fork in its Oscar chances, it's done, sadly.
Michael Fassbender, Woody Harrelson & Michael Shannon
Brad Pitt, George Clooney and Jean Dujardin have been locked into the Best Actor race for some time, but common wisdom has been that one of the leads of the more difficult "Shame," "Rampart" or "Take Shelter" would take a fifth slot, as some of the most critically acclaimed turns of the year. But not only did Harrelson and Shannon lose out (as we suspected they might), but Fassbender, thought likely to make the final cut, did too. It's not surprising. It's not really a SAG film, and we wouldn't be shocked to see him replace Demian Bichir (who is, at least deserving of a boost at this stage), or Leonardo DiCaprio in the Oscar vote next month, but we also wouldn't be surprised to see Fassbender watching the Oscars from home either.
While the Best Picture chances for "Young Adult" drifted away some time ago (despite rave reviews), it has been generally thought that Charlize Theron had a good chance of breaking into the tight Best Actress race, while Patton Oswalt was said to be close to a lock for Supporting Actor. But Theron lost out to Glenn Close and Tilda Swinton (the latter, happily, is looking more and more likely to pick up a nomination), and Oswalt to Jonah Hill in "Moneyball." We always assumed that one, but not both of Hill and Oswalt would get nominated, but it looks like the needle's swinging toward the "Superbad" star at this point. It's not looking good for upstarts Rooney Mara and Elizabeth Olsen either, who like Jennifer Lawrence last year, could have benefited from the momentum boost of a SAG nom.
The comedy vet has picked up several Supporting Actor awards from critics groups, so his omission was arguably the biggest shock of the announcements. As seems to be the theme, it may be that the film's violence was too much a turn-off for SAG members, but for the first time, the man who we'd thought could be the only person that could beat Christopher Plummer in the category is no longer a dead cert for a nomination. Given the oddness of the picks here (Hill? Armie Hammer?) and the fact that most years see some disparity in the category, we'd wager that Brooks still gets in, but it suggests a lack of support that would prevent him from winning.
Two veteran actors seen as the lone acting hopes of two likely Best Picture nominees, Ben Kingsley was shut out for "Hugo" and Max Von Sydow for "Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close." With the latter being kept so closely under wraps, it suggests Paramount's campaign is increasingly backfiring (let's see how those Globe nominations turn out tomorrow, though), while the former could be an indicator that the film doesn't have the support among Academy voter types that it has from critics. Again, getting in isn't necessarily out of the question, but we suspect only one of the two has a real chance.
Shailene Woodley & Vanessa Redgrave
Two actreses at two different ends of the spectrum, one a star of an ABC Family show only just in her twenties in "The Descendants," the other a seventysomething stage veteran in Ralph Fiennes' "Coriolanus." But they have two things in common: they've both been hotly tipped for the Best Supporting Actress category (indeed, Redgrave's been the frontrunner since February), and they both missed out from SAG. The category is especially weak, but Melissa McCarthy's looking more and more likely to get in the final five, and Berenice Bejo looks like a lock, and even a potential winner if Jessica Chastain and Octavia Spencer split "The Help" vote. We suspect that Janet McTeer will give way to Redgrave eventuallly, but it's anyone's game at this point.