By Anne Thompson | Thompson on Hollywood December 14, 2011 at 11:21AM
"Albert Nobbs" star Glenn Close can heave a sigh of relief, as she landed a Screen Actors Guild nomination as Best Actress, along with frontrunners Meryl Streep ("The Iron Lady") and Viola Davis, whose film "The Help" gets a surge in the Oscar race as it dominated the field with four nominations, including best ensemble and two supporting nods for Octavia Spencer and Jessica Chastain.
Actors are by far the largest branch of the Academy, and can make an enormous difference. Now we know where their support lies, although Oscar voters can be less mainstream and more high-minded. In the past, SAG winners often match the Oscar winners: last year both groups chose Colin Firth, Natalie Portman, Christian Bale and Melissa Leo, and nominations matched up closely, 17 out of 20. That doesn't look as likely this year, as many races are still in flux.
The SAG ensemble nominations, their equivalent to the Oscar best picture category, went to "The Artist," "Bridesmaids," "The Descendants," "The Help" and "Midnight in Paris." While we know that "Bridesmaids," "The Artist" and "Midnight in Paris" will also do well with Golden Globes comedy nominations, that does not always translate to Oscar.
Also showing strength is "J. Edgar": the actors came through for both Best Actor candidate Leonardo DiCaprio and supporting actor Armie Hammer. But "The Ides of March," "War Horse," "Hugo," "Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close," "The Tree of Life," "Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy," "Drive," "Young Adult," "Margin Call," and "Coriolanus" were shut out. Vanessa Redgrave may not be a supporting actress candidate after all, and "The Descendants"' young Shailene Woodley was a surprise omission.
Some Oscar prognosticators were giving Charlize Theron better Oscar odds for "Young Adult" than Close, but Theron was left off the Best Actress list, along with Kirsten Dunst ("Melancholia"), Elizabeth Olsen ("Martha Marcy May Marlene"), Felicity Jones ("Like Crazy") and Rooney Mara ("The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo") .
The biggest surprise of the day was the inclusion of Best Actor nominee Damien Bichir for his role as a Mexican gardener in "A Better Life;" the actor is better known in Mexico, but has been campaigning here, and "A Better Life" was among the first screeners sent to the SAG nomination committee. Left out of the Best Actor category is critics' darling Michael Fassbender, who has spread the wealth over four films this year, including NC-17-rated "Shame." Another no-show is Gary Oldman ("Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy"), who also failed to win a Critics Choice nomination from the BFCA. While Fassbender is still going to get plenty of attention, dark horse indie contenders who are going to have a tough time gaining Oscar traction now unless the Golden Globes come through Thursday are Joseph Gordon-Levitt ("50/50"), Woody Harrelson ("Rampart") and Michael Shannon ("Take Shelter").
Veteran Nick Nolte ("Warrior") and Jonah Hill ("Moneyball") each scored a supporting actor nod, along with expected frontrunners Christopher Plummer ("Beginners") and Kenneth Branagh ("My Week with Marilyn"); his co-star Michelle Williams landed a Best Actress nomination. Left out were Kevin Spacey ('Margin Call"), Albert Brooks "Drive," Patton Oswalt ("Young Adult"), Brad Pitt ("The Tree of Life") and Max Von Sydow "Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close."
The SAG awards ceremony will be simulcast live on Sunday, January 29, 2012 on TNT and TBS at 8 pm (ET)/5 pm (PT)
Full list of nominees below.
Outstanding Performance by a Cast in a Motion Picture
Midnight in Paris
Outstanding Performance by a Male Actor in a Leading Role
Demián Bichir, A Better Life
George Clooney, The Descendants
Leonardo diCaprio, J. Edgar
Jean Dujardin, The Artist
Brad Pitt, Moneyball
Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Leading Role
Glenn Close, Albert Nobbs
Viola Davis, The Help
Meryl Streep, The Iron Lady
Tilda Swinton, We Need To Talk About Kevin
Michelle Williams, My Week With Marilyn
Outstanding Performance by a Male Actor in a Supporting Role
Kenneth Branagh, My Week With Marilyn
Armie Hammer, J.Edgar
Jonah Hill, Moneyball
Nick Nolte, Warrior
Christopher Plummer, Beginners
Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Supporting Role
Berenice Bejo, The Artist
Jessica Chastain, The Help
Melissa McCarthy, Bridesmaids
Janet McTeer, Albert Nobbs
Octavia Spencer, The Help
Outstanding Performance by a Stunt Ensemble in a Motion Picture
The Adjustment Bureau
Cowboys and Aliens
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 2
Transfromers: Dark of the Moon
X-Men: First Class