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« Ask Nathaniel | Main | SAG Nominations: Surprising, Silly, Shame-less »

BEST ENSEMBLE... Except You Corey Stoll in "Midnight in Paris"!

It's become something of a tradition here at The Film Experience to take issue with the Screen Actors Guild and their problematic "Outstanding Performance by an Ensemble in a Motion Picture" prize. Year after year they don't even seek to address an issue that you'd think would matter to the 90,000+ guild members: the preferencing of "names" over character actors, no matter the size or importance of the role. As you may know acting is one of those fields were you're lucky to just be working and those who make millions are few and far between. Yet the guild, which should be protecting their less-famous members often lets them be crushed by fame and its perks (aka getting your own title card or high billing). If you don't have your own title card you usually don't end up in the "ensemble" list. Our interest in this situation was first stirred by The Aviator (2004) when we were horrified to realize that the very famous Gwen Stefani was included as a nominee for essentially walking and sitting onscreen in Jean Harlow drag while Matt Ross, who was excellent in MANY scenes as Howard Hughes's right hand man was excluded. 

So who is nominated and who is excluded this year? Let's take a looksee.

nominees: Bérénice Bejo, James Cromwell, Jean Dujardin, John Goodman, and Penelope Ann Miller
who is excluded? Missy Pyle who has a fun cameo and Beth Grant who appears in the movie briefly in its final act ...and Uggie the dog who some people think is best in show. 

nominees: Rose Byrne, Jill Clayburgh, Ellie Kemper, Matt Lucas, Melissa McCarthy, Wendi McLendon-Covey, Chris O'Dowd, Maya Rudolph and Kristen Wiig.
who is excluded? This is fairly representative of the film though Ben Falcone, Air Marshall Jon (and Mr Melissa McCarthy in real life), is excluded. Also missing though understandably given that he went "uncredited" is Jon Hamm.

nominees: Beau Bridges, George Clooney, Robert Forster, Judy Greer (Interviewed), Matthew Lillard, and Shailene Woodley.
who is excluded? Nick Krause as "Sid" who has been given quite a lot of attention in the movie's trailer and appears in several scenes. An even more important character, the youngest King daughter played by Amara Miller is also absent. We'll forgive them for omitting Patricia Hastie as Elizabeth King. (Not that it's not difficult to appear comatose for scene upon scene upon scene; I could never sit still that long, I don't know about you.)

nominees: Jessica Chastain, Viola Davis, Bryce Dallas Howard, Allison Janney, Chris Lowell, Ahna O'Reilly, Sissy Spacek, Octavia Spencer, Mary Steenburgen, Emma Stone, Cicely Tyson and Mike Vogel.
who is excluded? With the largest amount of nominees, they do fairly well at covering the movie but there is one key player missing: Aunjane Ellis who plays "Yule Mae" and gets a few really good scenes involving her struggle to send her boy to college. Other exclusions: Tony winner LaChanze who plays "Rachel" in one of the most heartbreaking scenes as her mother is fired from a lifelong job, and the diminutive Leslie Jordan who bosses Emma Stone around frequently at work between meatier scenes is also absent.

nominees: Kathy Bates, Adrien Brody, Carla Bruni, Marion Cotillard, Rachel McAdams, Michael Sheen, and Owen Wilson (who are all listed alphabetically, as is Woody's generous ensemble-friendly way, on the first title card)
who is excluded? Where to even begin? Each year one of the nominees takes the cake for the year's most bizarre exclusions and this is inarguably that film for 2011.

The nomination does not include the three co-stars who were, arguably, the most fun to watch. Corey Stoll who won the lion's share of "stole the show!" plaudits for his breakthrough work as Ernest Hemingway is missing. Perhaps even more baffling, given their higher degree of fame before this film, is the exclusion of Alison Pill and Tom Hiddleston as the Fitzgeralds. I spoke to Corey Stoll this morning (read the interview) and since I was particularly aggravated by his absence from the list, I asked him how he was feeling about it:

That's a nomination for us whether we go there or not. We are undeniably a part of the ensemble and we brought a lot to the table. But it's strange that it's SAG that does that. I could understand something that's more critic or producer-centric but acting? From my union, I think it's a little strange. 

We wholeheartedly agree!

Other key cast members of Midnight in Paris who appear with "Hemingway" & "the Fitzgeralds" on the second title card and were thus excluded from the honor were: Mimi Kennedy and Kurt Fuller (the future in-laws), Léa Seydoux (the vintage shop worker) and Nina Arianda (Michael Sheen's fiancé).

Wouldn't SAG do better by its own union members if productions were expected to choose the nominees themselves (up to a certain number of people), the way Oscar nominated films must choose who gets the credit fo such efforst as producing and visual effects and what not? 


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Reader Comments (32)

Amen! I think it's kind of a Top 1% thing, where we idolize those enshrined at the top at the expense of the people closer to our level, even when the latter are doing most of the work! If there were ever a time to get over that, it's now!

December 14, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterMarsha Mason

How on earth did they leave Jon Hamm off the list for Bridesmaids??

December 14, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterSteven

It's bizarre that the Bridesmaids list includes Matt Lucas but not Rebel Wilson, who played his twin and Kristen Wiig's actual roommate. And while it might be a stretch, I do think Jon Hamm adds a lot to the film in his short scene.

December 14, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterKatey

So, the "everyone has to get their own title card" thing isn't consistently applied. For "Midnight in Paris," it's "everyone on the first title card." So why bother having the rule if it can't be applied consistently? But hey, as long as Carla Bruni gets her due!

Yes, the productions themselves should be choosing the nominees (within reason).

P.S. Corey Stoll, if you're distressed by your ridiculous omission, I'm available for consolation duties.

December 14, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterLiz N.

I'm thrilled that Midnight in Paris got a nom, but this level is snubbery is absurd! All the people you mentioned in each of these movies is deserving. But....just wow.

December 14, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterReid

Totally agree. I think the first time I noticed how weird these rules are was in 2005 when William Finchter was nominated as part of the ensemble for Crash for what was a 2 or 3 line part in the beginning of the movie, and Michael Pena was not. So weird. It's particularly egregious in Midnight in Paris' case since the best parts of that movie are the people who were not nominated. What would that movie be without Pill, Hiddleston, or Stoll?

December 14, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterRJ

I'd imagine if there were a 10-person limit and it was selected by the production, most savvy stars would put this into their contract that they had to be allowed to be selected in case of this nomination, so I suspect that they still would have the issues. But you and Stoll are right-a union should be better than this.

December 14, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterJohn T

Tom Hiddleston's snub is particularly embarrassing as, he made a magnificent villain in Thor, too. Having Carla Bruni nom'd and Hiddleston "out", is questionable, to say the least.

And I couldn't sit for more than 20 minutes with Bridesmaids. First time in years I stop watching a film and don't go back to it, out of Oscar contenders.

December 14, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterJesus Alonso

And maybe this is impossible for some reason, but what if a movie doesn't have any title cards? What if there are no opening credits except for a title (a la Scorses), and then at the end, the movie immediately goes to the crawl?

December 14, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterLiz N.

Plus: Harry Potter can already kiss goodbye his BP nom hopes, WB should work full steam the campaign for Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close, to pull off a Million Dollar Baby win (which it certainly can, here's hoping that serves to see Max von Sydow win an Oscar at last and not to see Sandra win a 2nd) and Harry Potter will probably have to contempt with a likely BAFTA sweep.

I am the only one that thinks the lack of presence of the best reviewed big film of the year at top 10 lists and critic circles awards sounds a bit hypocrite?

December 14, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterJesus Alonso


December 14, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterLiz N.


December 14, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterJA

Where do I have to sign? I agree with every word you wrote.

I already complained about "Paris" in the first post. Aunjane Ellis is another great example of how unfair/inaccurate the whole thing is.

Do they really love their craft? I 'm starting to doubt it. If they did this embarrasement would not be repeating year after year.

Every season I get the feeling we care more than they do.

December 14, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterPeggy Sue

Irony of this post being that you didn't mention Lea Seydoux, who had probably a more important role than either Hemingway or the Fitzgeralds, until the end. :(

December 14, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterDylan E

Thank God!

My Tilda Swinton! I'm really happy!!

December 14, 2011 | Unregistered Commentergabriel

"Irony of this post being that you didn't mention Lea Seydoux, who had probably a more important role than either Hemingway or the Fitzgeralds, until the end. :("

She's lovely and talented, but that part could have been played by anyone.

December 14, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterRJ

Not that she will for Extremely Loud, but I would hate to be in the room with Julia Roberts if Sandra Bullock were to pull off a second Oscar before her. I love me some Julia, but I have a sneaking suspicion there would be a diva fit a-happenin' then.

December 14, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterJohn T

I literally just got back from seeing 'Midnight in Paris', so the sting of the omission of Stoller feels especially fresh. I also thought Nina Arianda was fantastic in her few scenes as Michael Sheen's girlfriend - nailing a certain kind of insecure posturing hilariously without pulling focus.

A possibly naive question - why does the SAG need to specify particular actors at all? Why not award it to the film, and implicitly to every credited and even uncredited player, collectively?

December 14, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterLaika

Great post, Nathaniel.

There's what, like, 4 scenes in total between Carla Bruni and Adrien Brody, but they get in and not Corey Stoll or Tom Hiddleston? Absurd. I'd forgotten Bruni was even in the movie about two minutes after it finished, but Stoll was the actor that really made the movie sing.

As you say, what's particularly galling is that these are actors doing these nominations. You'd think they, more than anyone, would not do this shit.

December 14, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterSamuel

Besides the fiasco that is Midnight in Paris's "ensemble," the only real snub that bothers me are Amara Miller and Nick Krause The Descendants. I thought Amara in particular was great.

As for The Help, I think they left off the right folks. I'd prefer not have been reminded that Leslie Jordan was in the movie. Yikes- that was bad.

December 14, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterEvan

^Whoops. Proofread! Proofread! Proofread!

December 14, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterEvan

There shouldn't have allowed a single male member of the cast of The Help to be nominated. It's one of the most female dominated movies I've ever seen. Most women's films have plenty of meaty parts for men but not The Help.

December 14, 2011 | Unregistered Commenter//3rtful

I think the 'misses' from The Help is a bit of a stretch. I don't think anyone would really think those actors would be considered - they were great, but such minor roles.

December 14, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterMatt

Good piece, Nathaniel; while gone, they're not forgotten. This Midnight in Paris business is truly baffling. Or is it?

Completely off topic, but San Diego and Toronto sure seem to know what's up. Michael Shannon FTW, as the acronym goes.

December 14, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterDevin D

Both Beth Grant AND Leslie Jordan weren't listed?! Well, that's...SORDID. Wink wink.

Oh, and Corey Stoll. Drool...

December 14, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterEric Arvin

Eric -- LOL. I would never have made the connection! But it's a fun one.

December 14, 2011 | Registered CommenterNATHANIEL R

Corey Stoll is right. Whether they are listed or not, an ensemble prize is for every single one of the actors involved in a movie or series. I would feel confused but pleased.

December 14, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterPablo (BOG)

Besides Michael Fassbender, which three actors' (under the age of 35) careers are you looking forward to the most? Or better yet, which three actors (again, under 35) have the most possibilities of potential in their careers?

December 14, 2011 | Unregistered Commenterakt

Fun fact for the deeply weird SAG Ensemble rules: Under the existing system, it makes sense that Jon Hamm wasn't nominated for Bridesmaids because he went unbilled. However, that didn't stop Rupert Everett for being nominated (and winning) in 1999 for Shakespeare In Love, even though he was similarly uncredited. To my knowledge this is the only time this has happened in the SAG Ensemble category (an unbilled actor listed as part of the group). Did Harvey Weinstein get Everett a waiver that year?

December 15, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterAndrew

The first time I came across this oddity about the "Best Ensemble" SAG Award was in 2000, when "Chocolat" was up for that award, with the likes of Hugh O'Conor and Leslie Caron being included in the ensemble, and Victoire Thivisol, playing Juliette Binoche's daughter Anouk, being left out.

December 15, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterMarco Venezia

I just got back from The Descendants. I loved Sid. The rule is so ridiculous. Beyond the ridiculousness of the Midnight situation, and the Descendants didn't fare much better, Aunjanue and Missi brought so much to their movies.

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