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.
MIDNIGHT IN PARIS
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).
SOLUTION / SUGGESTION
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?