Amir here, to write about one of my favourite awards of the season: the SAG award for "Outstanding Performance by a Cast in a Motion Picture". I say "favourite" because, in principle, I love the notion of awarding actors who work together as a group to make a film tick. In my ideal world, the best cast award is more about collective achievements than multiple individual ones but over the years, SAG’s top award has sadly become synonymous with Best Picture. Genuine ensemble pieces have often been ignored in favour of Oscar’s best picture frontrunners or films with the highest number of nominees in other SAG categories. Yet, despite my disappointment, I can’t stop obsessing over this award or detach myself.
This year is bound to be a similar affair, with the three frontrunning Oscar films all poised to win SAG nods in this category. Nonetheless, let’s look at what will get nominated and what should.
I have yet to see Les Misérables, but the rapturous response from this week’s screenings (Nathaniel was at the first one) suggests that we will collectively forgive Hooper for stealing The Social Network’s thunder once we finally lay eyes on his newest film. (Though, I'll still begrudge The King’s Speech for winning the SAG "cast" award two years ago. Two great performances and one default “supporting wife” nominee don't merit a best cast prize, especially in the presence of The Kids Are Alright and The Fighter.)
More hopefuls after the jump...
Les Miz has, by most reports, powerful and emotional performances. Another good sign for the SAG Cast prize: different critics have singled out different performers for second-best in show laurels (Hathaway ruling all).
Spielberg’s film is full to the brim with respected character actors who all do great work with their small roles, plus a central performance that is easily one of the year's best. It is guaranteed three nominations in the individual categories, so I’ll be really surprised if it misses the cut for ensemble. On a side note, Spielberg’s film also has the most potential for those inexplicable ensemble snubs we all hate -- Let's get this straight: Gwen Stefani was in The Aviator but Rooney Mara wasn’t in The Social Network??? –- so expect grumbling about __________ missing the cut while the rest of the cast suit up for the ceremony.
Ben Affleck's 100 million hit is arguably the only one of the three with the slightest chance of drawing blank when the nominees are announced, if only because it will score at most one nomination in other categories. That doesn’t necessarily hurt its chances. Midnight in Paris didn’t get individual nods but made it here just last year – but if SAG voters are in adventurous mood, who knows? I can hear you telling me to (Ar)go fuck myself because SAG voters are never in an adventurous mood. You’re right. That’s a faulty logic. They haven't been adventurous since Hustle & Flow so mark this down as the third lock.
Second Tier Possibilities
If we assume that multiple mentions in the individual categories can help a film get nominated for best cast – in most years that’s a safe assumption – then two films here have a great shot. Silver Linings Playbook, like Russell’s last film, is as much an actors’ piece as it is a director’s one. Lawrence is the presumed best actress frontrunner and De Niro and Cooper will surely have some support in their races. SAG is also more receptive of “lighter” films than the Academy so the “typical romantic comedy” caveat which has stopped some pundits from taking Playbook seriously as an Oscar player doesn’t come into play here. The Master is a much tougher sit, which can potentially hurt it with the SAG crowd, though if any guild is going to support Anderson’s enigma (beyond the directors) wouldn't it be the actors? I suspect the voters are going to view the film as a pas de deux between the leads -- the same reason Nathaniel suspects Amy Adams will be left on the outside looking in of the suppporting actress list -- and consider the individual nominations rewarding enough. If that be the case, Django Unchained could be the best bet for the fifth spot, despite its very late screenings. Tarantino’s films always feature dependably strong performances and this ensemble includes four previous SAG nominees. Inglourious Basterds won this award three years ago.
There seems to be a lot of love for The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel in the industry but since I can’t muster up the enthusiasm to see this film, I’m going to assume enough SAG voters will feel the same and ignore it. Foolish of me? Nathaniel was just talking about Quartet, an unexpectedly low-profile film that could have easily been a contender for this prize if it was promoted differently. The Sessions could potentially be a threat, but none of its smaller characters are given enough depth to require much from the actors. Hopkins and company are clearly having a lot of fun with their characters in Hitchcock, but ‘fun’ seems to be the key word here and that’s not always an advantage. Zero Dark Thirty could be the real spoiler, but word from early screenings suggests that it’s a director’s piece more than anything. Besides, consensus has formed on Chastain as the best in show, and she'll probably be the film’s only SAG nod.
My real wish list often contains films that are probably so far off SAG’s radar it’s laughable to have high hopes for them, like last year’s A Separation, or In the Loop before that. I'd love to see Magic Mike nominated but that’ll happen when pigs fly...in thongs. (I promise to be happy just to see Matthew McConaughey show up in the best supporting actor shortlist.)
Slightly more probable but equally satisfying would be a nod for Wes Anderson’s new whimsical gem, so I’ll settle for that as my most realistic wish. Moonrise Kingdom got a major boost from the Indie Spirit nominations but is going to have a steep hill to climb if it’s going to compete for Oscar glory. Anderson brings together an eclectic cast featuring his regulars and some new faces that one might not expect to see in his work. They fit together perfectly. Add the two wondrous newcomers as Sam and Suzy and the result is one of the few true ensembles and most impressive collective performances of the year. A nomination here wouldn’t just be well deserved but would indicate that Moonrise Kingdom enjoys broad enough support to make a small dent in the Oscar race, too.
SAG VOTING: In Progress. Ballots are due by December 10th
SAG NOMINATIONS: Wednesday, December 12th
SAG AWARD CEREMONY: Sunday, January 27th
Which films are you wishing for in the Ensemble category? And if there's a surprise like The Station Agent or Hustle & Flow in years (long) past, which film do you think it'll be?