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Entries in SAG (50)


Year in Review: Best Ensembles & Best Casting

To the tune of Madonna's "Music" ♫

Hey Mr Director, get your ensemble on, all the guys & ladies
And once the movie starts
don't ever let them stop, they're gonna drive me crazy

People make the movie come together - yeah

As annoying as it was in 2003 when Mystic River was attempting to halt the inevitable Lord of the Rings coronation with a sort of 'people are the best special effects!' Oscar campaign, the sentiment was true and remains so. I've been going to all kind of movies my whole life and  I've yet to see anything that's as remarkable as the happily regular occurence of weird electricity and true magic sparking when fine actors collide, collude, combust or cooperate.

So as we're all celebrating the holidays with our own personal ensembles of friends and family, I thought it would be a good time to honor the most special collections of players in 2013.  I can never let the Screen Actors Guild have the last word on this matter because, though acting is their raison d'etre, they never get this category right, opting for popular Oscar bound films with big casts and not really thinking about the WHOLE cast, and how all those players are interacting and bouncing off or working together. This year, they chose August: Osage County, American Hustle, Dallas Buyers Club, 12 Years a Slave, Lee Daniels' The Butler, and I think two of those are really poor choices (though I like all five films) when you're thinking about the acting collective as opposed to just one or two performances within it. SAG's past history suggests that they're only comfortable with "star" ensembles so they were never going to go for fine teams like Frances Ha and Short Term 12 but why not Prisoners which is a sharp example of stars NOT connecting with each other on purpose. Everyone in that cast is alone since all the characters are horrified by each other (and sometimes themselves), trapped in their own personal grief and grievances.

When you're talking about great ensemble work I think you're also talking about fine direction and smart casting, though there are exceptions. Two fascinating examples of how complicated this all gets in that you can have one without the other(s) are August: Osage County and 12 Years a Slave. A:OC has a lot of fine actors in it but the director John Wells can't figure out how to see all of them at once, opting too often for shot / reverse shot when he needs to widen the camera or choreograph them differently so we can watch them together. I've never understood why so many contemporary directors have trouble absorbing this concept since their peers who are skillful at shooting group scenes are hardly obscurities. Just watch a couple of movies by David O. Russell and Paul Thomas Anderson (or classic departed directors like Wyler or Altman) and you'll instantly be smarter about ensemble vision; They know exactly when to go to or stay with a two-shot or a three or four or even five shot... Hell, get everybody in there -- the more the merrier! As for 12 Years, I'm on record as complaining about the casting. Too many of its (white) supporting players are too familiar as  faces go which, in a lesser movie, would really derail the existential horror. But there's no denying that when this cast is acting together it's absolutely electric... I still get chills thinking about the way Michael Fassbender leans on his co-stars like they're his furniture and the way the various actors playing the slaves freeze up whenever they're being observed and the multiple nuances of when the actors are willing to look at each other and when they're too scared or smart to. It's all top notch work but if the director wasn't wise enough to let you see this -- and many directs aren't, just stiching 90 minutes of establishing shots and close-ups together and calling it a movie -- the ensemble probably wouldn't be winning as much praise.

Without further ado... My Nominations for Best Casting & Best Ensemble

And, in case you haven't seen THR's Casting Roundtable. I watched it only after making my lists since I didn't want to be unduly influenced but it's completely interesting. 

I only wish they could have found room for Rich Delia and Douglas Aibel, since I'm honoring both this year.


Podcast: Awards Week Blowout Special

Nathaniel is back from his Iceland trip and going regional with JoeNick, and Katey for a one hour discussion of the barrage of film critics prizes from New York, Detroit, Boston and San Diego. And another thing: are LA's "ties" okay with this panel? 

Afterwards we pick on the Screen Actors Guild and their bizarre All is Lost joke (no Redford in actor but a stunt ensemble nomination when there's only one character and Redford did his own stunts?!)  and the team splits on the quality of Rush, recently resurgent thanks to SAG. Then we're on to the  Golden Globes for a discussion of the troublesome Comedy/Drama divide (read Joe's article for context) and we pick the best and worst of their nominees.

Also discussed: Jennifer Lawrence's backlash, Greta Gerwig's surprise, Forest Whitaker's acting, Leonardo DiCaprio's elusiveness, 12 Years a Slave's power, Philomena's luck, Dallas Buyers Club's ensemble, Wolf of Wall Street's editing, and Fruitvale Station's potential.

You can listen here or download the conversation on iTunes

Awards Week Blowout


SAG / Globe Part 2...TV Noms

Hey kids. I have been in Iceland for a few days (all will be revealed in time) so I thought I'd pop in quickly for three things. First, to thank Anne, Tim and Glenn for providing you content while I'm away. Second to say "congrats!" to Golden Globe nominee Sally Hawkins who I met just before leaving on my trip (interview forthcoming) and who kinda sorta blew my mind by actually knowing / loving the site. Was it my Happy-Go-Lucky (2008) obsession? Third, and finally, to list the TV nominations for Globe & SAG.

I'll have more to say on the movie nominations (where my heart lies as you know) other than "co-sign! What Glenn said" once I return to the States this weekend. But for now let's talk the TV nominations after the jump since I only have a hot minute between events here in Iceland. 

Click to read more ...


SAG Nominations Are In!

Good morning Oscar watchers. This morning brings one of the biggest precursors of the season: the Screen Actor's Guild. These days the eventual Oscar cross-over is usually somewhere between "very hot" (19/20 for 2009) to "very warm" (17/20 in 2011 and 2010) so you can guarantee a large number of the below nominees will show up on Oscar ballots in January.

What are we thinking will cross over? What will fall out? Will tomorrow's Golden Globe nominations (!!!) erase whatever momentum that some of today's nominees have amassed (we're looking at you August: Osage County and Lee Daniels' The Butler)?

Click to read more ...


SAG to Assemble Ensemble Nominees Now

Glenn here with news that Screen Actor's Guild voting forms have been shipped out in the post. As my tongue-twister of a title suggests, a select number (2,200 to be exact) of SAG members will be given the arduous task of deciding whether This is the End has an ensemble on the same playing field as 12 Years a Slave (I say yes!), if middling films with sprawling big-name casts like The Butler should be up there (I say no, but since when has that stopped them?) and which of the best actor favourites is going to pluck this year's unlucky short straw. There are so many contenders that somebody has to, right?

SAG are unique in that the people chosen to select the nominees changes each year amongst its hefty membership (now even bigger thanks to a merger with AFTRA, or is my lack of knowledge on the subject getting me into a mess?) That means whoever voted for that incredible roster of ensemble nominees in 2007 didn't necessarily vote for Nicole Kidman in The Paperboy, but we thank them for both nonetheless. It also means that sometimes curveballs are thrown that can signpost Oscar surprises waiting in the wings (Demian Bichir for A Better Life, anyone?) or can send prognosticators on a wild goose chase (Cloris Leachman in Spanglish?).

Last week Amir looked at SAG's ensemble category so there's no need to dip back into that well, but what are we thinking could surprise in the acting categories? Is there a Hilary Swank in Conviction waiting to win their lone citation of the season? Is there a Jacki Weaver who has two Oscar nominations to her credit and yet can't seem to get herself a solo SAG nomination? I'm personally wondering whether the older-skewing Best Actress category may make voters throw a bone to a popular young actor such as Brie Larson (Short Term 12) or if Matthew McConaughey can snag a double nomination with Dallas Buyer's Club in Best Actor and Mud in Best Supporting Actor. Lest we forget that Mud was the first screener sent to voters and that helps! 

What are you hunches or sneaking suspicions?
Speak up in the comments or make your FYCs.

The SAG Award Nominations will be announced on Wednesday, December 11th by TV stars Clark Gregg and Sasha Alexander


A Look Ahead at the SAG Award for Best Cast

It’s Amir here. Nathaniel and I have both previously shared our frustration about the way this prize is handled. Theoretically, this should be one of the best awards of the season. Imagine celebrating directors who can bring together an ensemble of actors with exciting chemistry, films that develop several characters in equal measure, and actors who find their footing by playing against other members of the cast. As previously stated, the award should be more about a collective achievement than multiple individual ones. Sadly, that’s not how it works in the real world.

Slumdog Millionaire's win remains baffling to this day.


Click to read more ...


Rita! Rita! Rita!

Rita made the cover of "Life" in 1954 Congratulations to "Anita" herself, Rita Moreno. The EGOT winner, West Side Story MVP, and showbiz legend will be honored with the SAG Lifetime Achievement Award this coming January at the SAG Awards Ceremony live on TNT and TBS on Saturday, Jan. 18, 2014. Unlike the Academy Awards (for shame) the Screen Actors Guild still understands the importance of honoring the giants of showbiz history each year on their broadcast, bless them.

Rita was the third actor to win the coveted "Triple Crown" (Tony, Emmy, Oscar) and coincidentally also the third performer to manage an "EGOT" (Emmy, Grammy, Oscar and Tony). What's most impressive about both achievements is that the awards were spread out over two decades and came for entirely different things (it's possible, after all, to win Grammys and Oscars for the same film and theoretically possible to win Emmys for performing on a Tony Awards show ;). This indicates true staying power and a lovely capacity to evolve. And, in Rita's case, she did this in an industry that was notoriously difficult for actresses of color to navigate. It still is to some degree but less so thanks to people like Rita. 

The Puerto Rican triple threat first made waves via movie musicals -- Singin' in the Rain (1952), The King and I (1954), West Side Story (1961, Oscar) -- but maintained her fame through work on stage (The Ritz won her the Tony in '75), and television in such memorable shows as The Muppet Show (Emmy),  Electric Company (Grammy), HBO's Oz and so on and so on. Children's Television, Immortal Musicals, and Racy Maximum-Security Drama; that's some range! And she's still working. She recently wrapped filming on a little movie called Six Dance Lessons in Six Weeks which co-stars other wonderful older actresses like Gena Rowlands and Jacki Weaver. 

Now about the award... while my personal preference is to give lifetime achievement and honorary prizes to people who haven't logged a lot of hours holding golden statues up in triumph, we all know this is not how Hollywood works. They love a winner so you have a lot better shot getting a lifetime achievement for your career if you've already won prizes for that career over the years and don't need the lifetime honor for anyone to remember you. In this case we don't mind so much since Rita is a truly special figure and breakthrough in Hollywood history. Bring this on.

Rita celebrating WSS's 50th anniversary a couple of years back

Anita's gonna get her kicks,  SAG Nii-iiii-iiiight ♩ She'll have a private little mix, SAG Nii-iiii-iiight

Tell us how much you love Rita in the comments. You know you do.