The Screen Actors Guild has changed a lot since they merged with the American Federation of Television and Radio Artists. Its membership grew to 150,000 and many journalists and TV personalities were suddenly voters. They still utilize a nominating committee of around 2,000. They see the films and they nominate, and then the entire voting body picks the winners. Last year was the weirdest SAG results I’ve ever seen, though they were not bad. With Sarah Silverman getting an acting nomination, Beasts of No Nation and Trumbo getting Ensemble Award nods – it was different from how things usually go. In fact, only two ensemble picks went on to get a Best Picture nomination. Many people said that Netflix had a great impact on those nominations because for voters who did not get screeners, they chose from what was easily available for viewing on Netflix. Something to keep in mind.
We know that Martin Scorsese’s Silence will likely come out too late to be considered, like The Revenant last year, or Wolf of Wall Street the year before.
Here is what reader JH wrote:
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Let’s assume LA LA LAND gets in despite being a two-hander…. MOONLIGHT seems like an obvious choice for them after last year’s nominations of BEASTS and COMPTON… By similar logic, FENCES feels like a lock, sight unseen, as long as it screens early enough.
What gets into the other two slots?
– MANCHESTER BY THE SEA is definitely an actors’ piece… it could well happen, especially since SAG clearly has no anti-Amazon bias.
– I could easily imagine LION getting individual SAG nominations for Kidman, Pawar, and possibly Patel, which has to put it in contention for an Ensemble nomination.
– HAIL, CAESAR! or RULES DON’T APPLY could pull a TRUMBO.
– Could SAG’s eye toward honoring diverse casts extend to THE BIRTH OF A NATION despite all of the drama?
– NOCTURNAL ANIMALS doesn’t strike me as a major Best Picture contender, but it’s definitely full of outsized acting… a SAG Ensemble nom would not shock me (I suspect Shannon will get an individual nomination from them).
– This might where we see the first indications that FLORENCE FOSTER JENKINS might turn up in Best Picture.
– SILENCE and BILLY LYNN’S LONG HALFTIME WALK wait in the shadows…
Am I overlooking anything?
These are all good choices. While last year was definitely an odd duck in terms of their history, generally speaking they do go for ensembles that feature very big stars, like The Butler, like August: Osage County, like Trumbo. So we have to start there.
We also know they don’t really like big effects movies and don’t pick them, hardly ever. Let’s take a quick look at the past nominees:
Oscar Best Picture nominees bolded.
Spotlight — winner/BP winner
Beasts of No Nation
The Big Short
Straight Outta Compton
The Grand Budapest Hotel
The Imitation Game
The Theory of Everything
12 Years a Slave–bp winner
August: Osage County
Dallas Buyers Club
The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel
Silver Linings Playbook
The Artist–BP winner
Midnight in Paris
The King’s Speech–winner/BP winner
The Kids Are All Right
The Social Network
The Hurt Locker–BP Winner
You can see how strange last year’s choices were – just two out of the five eventually were nominated. But we expect there to be more crossover this year.
I think these films have the best shot:
LA LA Land because it’s beloved not because of the ensemble acting, which is surprisingly full of many unknowns. It won’t miss so it doesn’t matter but generally speaking they like big casts with well known actors.
Fences — if there is a sure bet for SAG Ensemble this is it, or it certainly would have been before AFTRA joined up. I’m still going to call this the easiest pick without question, even sight unseen I think I can say this. If you went to acting school as I did you know that Fences is one of those plays, like Streetcar Named Desire, that every actor does. If every actor is doing scenes from this film, every actor has seen those scenes or the play. We know it is going to be bravura acting up one side and down the other. Mark this one down IN INK.
20th Century Women — with Annette Bening and Billy Crudup and Elle Fanning – it seems like this could be a big one with SAG. It’s possible.
Manchester by the Sea — while the SAG tend to go for bigger stars than are in this, this actor-driven film should impress them.
Moonlight–seems like a good bet. This is an ensemble film if it is anything, with no leading performances. On the other hand, most of the actors are not that well known and that could prove tricky.
Hidden Figures — depending on how this goes, it seems right up SAG’s alley. Diverse cast, well-known stars, many of them also on television. As long as it’s seen in time for voting, I would bet it would be a player with SAG.
Florence Foster Jenkins — they love Meryl Streep, it’s about performingm and has some acting heavyweights in it. Seems like a good bet.
Loving — Focus seems to always land their movies with SAG so I would bet this one gets in. Also, it’s actor-driven with a lot of great performances all around, even if it’s not exactly packed with well-known stars.
Lion – another one to watch out for, mainly because it’s being pushed by The Weinstein Co. as they’re pretty good at this. Also Nicole Kidman is in it, and the film is really driven by the actors more so than anything else. Also, it’s a very emotional film.
Hell or High Water — you know, you just never know. This seems like it was made for SAG, doesn’t it? Except for it being a western and all. I would not write it off.
Bleed for This – not a critics movie but it is ensemble acting like no other, with Aaron Eckhart and Miles Teller leading a cast of character actors.
Rules Don’t Apply – you never know – it’s possible. Since no one has seen it, it’s hard to say.
Live by Night — ditto. Hard to guess on a film no one knows how it will go.
I would probably predict, right now, these five of those that have been seen:
La La Land
Manchester by the Sea
20th Century Women or Florence Foster Jenkins
If I had to spitball a final list, including films I haven’t seen:
La La Land
Manchester by the Sea