SAG Awards Movie Noms Analysis: Actors Drop A ‘Bombshell’ In Oscar Race, Which Is Now Officially Wide Open

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As the nominations come fast and furious now, the Screen Actors Guild’s SAG Awards along with the American Cinema Editors’ ACE Eddies further clarified the race for Oscar this morning, particularly from a standpoint of having the major guilds weigh in — meaning it is now peer groups rather than critics who are having their say. And the results are telling.

Leading the pack for SAG with four nominations each were The Irishman and Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, both to be expected considering the way the season has gone so far. But Lionsgate’s Bombshell also had a major showing with four noms and was not expected by pundits to do this well at SAG. With Outstanding Cast in a Motion Picture in addition to individual nominations for Charlize Theron, Nicole Kidman and Margot Robbie, SAG has put the film squarely in the competition just as the film is about to open Friday.

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This is a huge boost for Bombshell, which so far has failed to reach the top tier of other contenders. However, at the Globes and Critics’ Choice it did score acting nominations, so the love from SAG does seem to fit a trend, but the sheer volume of it is a pleasant surprise and gives much needed momentum to the film which just had its Los Angeles premiere last night. There were a number of Academy members there, and it was interesting to note a few of them told me they were seeing it for the second time, a good sign for Oscar nominations to come I would say.

The other big news as I see it is the one single nomination for South Korea’s Parasite, but it was a biggie, for Outstanding Cast. I can’t recall another foreign-language film ever getting this kind of recognition in the ensemble category from SAG. Ever. (Update: In 1998 Italy’s Life Is Beautiful had a Cast nomination and Roberto Begnini won Best Actor, but this is very rare). This remarkable film from director Bong Joon Ho has just shown how mighty it continues to be this season as it also scored an ACE nod today for editing, but the recognition from SAG is huge and may be the surest sign yet that it could be on its way to making history in a very big way in the next couple of months. Not even Roma last year was able to cross this barrier (it was shut out in nominations by SAG but went on to two acting nods at the Oscars), and the fact that Parasite did it when such touted contenders as 1917, The Two Popes, Richard Jewell, Little Women and Pain and Glory are AWOL is significant.

The latter Spanish film follows the usual pattern of SAG ignoring foreign-language films, though the omission of its star Antonio Banderas in the uber-crowded Lead Actor Oscar race has to hurt, as he has been on a roll since winning in Cannes in May; this is his first stumble on the way to a first Oscar nomination for the star. I still think he will prevail and get that nomination, but this snub has made it harder for him, and it makes Parasite’s achievement with the actors union all that more impressive.

The Lead Actor competition is ridiculous, with so many contenders it was inevitable some of the major names would be left out today — and they were. In addition to Banderas, Robert De Niro for The Irishman, Jonathan Pryce for The Two Popes and Eddie Murphy in Dolemite Is My Name were all bypassed (although De Niro is getting the previously announced SAG Life Achievement Award). That is a bit of a setback for Netflix, which has all three of those films in an otherwise big showing for the streamer, which still landed a leading seven SAG nominations on the film side including four for Irishman and three for Marriage Story — though no no Outstanding Cast nod for the latter.

In Lead Actor, Rocketman’s Taron Egerton has to be popping the champagne corks today because he was much further down the list of possibilities, deserved as his nomination is, and now coupled with his Golden Globe nod Monday is moving up the charts, as is Ford v Ferrari’s Christian Bale, who similarly scored a double whammy with matching Globe and SAG nods this week. The lack of a SAG nomination, following a Globe snub, for Adam Sandler’s acclaimed performance in Uncut Gems has to hurt over at A24. SAG could have really boosted his Oscar chances, but the lethal competition and Egerton’s emergence with voters has clearly put a dent in that trajectory.

With Joaquin Phoenix’s expected nomination at SAG (plus a mention in the Stunt category) and an ACE Eddie nod today, Joker continues to prove its worth too. If anyone had any doubts, those should be erased now. The other movie that gets added momentum I think is Fox Searchlight’s Jojo Rabbit, which scored nominations not only for supporting actress Scarlett Johansson (she is up in lead, too, for Marriage Story), but also for its cast. So that is a very big deal for the Taika Waititi comedy.

Overall, SAG’s list, with a boost from inclusion at ACE today, keeps the focus on Netflix’s The Irishman, Sony’s Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, and Neon’s Parasite as certified front-runners in the Oscar race, while Marriage Story, Jojo Rabbit and Joker are hovering just under that plateau. Bombshell and Ford v Ferrari are coming up on the outside. With no mention at all from either SAG or ACE but with significant love earlier in the week from the Golden Globes and Critics’ Choice, Sam Mendes’ World War I epic 1917 is still in the fight too, but may be slightly wounded. While the publicity that it was all done in one camera shot probably hurt its chances with the film editors, and it wasn’t expected to have much impact at SAG despite two terrific young actors in the leads, it lives to fight another day and I think will become a significant factor as more guilds weigh in over the next few weeks.

This Oscar race is still wide open.

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