SAG Awards nominations: What the biggest snubs and surprises mean for the Oscar race

Every actor who prevailed at the Screen Actors Guild Awards last year went on to win an Oscar, as did SAG’s ensemble winner, “Everything Everywhere All at Once.” The year before, SAG Awards voters were ahead of the curve, crowning “CODA” as its ensemble winner a month before its unlikely best picture victory at the Oscars.

As the actors branch is the motion picture academy’s largest faction, the SAG Awards nominations generally offer a reliable indication of how the Oscar acting races will take shape. Of course, since it’s actors doing the voting, there’s a tendency to reward showy (OK, hammy) performances, particularly for work centered on the profession they view as the most important in the world. Acting! (What other possible explanation can there be for last year’s nomination of the noisy, empty “Babylon”?)

Who’s up and who’s down on the film side after this morning’s nominations? Here’s a rundown.

UP: “The Color Purple”

Blitz Bazawule’s adaptation of the 2005 Broadway musical version of Alice Walker’s revered 1982 novel felt like a surefire Oscar best picture contender at its first public screening at the academy’s Samuel L. Goldwyn Theater in mid-November. The closing credits received a standing ovation. What else do you need to know?

But the rapturous response that greeted the movie that night and at subsequent screenings immediately following failed to translate into love from the guild voters, who have largely ignored “The Color Purple” the past few weeks. SAG voters offered a correction, nominating the movie’s ensemble and supporting actress Danielle Brooks. The ensemble nod could signal a best picture Oscar nomination, particularly if the Producers Guild includes the movie among its 10 films when it announces its slate on Friday.

DOWN: “May December”

Todd Haynes’ provocative melodrama about an actress (Natalie Portman) shadowing a woman (Julianne Moore) who had been involved in a Mary Kay Letourneau-like scandal has been doing well with critics groups, particularly for Charles Melton’s performance as the now-adult man still married to a much older woman. SAG voters didn’t bite, ignoring it in every category.

UP: “Oppenheimer” and “Barbie”

The two films, critical and commercial powerhouses both, continued their awards season domination. “Oppenheimer” picked up nominations for lead Cillian Murphy, supporting actors Robert Downey Jr. and Emily Blunt and for its sprawling ensemble. “Barbie,” meanwhile, earned nods for its cast, lead Margot Robbie and supporting actor Ryan Gosling. “Oppenheimer” remains the early favorite — for the Oscar and the SAG ensemble prize.

DOWN: “The Holdovers”

We knew the master of irascibility, Paul Giamatti, would earn a nomination. Likewise the divine Da’Vine Joy Randolph, who has been winning pretty much everything for her beautiful turn as the grieving mother in Alexander Payne’s film. An ensemble nod was, admittedly, a bit of a dream, since the nominated cast would have included just Giamatti, Randolph and newcomer Dominic Sessa. But SAG voters have cited movies with three actors in the past. And “Sideways,” Payne’s last collaboration with Giamatti, won the ensemble honor with only four cast members. Put the cherries jubilee on hold for now.

UP: “American Fiction”

“American Fiction” won the Toronto Film Festival’s audience award, an honor that usually translates into a best picture Oscar nomination plus a SAG Awards ensemble nod, provided the cast has sufficient numbers. Cord Jefferson’s directorial debut, a sad comedy about family and the experiences of Black artists, has been doing well with critics and OK at the box office. Now it has that SAG ensemble nod, plus individual honors for lead Jeffrey Wright and supporting actor Sterling K. Brown. The film’s slow rollout will get a boost Friday as it expands to around 600 theaters.

DOWN: “Air”

Ben Affleck’s smart and entertaining crowd-pleaser about the creation of the Air Jordan basketball shoes has been campaigned heavily, mostly to remind voters about the film, as it came out in April. The efforts didn’t pay off, at least with SAG, though the movie might still pick up a Producers Guild nomination on Friday. If it lands there, it’s a half-court shot to a best picture nomination.

UP: “Nyad”

“Nyad,” an inspirational sports movie about long distance swimmer Diana Nyad’s historic 110-mile, 53-hour swim from Cuba to Florida, might just be the best buddy movie of the year, with Annette Bening playing the title character and Jodie Foster turning in an appealing supporting turn as her coach and BFF. SAG voters nominated both women. Foster has been considered a sure thing for an Oscar nom, and the SAG love for Bening will boost her chances in the highly competitive lead actress race.

DOWN: Leonardo DiCaprio, “Killers of the Flower Moon”

DiCaprio is excellent in “Killers of the Flower Moon” playing a dimwit who goes along with his uncle’s scheme of killing his Osage wife’s entire bloodline. But some voters I’ve spoken with are a little confused about his motivations (how can he love his wife and do these things?) and most definitely repulsed by his actions. It’s a case where the actor is punished for playing a loathsome character a bit too well.

UP: Colman Domingo, “Rustin”

“Rustin,” a film about civil rights activist Bayard Rustin told with clarity and conviction, has its faults, but they’re easy to overlook thanks to the charismatic Domingo’s rousing lead turn. Between the “Nyad” love and this nomination, it was a good day for watchable, well-oiled Netflix biopics.

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