The 2024 SAG Film Nominations Were a Huge Blow to Critical Darlings

If there was one way to sum up the snub talk surrounding the 2024 SAG Awards nominations, it’s that the critical darlings mostly got short-shrift.

Of course, major awards players like “Barbie” and “Oppenheimer” got good reviews to match their ballooning box office grosses, so their leading the film nominations with four nods each is not a huge surprise. But many of the films with lower budgets, and seemingly riding on critical acclaim all the way to a Best Picture nomination, were not recognized by the guild at all.

For example, look at the recent winners chosen by the National Society of Film Critics: “Past Lives” received Best Picture, “All of Us Strangers” won Best Actor for star Andrew Scott, and “May December” won Best Supporting Actor for star Charles Melton, and yet all three films were snubbed across the board by the actors guild.

The SAG Awards are not a body that has much weirdness around how they recognize international films, either. Not too long ago, they awarded Best Ensemble Cast in a Motion Picture to Korean film “Parasite,” so 2023 imports like “Anatomy of a Fall” and “The Zone of Interest” missing out on SAG nominations says a lot about where many Academy voters’ heads are at as well.

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SAG’s film and TV nominating committee has around 4,200 members, while the actors branch of the Academy has close to 1,400 members, making it the largest Oscars voting bloc. Those two groups have plenty of overlap, so with a nomination like Ana de Armas for Best Female Actor in a Leading Role category last year for her work in “Blonde,” a film that polarized critics, it becomes a major signal the actor has a shot at an Oscar nomination. (She went on to be nominated.)

All that said, the SAG Award winners are much more predictive about what could happen at the Oscars than the SAG nominees themselves (last year, all SAG’s film winners outside of stunt ensemble won Oscars). Look at a surprise like “Poor Things” star Willem Dafoe receiving a Best Male Actor in a Supporting Role in a Motion Picture nod over his co-star Mark Ruffalo, and you can easily point to the 2023 SAG nominations as a precursor for the unexpected: “The Fabelmans” star Paul Dano was the only one in his cast to receive an individual SAG nomination. When Oscar nominations rolled out, The Academy recognized co-stars Michelle Williams and Judd Hirsch, but not Dano.

To make more comparisons between the SAG Awards nominations this year and last year, and what they can tell us about the upcoming 2024 Oscar nominations, “American Fiction” getting in for Best Ensemble feels akin to when “Women Talking” (released by the same studio) received the same nod — which was far from a sure thing. Receiving nominations for the SAG equivalent of Best Actor and Best Supporting Actor as well, for stars Jeffrey Wright and Sterling K. Brown, respectively, provides a sense of confirmation that its shot at an Oscar nod for Best Picture is still alive and well. 

Meanwhile, “The Color Purple” receiving a Best Ensemble nomination from SAG is more like “Babylon” making it into the category last year. It is the assurance the Warner Bros. release needed to carry it the rest of the way through the awards season, but it is hard to look past the lack of support the film has received from critics groups, even missing out on consideration for Best Musical or Comedy category at the Golden Globes. 

Lastly, the films that fall in the middle are “Killers of the Flower Moon,” “Maestro,” and “Poor Things,” which have critical acclaim but have not taken broader audiences by storm like some of their competitors. Each faced some trade-offs as far as SAG Awards nominations go, with the former making it into Best Ensemble, but its lead Leonardo DiCaprio not being recognized as expected, and the latter two films receiving individual nominations for its leads, but no Best Ensemble nod. Because the Oscar for Best Picture has 10 nomination slots, while the SAG equivalent only has five, the trio of films still seem headed toward a nod, but the snubs do call into question their chances at winning Best Picture.

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