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« Starring Angelina Jolie as...Michelle Pfeiffer?| Main| Tuesday Top Ten: Melissa McCarthy Line Readings in The Heat »
Tuesday
Nov 12 2013

A Look Ahead at the SAG Award for Best Cast

It'sAmirhere. 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 awardshould 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.

[beginning of rant] Like all the "precursor"awards – a term I loathe – the best cast award has become an indicator of which films have the most buzz for a Best Picture nominations.Of the past 25 films to be nominated for this award,only four failed to gain that coveted Oscar nomination.You would have to go all the way back to 2007 to find a year wherein the guild actually ignored the consensus titles and nominated four films that didn't go on to an Oscar nod.(Even that is contentious: At least two of those four films had a lot of heat all season long.) Sometimes there is overlap between the nominees here and what can justifiably be considered great ensemble acting,as was the case withMidnight in ParisorInglourious Basterds.Sometimes,it's a total head scratcher.RemoveSlumdog Millionairefrom the context of that season and how many people actually think that is the shining example of the bestcastin 2008?[end of rant]

This year's crop looks to be a worthy one even if voters fail to step away from the expected path.At this point,there are only about ten to twelve films with a realistic shot at an ensemble nomination and anything outside of that would be a huge surprise.If I were to predict the nominees at this very moment,this is what I'd say we're looking at:

Prediction
12 Years a Slave
American Hustle
August: Osage County
The Butler
The Wolf of Wall Street

Two of those films are still unknown commodities,but judging by the guild's past experience with David O.Russell and Martin Scorsese when they had big starry casts at their disposal,we shouldn't underestimate either.(The Aviator,The Departed,The FighterandSilver Linings Playbookwere all nominated.)Wolf of Wall Streetis without question the shakiest possibility,having to overcome a very late release date,a long running time and a potentially NC-17 rating.But which film can take its place?

Dallas Buyers Clubcould be the one,if voters are willing to see beyond the big two performances at the film's centre.Saving Mr.Bankscould have the same problem,with the leading performers hogging all the attention.Blue Jasmineneeds to be a bigger player across the board to register,otherwise Cate Blanchett's nomination will be considered a big enough reward.Prisonersneeds help from critics to remain in the conversation at all.All the awards talk surrounding the film upon its release seems to have evaporated in the weeks since,especially withCaptain Phillipstargeting the same bloc of voters.Captain Phillipscould itself be a likely candidate,though it has to overcome the fact that its brightest stars – Hanks aside – are total newcomers and let's be honest,not faces that Hollywood is particularly eager to see anytime soon,sadly.Finally,Inside Llewyn Davis,a film that looked like one of the Coens' more esoteric offerings is gaining more buzz by the day.I wouldn't be surprised if it slid in here.

Five Alternatives Film on My Wish List
SAG has no history of nominating foreign or small independent films so I can't really call this an FYC plea.None of the following films will have a prayer of being included on the final list,but if I were the God of Cinema,they would all be in the thick of the conversation:

Xenia Kalogeropoulou in her short but unforgettable performance in Before Midnight

Before Midnight
Whereas the previous two installments in Richard Linklater's enchanting trilogy were almost exclusive showcases for Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy,Before Midnightopens itself to several other performers;and they give uniformly strong performances.The group conversation around the table,one of the film's lengthiest sequences,flows so organically that it merits an ensemble award on its own.

The Bling Ring
Sofia Coppola's best film sinceLost in Translationfeatures an ensemble of young actors whose roles are of approximately equal importance to the narrative.Their insidious obsession with celebrity is a potential trap for them to all convey a similar sense of vapidity.None of them falls for it,however,each portraying a distinct,fully realized character worthy of its own film.

Frances Ha
There has been a lot of well-earned talk about Greta Gerwig's performance but the colorful cast of secondary characters elevate the film and shouldn't be ignored.They allow Gerwig to energetically bounce off of and around them.Frances Hais a perfect example of how one actor can benefit from strong support without towering over every other cast member.

Hadas Yaron in Fill the Void

Fill the Void
Hadas Yaron's performance is an astonishing show of grace and subtlety,for which she won a richly deserved best actress award in Venice.Yiftach Klein keeps the audience feeling cringe-worthy disdain,wholehearted sympathy and everything in between.A similar balancing act,though on different emotional facets,is played out throughout the stellar cast.

A Hijacking
ThatCaptain Phillipswould be the bigger of the two pirate-inspired films of the year and win all the awards attention surprises nobody.What surprises me is that this early year release is still so vivid in my memory.Much of that is down to the performers who are divided in two groups that practically never meet,but feel entirely connected.

What films would you promote if you had unlimited FYC money?Do you think there are any surprise nominees we're missing?Share your thoughts in the comments!

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Reader Comments (37)

Oh god,I would die (in a great way) if The Bling Ring got such a wonderful recognition for its pitch perfect ensemble.Talk about absolutely perfect casting that elevated the narratives of each of those characters.And everyone is on the same tonal wavelength too which it such a tricky balancing act AND they're all young actors which is insane.

I think your prediction for the final five is about right tho.

November 12,2013 | Unregistered CommenterMark The First

12 Years A Slave should deservedly win this award.My wishlist would also include The Way Way Back.

The fact that a David O.Russell film hasn't won this award yet proves that they are often going with the Best Picture buzz.The Fighter and Silver Linings Playbook are perfect examples of good casting and chemistry.

November 12,2013 | Unregistered CommenterSquasher88

Your rant is so right!And I do wish The Bling Ring could come back around for some awards attention.

November 12,2013 | Unregistered CommenterJoey

My top five ensembles of the year:

12 Years a Slave
The Wolf of Wall Street
The Counselor
Enough Said
American Hustle

November 12,2013 | Unregistered CommenterIvan

Not to discount any of the movies mentioned here,but I wish Short Term 12 was a part of this conversation,too.So many great,intertwining performances...

November 12,2013 | Unregistered CommenterDJDeeJay

Look,I definitely want THE BLING RING in there and I *love* the inclusion of FILL THE VOID,but the best ensemble this year has been THIS IS THE END.No cast played as well off of each other than that one.

November 12,2013 | Unregistered CommenterGlenn

My favourite random SAG award mention in the lost 5 years was a well deserved nomination for AN EDUCATION in 2009.Sure it did go on to a Best Picture nomination with the ten-wide field but I don't think it was something predicting especially for the SAG (after there "surprising"omission of previous Brit helmed film ATONEMENT).2009,though,was an across the year better than usual year for the SAG - each of the five were generally deserving,even if I'd quibble with the eventual winner.

If I was to go out on a limb for a film that has no chance of a nomination it would THE WORLD'S END.Excellent ensemble work.

November 12,2013 | Unregistered CommenterAndrew K.

I absolutely agree on 12 Years a Slave winning.I won't even tempt myself by thinking about Before Midnight.American Hustle's cast looks probable and August: Osage County sound right to me.We'll see if The Wolf of Wall Street lands.I could see arguments for and against The Butler - they did nominate Bobby,but man,some of the impressions of presidents were terrible.Nebraska could happen.You're right about Saving Mr.Banks and Dallas Buyers Club.I didn't really think about it before,but it's interesting that there are such distinct ensemble and performance showcase movies this year - there's a dividing line between them.

I wonder if that will help in the individual acting categories though.For instance,since Gravity doesn't belong in Ensemble,do they show the movie extra love by kicking Clooney a nomination?Does it also help Abdi?Or is the opposite true - if they don't see them in Ensemble,are they more likely to forget them?

November 12,2013 | Unregistered Commentereurocheese

And my annual rant is that the award is for "Outstanding Performance by a Cast in a Motion Picture"and not "Best Ensemble (Acting)."In other words,it can be awarded to film whose cast members' work is considered excellent,but who do not necessarily all interact with each other.And it can be a cast of three or a cast of 33.So I basically disagree with Amir about the multiple individual achievements issue,although I'm all for great ensembles winning this,if they also happen to be the best all-around cast of a given year.

And my other annual rant is that only top-billed stars are eligible to be included in the nominations,which just plain sucks.

This year (so far) my vote is going to12 Years a Slave.Great cast and great ensemble.;-) But I'm not ruling outAmerican Hustle,August Osage CountyorOut of the Furnacesight unseen.

November 12,2013 | Unregistered CommenterPaul Outlaw

I wonder if Emma Watson has a shot in the BSA race for TBR.

November 12,2013 | Unregistered Commenterbrookesboy

The Bling Ring,please!

November 12,2013 | Unregistered Commentercal roth

This is the rule straight from the SAG website.

"The Cast of a Motion Picture"includes all actors whose names appear
in the cast credits of the final release print.Motion Picture casts shall be
represented by those actors billed on separate cards in the main titles,
wherever those titles appear.In cases of special,unusual or non-billing or
credit,eligibility shall be at the sole discretion of the Screen Actors Guild
Awards Committee.Members of the cast who are not single billed but are
credited in the cast crawl of the motion picture announced as the recipient
of the Outstanding Performance by the Cast of a Theatrical Motion Picture
shall each receive a certificate.

November 12,2013 | Unregistered CommenterHenry

Both The Bling Ring and Frances Ha would be superb choices here.

November 12,2013 | Unregistered CommenterScottC

"Motion Picture casts shall be represented by those actorsbilled on separate cards in the main titles,wherever those titles appear."

And that sucks,as I said.

November 12,2013 | Unregistered CommenterPaul Outlaw

I have not yet seen The Way,Way Back or This Is the End.
The World's End,however,was my sixth pick.

November 12,2013 | Unregistered CommenterAmir

I'm gonna laugh if Gravity gets nominated here.

And if The Butler gets nominated,Yaya Dacosta BETTER get her credit this time!*side eyes The Kids Are All Right*

November 12,2013 | Unregistered CommenterPhilip H.

Slumdog Millionaireis exactly the sort of film that the Ensemble award exists for.It's got a large cast where most of the individual roles aren't that big (particularly when the three main characters are each played by three different actors),but who are nevertheless doing very good work.

November 12,2013 | Unregistered CommenterSean C.

Thus Far:

12 Years A Slave
Frances Ha
The Bling Ring
Enough Said

I got A Hijacking on Blu and probably should watch it soon.

I'd seriously put Gia Coppola's Palo Alto in there but it has yet to get distribution but next year,you'll see where I am going with this.

Slumdog is not that baffling,not in a year removed from Argo winning it with the hostages were so poorly written and Goodman and Arkin chewed the scenery.Ugh,I like a lot of the actors in the cast too (Cranston!DuVall!McNairy!Garber!Chandler!Welliver!) but the Affleck of it all and its smug screenplay made me hate that win so much because it crystallized its BP chances in a field where it was just insulting to think of it as that.At least Slumdog had something Dickensian going for its cast and in its field would still be my choice (Had The Wrestler been a BP nominee,I'd think otherwise though).

November 12,2013 | Unregistered CommenterCMG

Nobody in Slumdog was doing "outstanding"work tho

November 12,2013 | Unregistered CommenterNathaniel R

Perhaps I should watch The Bling Ring again?Can't understand the love with the exception of Emma Watson being very un-Hermione-like.Or I'm just too old.
The Butler had promise,with some good supporting turns,but with time,the whole movie just seems contrived,and I didn't love the stunt casting of Oprah.

12 Years a Slave gets my vote until I see the others in contention.

November 12,2013 | Unregistered CommenterPam

Yeah,this one really needs to redeem itself after Argo.It's a fine movie and it achieved what it set out to achieve,but the performances were never the point.

November 12,2013 | Unregistered CommenterPitry

I just realized that Gravity would probably need a SAG Ensemble nod if it wants to win Best Picture at the Oscars.亚博主页uh oh

November 12,2013 | Unregistered Commentercoffeysr

What about Nebraska?Payne's movies have great castings.

November 12,2013 | Unregistered CommenterPeggy Sue

I don't thinkGravitywould need it,because it's not an award anybody would ever expect it to win.

I think the cast ofSlumdogwas very strong in their parts.Same withArgo,another movie with a strong ensemble unlikely to win any individual honours.

November 12,2013 | Unregistered CommenterSean C.

Wolf of Wall Street may suffer because it's screening so late.Aren't ballots going to be mailed next week?And WOWS doesn't even have screenings calendared yet.It seems odd to me that they're still planning to release that this year,to be honest.(It seems like it's going to be late for Globes consideration,too.)

At least with American Hustle,they're starting to schedule screenings at this point.

November 12,2013 | Unregistered CommenterSuzanne

I would personally pick Short Term 12 for this category.Such a fantastic cast

November 12,2013 | Unregistered CommenterTombeet

The Way,Way Back is a great choice-- Sam Rockwell and Steve Carell were the best I've seen them,Toni Collette and Allison Janney are their typical amazing selves,and then there's the main kid (arguably my least favorite in the cast) and AnnaSophia Robb,who was also surprisingly great.I'd totally sign on to that nomination.

I think you're underestimating Saving Mr.Banks given that Jason Schwartzman,BJ Novak,Rachel Griffiths,Colin Farrell,and Paul Giamatti also appear in this (likely) top 5 Best Picture contender.

And thanks for the reminder of that awesome performance in Before Midnight.I had forgotten!

November 12,2013 | Unregistered CommenterEvan

Totally disagree with you over Slumdog Millionaire's Best Cast win.

The entire cast were excellent - from the amateur children to the professional actors.This was one SAG award that went to the RIGHT movie.

I'm still scratching my head over Christopher Waltz being a two time Oscar winner for essentially playing the same part TWICE!

November 12,2013 | Unregistered CommenterBette Streep

I have no problem with 12 Years a Slave being nominated,but if CERTAIN PEOPLE who were barely in the film and actually detracted from it are included in the listing,then for the first time I will be pissed off because someone was INCLUDED instead of left out.

I am totally with you on The Bling Ring and Frances Ha.Before Midnight had an excellent ensemble as well,used sparingly but very well.And if Ensemble nods don't happen,solo noms for Emma Watson,Greta Gerwig,and Julie Delpy would be much appreciated.Throw in Mickey Summer and Ethan Hawke and I would probably just about die of shock - in a good way,of course.

I would also love it if Blue Jasmine got nominated at SAG.She's great,but it's not just the Cate Blanchett show - everyone was doing great work in that film.And frankly,the young boys playing Jasmine's nephews deserve awards for their reactions in that diner scene ALONE.

November 12,2013 | Unregistered Commenterdenny

Bette Streep: See Brennan,Walter.

November 13,2013 | Unregistered CommenterPaul Outlaw

I'd shout outSpectacular NowandHer,both of which have really soulful complex turns at the periphery supporting the solid work being done by leads (don't get cocky about it Miles Teller!).Wasn't totally in love with either movie but I do think they're totally deserving of attention alongside something like12 Years A Slave.

November 13,2013 | Unregistered CommenterTB

It would be nice to see "This is the End"in there.A definite who's who of young comedians each getting a chance to shine in the funniest movie of the year.

"The Butler"however,seems the most likely winner here,since the other half of Hollywood who's not in "This is the End"was in it.

November 13,2013 | Unregistered Commenterforever1267

@Paul Outlaw--LOL.Everything about Walter Brennan makes me giggle.I love that Walter Brennan has the same number of acting Oscars as Meryl Streep.亚博主页I love that the only other men to win three Oscars are Jack Nicholson and Daniel Day-Lewis.亚博主页I love that he was winning on the votes of the Extras guild,and that after his third win,the Academy quietly dismantled the Extras branch.It helps that his persona is so charmingly hapless on top of it.

November 13,2013 | Unregistered CommenterTB

Wolf may certainly be hurt in SAG due to late showing.ZD30 suffered because of this last year.If you don't get the film to the nominating committee and (then to the members once nom'ed),you don't stand much chance and I don't care how much any fan may think a certain film should have won an award,if the people who choose the nominees don't see it,they can't nominate it.Its easier to get a Globe nom with a late entry because you have such a small group of voters and nominators and all pretty much on the coasts.

And on another note,every one of the 4 acting winners as well as the cast win last year were from films that sent screener DVDs to the membership.If you want people to vote for you,they need to see you,and the easier you make it for them to see you the easier it is for them to see how much you deserve their vote.

November 13,2013 | Unregistered CommenterHenry

TB: Four nominations,three wins!And I personally think Brennan deserved one of the three,and he could (not necessarily should) have gotten a fifth nomination forRed River.But he wouldn't have beaten the other Walter (Huston).

November 13,2013 | Unregistered CommenterPaul Outlaw

Although it would never be a SAG nominee,I loved the cast of Beautiful Creatures.Emma Thompson,Margo Martindale,Viola Davis,Eileen Atkins,Jeremy Irons in the older group.Alden Ehrenrich,Alice Englert,Emmy Rossum,Zooey Deutsch in the younger group.Someone really did a great job casting here.And the parts with Emma Thompson were deliciously funny.The movie as a whole was a genre piece that did not find favor.

I love the suggestions of Before Midnight,The Bling Ring,Frances Ha,Saving Mr.Banks.

November 13,2013 | Unregistered Commenteradri

Yup,ARGO was such an embarrassing choice for the award.So bad!So embarrassing.They need to *redeem* themselves after giving a prize to a critically acclaimed hit movie with a big cast.What were they thinking?

November 13,2013 | Unregistered CommenterGlenn

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