Screen Actors Guild 2015: Snubs and Surprises and their Meaning for the Oscars

There are always surprises when a group, such as the Screen Actors Guild (SAG), announces its awards nominations.   As with any awards, there were a few snubs and surprises  (Remember Naomi Watts’ nomination last year for St. Vincent?)


Helen Mirren Can Do No Wrong

On the film side, Helen Mirren is the big winner, with three nominations for her work in “Woman in Gold” (best lead actress) and “Trumbo” (supporting actress, best ensemble.)

The TV side saw the return of some favorites and some new additions, including “Mr. Robot” star Rami Malek.


A major omission, since both the film’s ensemble and its leading man, Damon, were considered locks for nominations.  Damon has been M.I.A. from the campaign circuit, shooting the latest Bourne movie overseas,  but the movie is a huge hit and he’s received praise for a performance–acting with and against himself.
The starry ensemble of The Martian includes Jessica Chastain, Jeff Daniels, and Kristen Wiig.


The Supporting Actor Category

The shut-outs of Sylvester Stallone (“Creed”), Benicio Del Toro (“Sicario”) and Michael Keaton (“Spotlight”), actors considered to be the frontrunners in the Oscar race.

But then great performances got recognized, such as Christian Bale (“The Big Short”), Jacob Treblay (“Room”) and Michael Shannon (“99 Homes”).

Of the nominees, only Mark Rylance (“Bridge of Spies”) and Idris Elba (“Beasts of No Nation”) were expected.


Sarah Silverman

The actress worked the circuit hard for her dramatic turn in “I Smile Back,” and made the best actress cut over such heady competition as Jennifer Lawrence, Carey Mulligan, Lily Tomlin and Charlotte Rampling.


Will Smith and Jennifer Lawrence

Two of Hollywood’s biggest and most reliable stars were considered locks for their respective movies.

In Concussion, Oscar nominee Smith delivers a strong performance as Dr. Bennet Omalu, who discovered a link between repeated brain damage and head injuries of NFL players. And as the titular character in “Joy,” Lawrence was expected to score a nod. Yet neither made the final cut.

SNUB AND SURPRISE: The “Spotlight” Cast
While the film received an ensemble nomination, Micheal Keaton was considered a lock for a nod, with Mark Ruffalo and Liev Schreiber were strong possibilities. In the end, it was Rachel McAdams who found herself the only actor individually nominated.

SURPRISE: Straight Outta Compton

Not a total shocker, as many expected the musical biopic of N.W.A to slip into the ensemble category. But it’s certainly impressive that the cast of mostly unknowns made it in over the starry ensembles of films like “The Hateful Eight,” “Joy,” “The Revenant” and “Steve Jobs.”

SNUB: “The Hateful Eight”
The film seemed tailor-made for an ensemble nod and there was strong supporting actress buzz around Jennifer Jason Leigh, but Quentin Tarantino’s Western knew it was risky to not send screeners to voters. Tarantino has been here before; his 2012 film “Django Unchained” failed to score any SAG nods after not sending screeners, and still won Oscars for supporting actor Christoph Waltz and original screenplay.

SURPRISE: “Trumbo”

Many dismissed the biopic of Dalton Trumbo as a TV movie, but actors took to the performances of the film. It’s not completely unexpected, since the movie is about the film industry and actors love Bryan Cranston and Helen Mirren. Still, it’s doubtful anyone expected the movie to score the most amount of nominations for a film.

SURPRISE: Rami Malek
To be sure, he delivered the breakout performance of the year in USA’s “Mr. Robot.” That his haunting, enigmatic role landed him a slot on an otherwise ho-hum list is even that more impressive.

SNUB: “Empire”

The ratings juggernaut that is the Fox hit has dominated every aspect of cultural conversation since its launch. And Taraji P. Henson has created an indelible character in Cookie Lyons.

SNUB: “Fargo”
If there’s one show that critics can agree on this season, it’s Noah Hawley’s sprawling midwestern noir thriller. The only mystery is which performance to single out: Jean Smart, Kirsten Dunst, Patrick Wilson, Ted Danson. And the only crime is that the SAG Awards manage to ignore them all.

SURPRISE: Maggie Smith

We get it. She can deliver a crackling one-liner like nobody’s business.  Six seasons in, she renders one of the best five acting performances on television?

SNUB: “The Americans,” “The Leftovers,” “The Affair”
Pick a show, any show. It’s about time SAG Awards started recognizing the great acting work being done on these cable standouts: Carrie Coon, Regina King, Maura Tierney, Keri Russell.

SNUB: “American Crime”
Those 10 Emmy nominations had to stand for something, not to mention a win for Regina King (see “The Leftovers,” above). But a complete shutout is unfathomable for John Ridley’s groundbreaking series.

SURPRISE: Ellie Kemper
After being ignored by the TV Academy at the Emmys, getting recognized by the SAG Awards is sweet justice for Kemper, who deftly carried the Netflix comedy “Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt.”

SURPRISE: Kristen Wiig
Wiig is always popular in anything she does, but it’s certainly a surprise to see her recognized for her little seen performance in IFC’s movie “The Spoils Before Dying.”