SAG Awards Film Analysis: With ‘Belfast’, ‘King Richard’, ‘CODA’, And ‘Gucci’, The Actors Are All About Family

SAG Awards Film Analysis: With ‘Belfast’, ‘King Richard’, ‘CODA’, And ‘Gucci’, The Actors Are All About Family


It was a mixed bag of good and bad news for many films in Wednesday morning’s announcement of nominations for the 28th annual SAG Awards, and as the first major guild to weigh in on this year’s race what the nominating committee of randomly chosen SAG-AFTRA members said takes on real import as the guild has an excellent track record of reflecting where Oscar nominations might be headed.

That said, MGM’s House of Gucci’s strong showing might surprise pundits with an excellent score of a co-leading three nominations including in the all-important Outstanding Cast, which is SAG’s version of Best Picture. It also grabbed noms for Lead Actress for Lady Gaga and Supporting Actor for Jared Leto. It is the only one of the Cast nominees to make a solid showing across the board. The other co-leader in terms of nominations on the motion picture side with Netflix’s The Power of the Dog, which was surprisingly snubbed in the Cast category but still took impressive single nods for Lead Actor Benedict Cumberbatch and Supporting mentions for both Kodi Smit-McPhee and Kirsten Dunst.

Let’s look at what SAG giveth and then taketh away with the four other Cast nominees. Netflix has reason to cheer for the Cast nomination for its hit Don’t Look Up, which like Gucci  benefits from having an all-star ensemble, often a plus among voting actors. That was its only nomination however makes it the only one of the five contenders without at least a single other acting possibility, overlooking particularly the presence of awards magnets like Leonardo DiCaprio and Meryl Streep to name two. Only being nominated for Cast though certainly didn’t hurt Parasite a couple of years ago; it went on to take that award.

King Richard should be happy with the expected Will Smith Lead Actor nom to go with its Cast nomination, but a predicted Supporting nom for co-star Aunjunue Ellis shockingly didn’t materialize. And only Caitríona Balfe in Supporting Actress joined the Cast nod for awards-season frontrunner Belfast, as Jamie Dornan and Cirian Hinds among other cast members will have to settle instead for being part of the ensemble at SAG this year. Finally, I was pretty sure CODA would nail a Cast nod for a movie with a significant deaf cast, as well as Troy Kotsur gaining a supporting nom as the father, but Marlee Matlin was left off Supporting Actress.

Among those Cast contenders, four of them revolve around family themes, a very strong draw this year. Belfast, CODA, and King Richard are all warm portraits of the strength and importance of the family unit, which House of Gucci shows another side of family ties.

For some the biggest shocker is in the Lead Actress race, highly competitive this year, where Spencer’s Kristen Stewart who has been heavily campaigning failed to be recognized for her critically acclaimed turn as Princess Diana. However, I always wondered why pundits had kept predicting her as a slam dunk all season. She really never was that secure, especially in a race with as many actresses playing real-life people, a real magnet for voters. True to form, four of the five nominees come for performances of well-known people including Nicole Kidman as Lucille Ball in Being the Ricardos; Jessica Chastain in The Eyes of Tammy Faye; the aforementioned Lady Gaga as Patrizia Gucci in House of Gucci; and Jennifer Hudson, heretofore AWOL this season, finally gaining deserved recognition as Aretha Franklin in Respect. In fact it is a very good day to be playing the Queen Of Soul as Cynthia Erivo received a nomination on the TV side for Genius: Aretha, a rare occurrence to have two stars named in the same season for playing the same person. Olivia Colman was the only Lead Actress SAG nominee playing a fictional character in The Lost Daughter.

Lead Actor didn’t produce any surprises really with Smith, Denzel Washington, Andrew Garfield and Benedict Cumberbatch all gaining expected nominations. Javier Bardem as Desi Arnaz in Being the Ricardos might have been a bigger question mark, but in retrospect seems a logical choice here, especially with the love for biopics in full force. Simon Rex, who has been winning a lot of awards buzz for Red Rocket, was ineligible here by the way.

Starry names with excellent performances such as Ben Affleck in a career-best The Tender Bar, and Bradley Cooper as a hilarious Jon Peters in Licorice Pizza prevailed in Supporting Actor knocking out the Belfast actors who were thought to have an upper hand. And in Supporting Actress the star power of frequent winner Cate Blanchett prevailed as the lone nominee for Nightmare Alley, along with a more predictable list that included names popping up everywhere like Ariana DeBose in West Side Story and Ruth Negga in Passing. 

Among the omissions you can certainly count Steven Spielberg’s West Side Story being left out of Outstanding Cast as definitely an oversight (DeBose was its only mention). In earlier SAG days, that kind of snub could be looked at as a death knell for Oscar chances, but not so much recently including last year’s truncated season where The Trial of the Chicago 7 took the Cast award at SAG but was shut out on Oscar night in favor on non-SAG-nominated Nomadland. I also thought there might have been more love for Paul Thomas Anderson’s Licorice Pizza, especially in the Cast category, but not to be.

With a virtually non-existent Golden Globes presence this year, plus a delayed Critics Choice Awards show, these SAG nominations can be more influential than ever as guilds made up of peers rather than critics start making their choices known. On top of all this SAG action, the longlists are also out today for BAFTA which appears to be going back to its usual place as an Oscar influencer as most of the expected contenders for Academy Awards are still in that race as well. Of course, at this point BAFTA’s list is much more inclusive with just about everyone who’s anyone this season making the early cut. Kristen Stewart take heart — you made that list. Final BAFTA nominations aren’t out until February 3. SAG Awards are presented February 27.

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