The SAG Award Nominations Biggest Surprises & Snubs

With the Golden Globes mired in controversy, the Screen Actors Guild Awards -- which also honor the best in both TV and film -- seemed poised to fill the void left by what had been the first major show of the year. The Globes didn't air on live TV, but the SAG's will. The guild's membership exceeds 100,000 and the winners are actors chosen by other actors, giving legitimacy to the SAGs that few organizations can match. Filmmakers, critics and pundits alike were eagerly awaiting the announcement of this year's nominees, thanks to the show's increased relevance to the Oscar race. But once the lists were read aloud by Rosario Dawson and Vanessa Hudgens on Instagram Live, heads in Hollywood surely started to spin, as this year's lineups were full of surprises and snubs.

Most of the surprises came from the movie categories. The honorees from the television world were quite a bit more predictable, with the possible exception of Yellowstone's inclusion in the Best Ensemble category. Ted Lasso, Only Murders in the Building, Hacks, Mare of Easttown and Succession all received multiple nods as expected. But the honorees from the world of film upended the status quo, giving some middling titles sudden momentum and stopping what had seemed like some sure things in their tracks.

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By far, the biggest shakeup was in Best Actress where Kirsten Stewart had been considered a lock for a nomination and the odds-on favorite to win for her portrayal of Princess Diana in Spencer. Writer/director Pablo Larraín's previous biopic, Jackie, received mixed reviews, but lead actress Natalie Portman as Jackie Kennedy racked up accolade after accolade. Spencer also divided critics, but Stewart garnered even more praise for her turn as Diana, so it's a shock she was snubbed. Newcomers Alana Haim (Licorice Pizza) and Rachel Zegler (West Side Story) were also left out, in favor of Jessica Chastain for The Eyes of Tammy Faye, Lady Gaga for House of Gucci and Jennifer Hudson for Respect -- three films and performances that, to different extents, seemed to have come and gone. That leaves Olivia Colman (The Lost Daughter) and Nicole Kidman (Being the Ricardos) in what looks like a two-person race.

No film had a better morning than House of Gucci, though. Ridley Scott's exposé of the famous fashion family played well with some audiences, but it alienated others with its unapologetically gaudy style and hammy performances. Some experts had written it off as an awards contender altogether, while others had Lady Gaga and Jared Leto pegged for possible nominations. In addition to Gaga, Leto was also recognized, as was the ensemble. There's a lot of overlap between SAG's ranks and the Academy's, which probably means everyone should start taking House of Gucci's chances more seriously.

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The Power of the Dog had a lopsided showing. On one hand, three of its four lead actors -- Benedict Cumberbatch, Kirsten Dunst and Kodi Smit-McPhee -- nabbed individual nods. But it missed out in the ensemble category, SAG's version of Best Picture. That might indicate there's slightly more passion for the other films that did score ensemble nominations, such as Belfast, CODA, Don't Look Up and King Richard. Belfast (which also got a nom for Caitríona Balfe but not for Ciarán Hinds or Jamie Dornan) has been near the top of most prediction lists since it premiered. It and the star-studded Don't Look Up will probably vie for the award come February.

Besides The Power of the Dog, noticeably absent from Best Ensemble was recent Golden Globe winner for Best Musical/Comedy West Side Story, not to mention Dune. Denis Villeneuve's stunning part one of a sci-fi epic wasn't expected to achieve any individual acting nominations, but some fans thought the popular movie with its enormous, talented cast could show up here. Critics and audiences also wondered whether The Harder They Fall or even Spider-Man: No Way Home could make a surprise appearance, as both were loaded with respected veterans and breakout stars and were true ensemble pieces. The lack of a SAG nom is likely the final nail in The Harder They Fall's awards hopes coffin, and Spidey's chances of a Best Picture Oscar look pretty much diminished.

Some actors who'd been seen as on the bubble got a boost from SAG, including Ruth Negga for Passing, Ben Affleck for The Tender Bar and Bradley Cooper for Licorice Pizza in the supporting categories. Cate Blanchett's nomination for Nightmare Alley was also unexpected, as her caricature-ish noir performance wasn't everyone's cup of tea. But all of those films are either underseen or have been difficult for regular moviegoers to see. The SAGs are generally more populist and less pretentious than the Oscars or the Emmys. But as full of curveballs as this year's nominations were, it looks like the 2022 awards season is teeing up to disappoint and disinterest average audiences who didn't connect with many of the chosen films.

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About The Author
Rita Dorsch (324 Articles Published)

Rita is a film and TV writer for CBR, and freelance writer and author. She teaches writing and theatre for Penn State and Kent State Universities. She studied writing and theatre at Carnegie Mellon University and the University of St. Andrews in Scotland. She lives and works out of the Greater Pittsburgh area.

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