SAG nominations put ‘Belfast,’ ‘House of Gucci’ actors on path to Oscars

By Richard Roeper
“Belfast” is one of the nominees for best ensemble cast in the Screen Actors Guild Awards, where Caitriona Balfe (right, with Jamie Dornan) also is in the running for best supporting actress. | Focus Features

Don’t Look Up or you’ll see a few curious nominations for the SAG Awards — but for the most part, they were spot on.

With the Golden Globes spinning into the irrelevance they always should have carried, the Screen Actors Guild Nominations have become the most important and legitimate precursor to the Oscars. The nominations were announced by Vanessa Hudgens and Rosario Dawson on Wednesday morning via Instagram Live because that’s how we do it in 2022, and while I would (and will) take issue with a few of the choices in the major categories, the vast majority of nominations were well-deserved.

For best ensemble cast (I love this category), the nominees:

  • “Belfast”
  • “CODA”
  • “Don’t Look Up”
  • “House of Gucci”
  • “King Richard”

Keeping in mind this category is for the acting and not the picture itself, I’m guessing “Don’t Look Up” made the cut because of the star power of Leonardo DiCaprio, Meryl Streep, Jennifer Lawrence, et al. Great talents, to be sure — but I don’t think even Leo, Meryl or Jennifer would argue their respective work in this clunky, obvious, over-the-top climate change satire would rank in their Top 10. I would have much preferred to see the cast from “Licorice Pizza” make the cut.

For best actress, the nominees were Jessica Chastain for “The Eyes of Tammy Faye,” Olivia Colman for “The Lost Daughter,” Lady Gaga for “The House of Gucci,” Jennifer Hudson for “Respect” and Nicole Kidman for “Being the Ricardos.” The biggest surprise here is the omission of Kristen Stewart for her resonant work in “Spencer.” I would have subbed out Gaga for Stewart or Penelope Cruz (“Parallel Mothers.”)

The best actor nominees: Javier Bardem for “Being the Ricardos,” Benedict Cumberbatch for “The Power of the Dog,” Will Smith for “King Richard,” Denzel Washington for “The Tragedy of Macbeth” and Andrew Garfield for “tick, tick … BOOM!” I would have loved to see Nicolas Cage honored for his powerful and moving work in “Pig,” but this is a strong group. (Cumberbatch should win and will win.)

“House of Gucci” stars Lady Gaga and Jared Leto received SAG nominations that should have gone to better actors in better movies.

One of the most loaded categories this year is best supporting actor, and I agree with the SAG choices of Ben Affleck (“The Tender Bar”), Bradley Cooper (“Licorice Pizza”), Troy Kotsur (“CODA”) and Kodi Smit-McPhee (“The Power of the Dog”). Jared Leto for that wild-clown performance in “The House of Gucci”? Not so much. Ciaran Hinds in “Belfast” and Jesse Plemons in “The Power of the Dog” delivered much more authentic and grounded work. They were IN those movies, as opposed to Leto, who seemed to be doing a one-man, Andy Kaufman-esque performance in the middle of a film.

The best supporting actress nominees:

  • Caitriona Balfe (“Belfast”)
  • Cate Blanchett (“Nightmare Alley”)
  • Ariana DeBose (“West Side Story”)
  • Kirsten Dunst (“The Power of the Dog”)
  • Ruth Negga (“Passing”)

Perfect.

On the TV side, it was great to see Brian Cox, Kieran Culkin and Jeremy Strong all nominated for best actor for “Succession,” with Sarah Snook from that HBO series snagging a best actress nod. (The Guild was more enamored with “The Morning Show” than I am, handing nominations to Billy Crudup, Jennifer Aniston and Reese Witherspoon.)

Jeremy Strong (from left), Sarah Snook and Kieran Culkin are SAG nominees for their work on “Succession.”

The nominees for best drama series ensemble: “The Handmaid’s Tale,” “The Morning Show,” “Squid Game,” “Succession” and “Yellowstone.” As much as I dig “Yellowstone,” I don’t see how you can’t go with the cast of “Succession” — a team of fine actors playing some of the most fantastically loathsome individuals in TV history.

For best comedy series ensemble:

  • “The Great”
  • “Hacks”
  • “The Kominsky Method”
  • “Only Murders in the Building”
  • “Ted Lasso”

Martin Short, Steve Martin and Selena Gomez had brilliant chemistry in “Only Murders,” but the “Ted Lasso” ensemble is in that rarified air of “The Mary Tyler Moore Show,” “Cheers,” “Seinfeld,” “The Office,” “Parks and Recreation” and “Modern Family.” In that same vein, though it’s nice to see Short and Martin nominated for best comedy series actor, Jason Sudeikis should make room on his crowded trophy shelf for another award.

In the comedy series actress category, Juno Temple and Hannah Waddington are wonderful in “Ted Lasso” and Elle Fanning (“The Great”) and Sandra Oh (“The Chair”) are absolutely worthy choices, but Jean Smart was a scene-stealing marvel in “Hacks” and should win at the Feb. 27 ceremony.

One of the things I like about the Screen Actors Guild Awards is they have categories for best stunt ensemble, and maybe one of these decades ol’ Oscar will wake up and recognize stunt work as well, because even in this age of CGI special effects, there’s a myriad of movies and TV series filled with some of the most incredible and groundbreaking stunts ever seen.

For best stunt ensemble in the movies, the nominees are “Black Widow,” “Dune,” “The Matrix Resurrections,” “No Time to Die” and “Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings.” My vote would go to the elaborate, epic, colorful stunt work in “Shang-Chi.”

The TV stunt ensemble nominees for the 2021 season: “Cobra Kai,” “The Falcon and the Winter Soldier,” “Loki,” “Mare of Easttown” and “Squid Game.” I have a feeling “Squid Game” will win, but come on man, those elaborately choreographed fights on “Cobra Kai” are fantastic, and I’m fairly certain a bevy of stunt performers are often filling in for 60-year-old Ralph Macchio, 56-year-old William Zabka and 75-year-old Martin Kove.

Don’t fight me on that, or we’ll have to meet at my dojo.


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