Thursday, December 16, 2010

SAG Injustice: When a Nomination is Still a Snub

In the afterglow of the SAG nominations, when publicists, stars and pundits are all aglow with congratulatory messaging of every sort and critics are bemoaning the fate of talented but snubbed performances, one annual dismaying group of snubs always slips through the cracks. I'm talking about the people who contributed to the movies nominated as Best Ensemble but weren't actually included when the nomination was awarded.  The nominated ensemble casts of The Fighter, The King's Speech, Black Swan, The Social Network and The Kids Are All Right do not, in all cases, fully represent the acting achievements within the film.

The following actors were not nominated in "ensemble"

Black Swan ~ This nomination includes all those demented raven-haired beauties: Natalie Portman, Barbara Hershey, Mila Kunis, Winona Ryder and the man fucking with their pretty heads: Vincent Cassell. Noticeably absent: Benjamin Millepied, the principle male dancer should have also been listed. While it's true he doesn't have a lot of "acting" to do, he gets some in, and actors sometimes get nominated for a lot less; he is one of the chief contributors to the film being its choreographer as well.

The Fighter ~ This nomination includes only the principle Oscar seeking cast: Wahlberg, Bale, Adams and Leo and one more for good measure. That's Jack McGee who plays Melissa Leo's husband so beautifully. Noticeably absent: cameo players like Sugar Ray Leonard (remember that Gwen Stefani got nominated for dressing up like Jean Harlow in The Aviator), the entire gaggle of big haired comic relief sisters, Mickey O'Keefe, the cop/trainer who Bale loves to mock (name?) and everyone else who contributed to the film's invaluable local color and weird but hugely enjoyable tragicomic bent.

The Kids Are All Right ~This nomination includes only the immediate family: Moms Bening & Moore and kids Mia Wasikowska & Josh Hutcherson and "Interloper" Mark Ruffalo. Noticeably absent: Yaya daCosta, who so deliciously handles her role of Ruffalo's fuckbuddy and employee. Seriously now, she delivers fantastic line readings in this movie and underlines some of the movie's more subtle points about Ruffalo's character as well as contributing to its randy high spirits. I consider it an egregious omission. Also absent are Mia & Josh's friends and the gardener who Julianne fires who each get more than one scene.

The King's Speech ~ This nomination includes the three principles plus Anthony Andrews, Jennifer Ehle, Michael Gambon, Derek Jacobi, Guy Pearce and Timothy Spall. It's arguably the most inclusive of all the nominated cast lists but it still manages to diss one key player. Noticeably absent: Eve Best (from Nurse Jackie) who plays the controversial and plot-relevant Wallis Simpson.The royals didn't want her around and treated her like shit. So... did the Weinstein Co decide to follow suit and do the same? 

The Social Network ~ The Facebook movie has the most bizarre and confusing case of the internal snubbings. Obviously the triumvirate of Eisenberg, Garfield and Timberlake are accounted for as are the Winklevi (both played by Armie Hammer) and their business partner (Max Minghella). But what's most curious is that the body actor Josh Pence who helped to play the Winklevi but whose face does not appear in the film was nominated but the following six actors were not. Noticeably absent: Rooney Mara's soulful portrayal of Erica kicks off the entire successful dynamic of the film's rapid-fire dialogue which in turn reveals, comments on and delights in every badly managed personal relationship within the film. The film is smart enough to return to Mara on three key occasions but she was not nominated. All of the lawyers, officials and interns are also absent. You can't include everyone of course but a few people's contributions are very noticeable including Douglas Urbanski's audience-beloved cameo as Larry Summers, John Getz and Rashida Jones as Zuckerberg's council, Denise Grayson as Eduardo's lawyer (great write up of her work at Nick's Flick Picks) and Brenda Song as Eduardo's terrifying girlfriend?

Can someone please explain how these people are not an intrinsic part of the acting network within The Social Network

From my understanding, the nominating committee does not pick and choose which members of a cast receive the official title of SAG nominee, they merely vote on the film titles. The studios themselves also sometimes submit For Your Consideration cast lists that already do the omissions (The Fighter's FYC screener, f.e., lists only the five names). Or perhaps the problem is the SAG rules which go like so
"The Cast of a Motion Picture includes all performers 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."
So by this rule, no matter how great you are in a movie, no matter how large your role, if your agent can't get you single billing, you can't be nominated.
Every year there are glaring examples of actors adding to the texture, tone and overall success of their movie, that are kicked to the curb when it comes time to say "Great Ensemble!"  We think, in a prize meant to honor the whole being greater than the individual parts, that this is a terrible and avoidable injustice. So here's to those snubbed actors inexplicably dropped from the honor bestowed to their co-workers! We salute you one and all.

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