Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Movie Rant: The debate over the SAG Award nominees

For me, this is the most wonderful time of the year. It's Christmas, hockey season and a prelude to all the upcoming film awards where I get to catch up on everything I've missed over the year. Nothing satiates my passion for cinema more than a good film debate.

I've enjoyed the SAG Awards in the past -- I often find them to the be the most accurate indicator as to which films and performances deserve the greatest accolades. The Golden Globes are a joke and the Oscars rarely get it right, which is why I've often relied on the SAG awards to set things straight -- well, kind of anyway. Moreso than the Oscars.

Not the case this year. Today's announcement of the 2012 nominees brought a lot of disappointment -- not just to me but all over the Internet, especially Twitter (you can see the full list of nominees HERE). A lot of people seem shocked at some of the obvious snubs in a what should have been a breakout year for smaller films and up-and-coming actors.

That being said, they did make some really great choices:
-Midnight in Paris (Best Ensemble): One of my favourite films of 2011, it's one of those feel-good whimsical gems with a ridiculously perfect (and charming) cast and a story that just sweeps you away. I was worried it'd get lost in the shuffle. Still not sure where it stands with regards to the Oscars, though.
-Brad Pitt (Best Actor, Moneyball): I'm not surprised they went with the audience-friendly baseball movie. Pitt has had a truly breakout year with diverse performances. He could very easily have been nominated for Tree of Life; however, his performance as Billy Beane in Moneyball truly carries the film into a whole new level in the sports genre. He won't win but in his case it will be an honour to have been recognized.
-Christopher Plummer (Best Supporting Actor, Beginnners): This nearly-forgotten indie from earlier this year boasted one of the finest performances of 2011. We should all be happy that they remembered Plummer's lovely turn as an older gentleman finally coming to terms with his homosexuality. His performance is a lesson in how to subtly convey a persons inner conflict without having to resort to scenery-chewing.

Here's where, in my opinionated opinion, the SAG Awards got it wrong:
-Jessica Chastain (Best Supporting Actress, The Help): Chastain has been the story of the year, the toast of Hollywood. When was the last time an actress had such an astounding breakout year? She co-starred in four films and has one more coming up (Coriolanus) to round out 2011. She gave two truly stunning performances in Tree of Life and Take Shelter. And while she was equally wonderful in The Help it's a shame that the obvious love-fest for the 1960s-era drama resulted in her receiving a nomination for one of her "lesser" performances. I'm shocked she wasn't recognized for Tree of Life or Take Shelter but I suppose we should just be grateful that she was recognized in the first place.
-Michael Fassbender for Shame: Probably the BIGGEST shock of them all -- a lack of Best Actor nomination for the finest male performance of 2011 (that I've seen so far). Fassbender is outstanding in Shame -- a raw, realistic and truly challenging role. The fact that the film was given the equivalent of a porn rating in the U.S. likely damaged his chance of being recognized for his work. Unfortunate.
-Carey Mulligan for Shame: Some may argue that she didn't have a whole lot of screen time -- but remember when Judi Dench won Best Supporting Actress in 1998 for clocking in only eight minutes in Shakespeare in Love? Mulligan was heartbreaking and more than held her own alongside Fassbender.
-Shame: I suppose the lack of a Best Ensemble nomination shouldn't be all that surprising. It likely had to do with the MPAA ratings. Still disappointing. There's no way Bridesmaids was the better film in this department. To those stuffy, uptight SAG members, Shame is obviously too hot to handle.
-Michael Shannon for Take Shelter: In many critics circles, his performance was voted the best of the year. There's really no excuse for his snub -- unless he's secretly anti-SAG or not a member. People may be torn over the film itself but Shannon was just so good that he should should have been considered an automatic nominee.
-Elizabeth Olsen for Martha Marcy May Marlene:  I think a lot of people expected her to be a shoo-in. In her breakout role she carries the emotional weight of the film on her shoulders and never lets the ball drop once. She'll make you forget there were ever other actresses with the last name Olsen. I look forward to more of her work. I can only hope she's recognized by the Academy.
-Andy Serkis for The Rise of the Planet of the Apes: I've been on his bandwagon since Day 1, when he first started doing interviews about why motion capture performance is still acting. It's amazing how many people just brush it off as "voice work." Recognition from the SAG or the Academy would go a long way towards opening peoples eyes to this different (but still legitimate) method of performance art. Serkis deserves his chance in the spotlight.

Which of the SAG nominations to you agree (and disagree) with?