SAG Nominations Movie Analysis: Chadwick Boseman’s Record Showing, ‘Minari’s Strength And Strong Diversity Make Up For Globes Oversights

The late Chadwick Boseman made SAG Awards nomination history Thursday receiving four nominations. No actor has ever gotten that many in a single year in the movie categories, but Boseman was nominated for his lead role in Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom, his supporting turn in Da 5 Bloods, plus two more nominations as member of the casts of both those Netflix films. It’s truly historic, and a sign of just how much respect his fellow actors have for the star who died of cancer in August, far too young. A remarkable achievement.

In fact, making up for what yesterday’s Golden Globes nominations glaringly lacked, SAG-AFTRA this morning delivered about as diverse a list of nominees as it ever has in the SAG Awards’ 27-year history. Nearly half of the nominees in the four individual acting categories went to people of color featuring five Black actors (including Boseman) and a spectacular showing for the Korean-American film Minari, which won a Lead Actor nom for Steven Yeun and Supporting Actress for Youn Yuh-Yung.  Minari also earned an Outstanding Cast nom, racking up three mentions overall to tie Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom, Da 5 Bloods and The Trial of the Chicago 7 for most nominations overall with three (the latter two by virtue of also being named for their Stunt Ensembles). All those films were named in SAG’s highly diverse version of its “Best Picture” award, the Outstanding Cast category, which also included One Night In Miami (which received an additional nom in Supporting Actor for Leslie Odom Jr).

Becoming the first guild (nominations are voted on by a randomly chosen nominating committee of 2,500 SAG-AFTRA members) to weigh in this year is important, as SAG ideally represents the vote of the industry peers just like the Oscars, and has traditionally served as an uncanny indicator of just which ways the Oscar winds are blowing. Last year’s Outstanding Cast award went to the Korean stars of Parasite, a major signal of what was to happen Oscar night with that film, even though none of them had received individual SAG or Oscar noms. Nevertheless, the momentum from that SAG win was palpable for Parasite. All four single acting awards (Joaquin Phoenix, Renee Zellweger, Brad Pitt, Laura Dern) repeated at the Oscars as well. In most years, SAG gets about three out of four in common with the Academy, occasionally just half.

In addition to the great showing for diversity this time around, the really big news is that right behind the leading films in terms of nominations was – wait for it – Hillbilly Elegy. That’s right. The critically reviled (not from me, folks) Ron Howard adaptation of J.D. Vance’s bestseller got two nominations for its stars, Amy Adams in Female Actor and Glenn Close in Female Supporting Actor. This will drive the know-it-all pundits up a wall, at least those who think they have the pulse of the industry. Hillbilly Elegy managed more SAG nominations than the likes of presumed favorites Nomadland, Mank, Sound of Metal, Pieces of a Woman and others that received only one nomination today from SAG, or critics group darlings like First Cow and Never Rarely Sometimes Always which received no love at all.

Among those whose Oscar chances just dimmed with the one-two punch of being overlooked by the Globes and SAG in the past two days are Delroy Lindo (though he is included in the Da 5 Bloods’ SAG Cast nom), Sophia Loren, Ben Affleck (who has been waging a spirited campaign for The Way Back), George Clooney, Kate Winslet, Zendaya, John David Washington and Paul Raci. Although she was Globe-nominated, the absence at SAG of Mank’s Amanda Seyfried was a dent in her Oscar chances and a surprise omission, especially considering that SAG did nominate Gary Oldman in the Lead Male Actor category, so you can’t chalk it up to liking the movie or not.

In terms of building on momentum that has been gaining throughout this weird season, today’s nominations only further cemented claims to variable frontrunner status for The Father’s Anthony Hopkins and Olivia Colman, Sound of Metal’s Riz Ahmed, Pieces of a Woman’s Vanessa Kirby, Borat Subsequent Moviefilm’s Maria Bakalova, Trial of the Chicago 7’s Sacha Baron Cohen, plus the aforementioned Boseman and his Ma Rainey co-star Viola Davis. Daniel Kaluuya, with his Globes and now SAG supporting noms for the late-breaking Judas and the Black Messiah is also gaining in the race. And similarly so is Jared Leto, so brilliant and deserving for another late breaker, The Little Things; he is getting nominated where it counts, at the Globes and SAG.  He should not be overlooked, and these nominations are great signs for him, particularly that his fellow actors know a fine performance when they see one.

As an early, somewhat lonely champion of Hillbilly Elegy I am so happy for the SAG recognition of Adams and Close, the latter now with back-to-back Globe and SAG mentions regaining early momentum for her performance that was overshadowed when critics started piling on the unfairly vilified movie. Both stars also made it through the first rounds and are on BAFTA’s long list today. Nice. I would have loved to see Globe nominees Michelle Pfeiffer and Bill Murray also win SAG love, as well as The Life Ahead’s magnificent Loren, but there is only so much room I guess.

As for the studios scorecard, it is starting to look like a blowout for Netflix this season with 13 nominations in the SAG motion picture categories, distantly followed by Amazon with four and A24 with three all for Minari, which may be the little engine that could this year. It is the only major Outstanding Cast nominee that is not on a streamer, rather set to play in theatres when it has its general release next week. Following the success of Parasite at SAG and the Oscars last season, this is an emerging story to watch.

Next up will be the often predictive Critics Choice nominations coming Monday.

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