SAG Awards: A “Silver Lining” Night?

Tonight, the awards season reaches another milestone in the form of the 19th Annual Screen Actors Guild Awards. By this point in the lengthy awards season process, the winners are almost always a forgone conclusion, and while that may be the case in many of the acting categories – yes, Daniel Day-Lewis is Best Actor, Jessica Chastain has the edge over Jennifer Lawrence for Best Actress, Anne Hathaway is the definite Best Supporting Actress, and without a nomination for Christoph Waltz it’ll probably be Tommy Lee Jones for Supporting Actor – the big prize is still wide open. In what is the most exciting and competitive Oscar season race for Best Picture in recent memory, the Screen Actors Guild has the potential with its Best Ensemble Cast prize (the SAG equivalent to Best Picture) to either create a definite frontrunner for the Oscars or, if things work out as they should, to shake up the race all over again so late in the game. Take a look below for a breakdown of this year’s SAG nominees for Best Ensemble Cast:

Best Ensemble Cast Nominees:
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 ARGO – Ben Affleck’s third directorial feature became slightly lost in the awards shuffle after being touted as a frontrunner upon its release in October (it took a back seat to Lincoln in November), but after scoring big wins at the Critics Choice Awards, Golden Globe Awards, and last night’s Producers Guild Awards, Argo has propelled itself back into the big prize talk. However, does it really have the best ensemble of the year? With Affleck’s determined lead performance being surrounded by comedic heavyweights Alan Arkin and John Goodman and strong dramatists like Bryan Cranston, Tate Donovan, Clea DuVall, Kyle Chandler, and more, the ensemble of Argo certainly has a respectable pedigree, but I’m not so sure the cast was as strong and impactful as the real life story and Affleck’s surefire direction.

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THE BEST EXOTIC MARIGOLD HOTEL – Released last summer, John Madden’s The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel became a sleeper independent blockbuster, grossing a gargantuan $134 million worldwide opposite a relatively tiny $10 million budget. Featuring an all-star British ensemble – Judi Dench, Bill Nighy, Penelope Wilton, Maggie Smith, Tom Wilkinson, and Dev Patel – Marigold Hotel is a heartwarming and joyous story of embracing old age and revisiting the highlights of a life well lived. There’s no doubt this wonderful film has an enchanting ensemble cast, but without much Oscar momentum behind it, it seems Marigold Hotel might just have to settle with a surprise nomination here.

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The poster shows a young girl in the background of a dark night. Text above reveals the cast listing and text below reveals the film's title.LES MISERABLES – Despite my severe distaste for Tom Hooper’s audaciously miserable Les Miserables, there’s no doubt the cast was the most emotionally striking and powerful part of the movie musical. Featuring Hugh Jackman, Anne Hathaway, Amanda Seyfriend, Eddie Redmayne, Samantha Barks, Russell Crowe, Helena Bonham Carter, and Sacha Baron Cohen, Les Miserable succeeds in giving each character an emotional arc and each performer shined in solo and ensemble musical numbers. In a movie of non-stop singing, the actors were the only thing that conveyed true emotion, making a Best Ensemble nomination truly worthy.

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LINCOLN – Once again, Steven Spielberg’s acclaimed Lincoln finds itself in the presumed frontrunner’s chair despite not having won many of the major awards as of late. With a titan supporting cast that includes Sally Field, Tommy Lee Jones, James Spader, John Hawkes, Hal Holbrook, Lee Pace, Joseph Gordon Levitt, and a half a dozen more well respected actors, it seems Lincoln was tailor made to win big at the award show where the winners are chosen by actors and actors only. Though many Lincoln naysayers found problems with Tony Kushner’s long and metaphorical script, the performances brought his words to poetic life, giving us eye-opening emotional depths to historical figures we thought we always have known about. The only thing standing in Lincoln’s way is its extraordinary lead, Daniel Day-Lewis. If many people see the movie as a lead actor showcase (and, let’s face it, DDL dominates every frame of Lincoln), it might hurt its Ensemble chances and continue Lincoln’s streak as an “always-a-nominee-but-never-a-winner”.

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SILVER LININGS PLAYBOOK – David O. Russell has a knack for drawing out emotionally strong performances in his feature films and Silver Linings Playbook is certainly no exception. With riveting performances from Bradley Cooper, Jennifer Lawrence, Robert DeNiro, Jackie Weaver, and Christ Tucker, SLP is a true acting showcase and, rather incredibly, no one actor outshines the next. Ingeniously, O. Russell intertwines his characters in a way so that everyone has at least one stand out acting moment as well as many powerful ensemble moments as well. Lawrence, for instance, has her best moments when going toe-to-toe with her fellow actors, be it with Cooper in a diner or with DeNiro in the family’s living room during one of the movie’s acting highlights. Without one of these strong performance, the rest of the cast and the entire movie would’ve been thrown off completely, making SLP the most deserving Ensemble of the year.

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WHO WILL WIN: Since the performances of Silver Linings Playbook build and bounce off of one another in ways that are integral to the emotional effect of the story, it truly is the strongest, most impressive, and most deserving Ensemble Cast of the year, and something tells me the Screen Actors Guild won’t let that go unnoticed, especially with a cast that has legends like DeNiro and strong up-and-comers like Lawrence and Cooper. When the film was nominated for 8 Oscars, including one in every major acting category (a feat that hasn’t been seen since Reds in 1981), it was all for good reason: this ensemble fuses with one another to create a raw, genuine, and honest family, one that resonates with the viewer in unexpected ways. What it ultimately comes down to is how the SAG members decide to choose their Best Ensemble Cast winner; since the award is their equivalent to Best Picture, sometimes the guild awards what they think to be the best movie of the year over the best cast (Slumdog Millionaire winning over Doubt in 2008, for instance), meaning Argo definitely has a shot to take the prize, especially since it seems to be winning almost everything lately. If Argo takes the big award tonight, it will solidify itself as the definite Oscar frontrunner and, let’s face it, the eventual winner, but if Silver Linings Playbook rightfully takes the prize, the awards season will once again be shaken up in dramatic fashion (with the SAG Best Ensemble Prize and 8 Oscar nominations, SLP could boost its Oscar chances tremendously with a win tonight). My heart and money is on Silver Linings tonight, but I wouldn’t be surprised if Argo jumps in for the win.

Article by Zack Sharf

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2 thoughts on “SAG Awards: A “Silver Lining” Night?

  1. Pingback: SAG Awards: Competition Revs Up For Oscar Night « Reel Reactions

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