Oscar noms offer up surprises, snubs

Oscar nominations were announced last week, and like most years, there were surprises, snubs and foregone winners in some categories. Or maybe not. The Screen Actors Guild Awards were held last weekend and there were some game-changing surprises. Because the SAG awards start with actors nominating and then voting for other actors, it can be a better predictor of what is to come at the Oscar ceremony a few weeks from now.

There were some tough-to-take snubs this year, and three of them were in the Best Actress category. It really goes to show that this was a strong year for women’s roles, but still it stings when the always under appreciated Annette Benning comes up short again, this time for “20th Century Women.” Likewise Amy Adams who had not one but two super performances this year in “Arrival” and “Nocturnal Animals.” But no Oscar love for Amy, who maybe canceled herself out. If you’ve seen “Hidden Figures,” and I highly recommend you do, it is truly a crime that Taraji P. Henson missed a nomination for playing NASA mathematician Kathleen Johnson. Ouch.

The working theory is that Meryl Streep, who was nominated for “Florence Foster Jenkins,” knocked one of these fine actresses out of the running. Granted, this was not La Streep’s best role and just because she turns out a film doesn’t necessarily mean she needs to be nominated for it, but who’s to say?

The Best Actor category also contained a few snubs and a surprise nomination for Virgo Mortensen for “Captain Fantastic.” But like Streep’s nod, this one knocked out either Tom Hanks for “Sully” or Joel Edgerton for “Loving” depending on which role you liked more. Edgerton’s co-star, Ruth Negga, was one of the nominees in the Best Actress category so it’s one of those Oscar conundrums as to why Edgerton fell short. As for Hanks, there were no more nominations for “Sully” so that was less of a snub and would have been a bigger surprise if he had been nominated.

“Silence,” which quietly arrived in theaters only a short time ago, was completely shut out. Not even a nod for director Martin Scorsese. But the Best Director category did bring one of the biggest surprises: Mel Gibson for “Hacksaw Ridge.” Hollywood loves a comeback, even if Gibson’s meltdown some years ago was epic. Still this is one name I never thought I’d see in relation to Oscar nominations. Who I would have enjoyed seeing as one of these five would have been either Denzel Washington for “Fences,” or Theodore Melli for “Hidden Figures.” Both of these movies have been nominated for Best Picture, but their directors weren’t.

The Best Supporting Actor category brought no real snubs, just some wistfulness that Hugh Grant was overlooked for “Florence Foster Jenkins,” as was Ben Foster for “Hell or High Water.” Oddly Aaron Taylor-Johnson was snubbed after winning this category at the Golden Globes for “Nocturnal Animals.” If truth be told, SAG winner Mahershala Ali probably has a lock on this award for “Moonlight.”

The most interesting moments at the SAG awards were two surprises that put a bit of doubt on some odds-on Oscar favorites. The first one came in the Best Actor category when Denzel Washington took the prize for “Fences” over Casey Affleck for “Manchester by the Sea.” Affleck has already won awards and was expected to take the SAG. I liked both of these performances so I wasn’t disappointed. “Fences” also brought Viola Davis a prize in the Best Supporting Actress category, so don’t overlook it for Oscar wins.

 

The biggest surprise of the night came at the end when “Hidden Figures” won for Best Cast (the SAGS do not award a “best picture”). It was a wonderful surprise to me because I’ve been touting this movie ever since I walked out of the theater. It’s a great story and a great cast, so this was well deserved. However, it remains to be seen if this mojo can carry over to the Oscar race when the voting pool widens to include all Academy members. After all ,“La La Land” tied the record for Oscar nominations with a total of 14 nods. It’s still the favorite going into the final stretch before the Oscar ceremony, but stranger things have happened.

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