Ah, Oscar season. It seems to start earlier every year, doesn’t it? This week, we saw the one-two punch of the SAG and Golden Globe awards rolling out their (fairly predictable) list of this year’s nominees. While the two lists weren’t carbon copies of each other, there was considerable overlap – including a couple of surprising patterns that seem to be forming. Let’s take a look at the most surprising revelations from this week’s announcements.
1. Daniel Bruhl and Barkhad Abdi prove to have staying power
Around the release of Rush and Captain Phillips, respectively, these two supporting actors garnered plenty of praise and moderate whispering about possible Oscar nominations. However, the buzz seemed to have died down, and neither of their films have been getting a whole lot of chatter lately. However, Bruhl and Abdi found their way onto both the SAG and Golden Globe list of nominees. Sure, it’s no guarantee at an Oscar nomination (just ask John Hawkes, Marion Cotillard, Helen Mirren and Nicole Kidman – all of whom scooped up a SAG and Globe noms last year but missed out on the big show), but it gives them a much-needed boost and ensures that they’ll still be in the conversation until the Oscar nominations are announced.
What surprised me about their nominations, though, is the lack of pedigree the two actors have in Hollywood. Bruhl is a wonderful actor who has been working in Germany for years and has had a few Hollywood roles (most notably, a memorable turn in Inglorious Basterds). But he really hasn’t been a crossover darling like, say, Marion Cotillard or Christoph Waltz. Even the fact that he’s being campaigned in the supporting category when his role in Rush is pretty clearly a co-lead shows that the studios were clearly banking on Chris Hemsworth as the star power for their movie. Abdi, meanwhile, is a complete newcomer, and many had been questioning his chances of being considered for an Oscar when he was going up against Tom Hanks, who is about as recognizable of a face as you can find in Hollywood.
Both actors seemed to have a lot working against them, in terms of Oscar chances: relative youth, foreign-born status, lack of name recognition, playing second-fiddle to an A-list star, movies with early fall release dates, etc. Yet, there their names were, even over the likes of Jonah Hill, Tom Hanks, and Jake Gyllenhaal – all of whom had arguably been perceived as stronger contenders prior to this week’s announcements. Will they beat the odds and wind up as first-time nominees in a category completely dominated by previously-winning veteran actors just last year? Only time will tell. Speaking of which…
2. Best Supporting Actor skews young
Last year’s Supporting Actor category was filled entirely by well-established names in relatively stately roles: Philip Seymour Hoffman in The Master, Tommy Lee Jones in Lincoln, Christoph Waltz in Django Unchained, Alan Arkin in Argo, and Robert DeNiro in Silver Linings Playbook. This year? Not so much. Along with Bruhl and Abdi, the rest of the category is pretty unexpected, too. Right now, it’s generally thought that the frontrunners of the category are Michael Fassbender for 12 Years a Slave and Jared Leto for Dallas Buyers Club. Both play far more colourful, daring characters than anyone in last year’s roster, and both will also become first-time Oscar nominees. SAG and the Globes diverged on the last slot of the category, with SAG honouring the late James Gandolfini for Enough Said, and the Globes continuing to shower love on American
Hustle by nominating Bradley Cooper. It’s hard to say who will take the last spot at the Oscars. Hill and Hanks are still very possible, but neither The Wolf of Wall Street or Saving Mr. Banks have proven to be hugely strong awards contenders yet. However, it’s seeming more and more like that no matter how it all ends up, this will be the youngest Supporting Actor group in number of years.
3. No SAG for Robert Redford
Based on online reaction, this seems to be the most notable snub of the week. Many pundits had Best Actor all locked up: Bruce Dern, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Tom Hanks, Matthew McConaughey, and Robert Redford. However, this just goes to show that you can’t be certain about any lineup until the precursors. Redford’s name was noticeably absent on the SAG nomination list for All is Lost, replaced instead by Forrest Whitaker for The Butler. It is surprising that the actors branch wouldn’t show a bit more love for Redford’s one-man-show performance, especially given his legacy in Hollywood and his respected work in other aspects of the film industry. But I think he’ll find a spot in the Oscar nominations. It may just be a case of SAG really liking The Butler. Oprah was also recognized, and the film snapped up an ensemble nomination. (The HFPA was obviously much less keen on the film and shut it out of the Globes entirely.)
4. No Globe for Oprah = Oscar for June Squibb?
See above. Oprah still has a good chance at getting nominated for an Oscar, but her absence from the Globe’s seems to only strengthen Lupita Nyong’o’s path to Oscar glory. However, I wouldn’t say Nyong’o has it in the bag yet. June Squibb, who also got double recognition this week, is emerging as an unlikely dark horse for the win. Nebraska has been doing extremely well in the precursors, and it seems to be hitting its peak of popularity at just the right time.
5. Best Actress may be as boring as everyone is predicting
SAG only solidified the deserving but uninspired list of potential Best Actress nominees that has been volleyed around for weeks now: Cate Blanchett, Sandra Bullock, Judi Dench, Emma Thompson, and Meryl Streep. And indeed all five actresses found recognition in yesterday’s Globe announcements. So is it as clear-cut as that? Is it going to be a battle between Blanchett and Bullock – two actresses who have won Oscars within the past decade? (Don’t get me wrong – I loved both of their performances and would actually be happy to see either win, but it just doesn’t make for a very compelling lead-up to the Oscars.)
All hope is not lost, though. Amy Adams racked up her fifth Globe nomination this week, and she might just go on to get her fifth Oscar nom, too, if voters are enamored with American Hustle as much as the HFPA was. And with some critics claiming this to be her best work yet, she could knock out Thompson, seeing as Saving Mr. Banks has been evoking some lukewarm reactions. It kind of reminds me of Hitchcock form last year. And look what happened to Helen Mirren – yes to SAG and Globe, no to Oscar.
6. Indie favourites miss out
Okay, maybe this isn’t surprising, exactly. But while Nebraska is proving to be an awards season hit, there are a number of other smaller films that are sadly getting passed over in the precursors. (The fact that they don’t have an established director like Alexander Payne attached may have something to do with this.)
Fruitvale Station was projected to become the next Beasts of the Southern Wild or Winter’s Bone by some, but its strong reception at Sundance and summer indie-hit status sadly hasn’t been translating to much awards play. The smaller critics groups and award shows that designate special categories for breakthrough films, directors, and actors have been giving it lots of love, but it was nowhere to be found in the SAG or Globe nominations. Michael B. Jordan’s early buzz is fading, leaving him probably even outside the top 10 list of contenders for Best Actor at this point. Meanwhile, recent champ Octavia Spencer – once thought to be a strong contender for Best Supporting Actress – was even passed over in favour of Sally Hawkins at the Oprah-free Globes.
Meanwhile, Brie Larson didn’t pick up the support she needed to be a Best Actress contender for Short Term 12, nor did Adele Exarchopoulos or Lea Seydoux for Blue is the Warmest Colour. Stranger things have happened with small movies come Oscar time, such as Javier Bardem (Biutiful), Maggie Gyllenhaal (Crazy Heart), and Laura Linney (The Savages) sneaking on to the Oscar nomination list without Globe or SAG support, but in all of those cases, they were much more established actors than most of the ones we’re talking about here.