The Friendly Film Fan breaks down the SAG, PGA, and DGA nominations, and how they could impact the Oscar race as voting begins.
Hello, all, and welcome back to The Friendly Film Fan! So, I love the Oscars. Ever since I became aware of movies as something more than mere entertainment, I have loved watching the annual awards show every year. I’ve hosted parties, competed in ballot competitions, run ballot competitions, and published my best guesses for what may ultimately compete for the gold any number of times over the past decade or so. I’ve even gone so far as to track (and even join) some critics groups as they’ve decided on their own nominations/winners, and have kept a close eye on many an Oscar race since I first began following them. Critics groups such as the CCA or NSFC can shed a lot of light on what’s really connecting with people over the course of a cinematic year, and can have some effect on Oscar voting (if a film lands at every critics’ group or wins almost all of them, it’s likely that film will be competing for Oscars).
However, these critics’ groups are not the primary indicator of what the Academy Award nominations are likely to look like – that distinction belongs to the various guilds, almost all of what contain members also belonging to the Academy’s membership. Over the past several days, all the major guilds have been revealing their nominations for their annual awards ceremonies, including SAG (Screen Actor’s Guild), the PGA (Producer’s Guild), the DGA (Director’s Guild), the WGA (Writer’s Guild), the ASC (American Society of Cinematographers), and the ACE (American Cinema Editors). Most of these guilds also nominate candidates for television work, but as this is a piece about the Oscar race, which is exclusively a movie race, I’m sticking to discussing only the film portion of the guild. With those candidates for each prize now revealed, and Oscar nomination voting beginning as of a few days ago, let’s discuss the surprises, the snubs, and everything in between, as well as how they’re likely to impact the Oscar nominations for 2022.
Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Supporting Role:
Caitríona Balfe, Belfast
Cate Blanchett, Nightmare Alley
Ariana DeBose, West Side Story
Kirsten Dunst, The Power of the Dog
Ruth Negga, Passing
Outstanding Performance by a Male Actor in a Supporting Role:
Ben Affleck, The Tender Bar
Bradley Cooper, Licorice Pizza
Troy Kotsur, CODA
Jared Leto, House of Gucci
Kodi Smit-McPhee, The Power of the Dog
Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Leading Role:
Jessica Chastain, The Eyes of Tammy Faye
Olivia Colman, The Lost Daughter
Lady Gaga, House of Gucci
Jennifer Hudson, Respect
Nicole Kidman, Being the Ricardos
Outstanding Performance by a Male Actor in a Leading Role:
Javier Bardem, Being the Ricardos
Benedict Cumberbatch, The Power of the Dog
Andrew Garfield, Tick, Tick … Boom!
Will Smith, King Richard
Denzel Washington, The Tragedy of Macbeth
Outstanding Performance by a Cast in a Motion Picture:
Don’t Look Up
House of Gucci
Outstanding Action Performance by a Stunt Ensemble in a Motion Picture:
The Matrix Resurrections
No Time to Die
Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings
(The only SAG category for which the Oscars do not have competition is the Stunt Ensemble award, so it’s unlikely anyone has to pay attention to that, apart from how many of them could cross over with the VFX department.) Actors make up the largest single branch of the Academy, and many of those actors belong to SAG; for most, it’s how they get work. It’s also perhaps the most competitive race at the Oscars outside of Best Picture.
The ensemble award for SAG is the closest thing to Best Picture that they have. If we look closely, we see four of these nominees have a strong shot at being nominated for Best Picture, those being Belfast, CODA, Don’t Look Up, and King Richard. House of Gucci could squeeze in if they really push, but given our next guild to look at, it’s unlikely it breaks through beyond its acting nominations and a couple design awards. Being that this is the ensemble award as well, several candidates like The Power of the Dog and Being the Ricardos are unlikely to compete here, given that they’re mostly one or two-handers where the rest of the cast is mostly on the fringes.
The most surprising omission in the ensemble category is Steven Spielberg’s remake of West Side Story, where the ensemble does most of the leg work as the main characters interact between those sections focused on the supporting cast. It’s not a death knoll for the film, but it does mean that apart from the SAG-nominated Ariana DeBose in the Supporting Actress category, it’s unlikely that the film gets any other acting nominations. Cate Blanchett also makes a surprise appearance in the same category for her work in Guillermo Del Toro’s Nightmare Alley, knocking out fierce competition like Aunjanue Ellis for King Richard, who is still laregly expected to be part of the Oscar five. It also looks likely that Javier Bardem may crack the Best Actor race for his performance in Being the Ricardos, and Ben Affleck in The Tender Bar is making more of a show than we initially thought.
The most egregious snub, however, comes in the form of Kristen Stewart’s work as Princess Diana in Pablo Larraín’s semi-horror biopic Spencer. Stewart was the front-runner to win the Best Actress Oscar race early on for her career-best work here, but her absence from the category now makes winning almost an impossibility, given how (to my recollection), no one in the Best Actress field to not be nominated for SAG has ever gone on to win the award. Perhaps with the Netflix series The Crown being deep into its Diana story, people just felt too inundated with the presence of her as a character, but to deny the front-runner even a nomination (regardless of winning) is still a shock. The surprise inclusion over Stewart is Jennifer Hudson as Aretha Franklin in Respect, a film whose only real redeeming quality is that Hudson is very good in it. Still, it’s yet another case of a lauded actress playing a famous musician in a biopic that doesn’t know what to do with them (see also: Judy).
As far as the rest of the nominations go, there are no real surprises or snubs beyond neither of the Belfast boys getting in (Ciarán Hinds or Jamie Dornan) for Supporting Actor, with SAG opting in favor of Ben Affleck for The Tender Bar and Bradley Cooper for Licorice Pizza. Those (and Jared Leto) were spots that could switch at any time, so it’s no great shock that they’re changed here for showier performances, though Hinds still has a solid shot at getting in.
Darryl F. Zanuck Award for Outstanding Producer of Theatrical Motion Pictures:
Being the Ricardos
Don’t Look Up
The Power of the Dog
Tick, Tick … Boom!
West Side Story
Award for Outstanding Producer of Animated Theatrical Motion Pictures:
The Mitchells vs. the Machines
Raya and the Last Dragon
Award for Outstanding Producer of Documentary Motion Pictures:
The First Wave
In the Same Breath
Simple as Water
Summer of Soul (… or, When the Revolution Could Not Be Televised)
Writing With Fire
PGA (or the Producer’s Guild of America) is the most likely indicator for Best Picture chances for any movie, given that producers both nominate for and receive the Oscars for that category. Their nominees here shed a bit of light on what the overall races for these categories might look like, but there aren’t many surprises. There is the slimmest chance that one of these ten spots gets taken by an unexpected underdog like Nightmare Alley or The Lost Daughter, but it’s very unlikely. Although the PGA and Oscar nominations have not lined up 1:1 in ages, the nominees here are largely expected (especially with the Oscars firmly entrenched in having 10 nominees), and it seems as though Being the Ricardos has gone from a strong possibility of nomination to almost definite. Sure, this makes the Best Picture race a little clearer, but it is strange that the PGA didn’t even take the chance to nominate things like House of Gucci, Nightmare Alley, or even the much-talked-about Spider-Man: No Way Home, which Sony Pictures has been campaigning for (despite the fact that beyond being a box office juggernaut, they had no real shot at being nominated for the Oscars beyond VFX and Sound). The PGA is the place in awards season where most beloved blockbusters get their prime shout-out from awards bodies, so it's unusual to not really see that here beyond Dune.
As far as the documentary race goes, there are no real surprises here – mainly confirmed suspicions many of us have had for a little while, such as the absence of the prison documentary Attica being very unlikely to make the nominations list at the Oscars, and The Rescue all but confirmed to be taking that fourth spot as pundits wonder whether one of the two Covid docs (The First Wave and In the Same Breath) can pull enough votes to knock Netflix’s Procession out of the mix for spot number five. In the Same Breath may have the stronger hand in this case, as it’s also nominated for the Indie Spirit Awards alongside Procession, and we already sort of got a First Wave-esque documentary last year in the form of 76 Days. (Plus, National Geographic produced both First Wave and The Rescue, so it’s unlikely they take up two spots. Most likely, the company will throw their weight behind just one; what better to do than bet on the team who won for Free Solo last time by backing The Rescue?)
And although it’s not entirely shocking, despite being nominated in the documentary category, it seems that the masterful Afghan refugee story Flee was not nominated for the PGA’s animated feature award. I’m unsure of whether it simply didn’t qualify for that category specifically, which is always a possibility, but the likelier answer is that it was subbed out for Illumination’s Sing 2, which to me is a terrible trade. Hopefully the Academy has enough sense to keep Flee in all three of its most obvious categories (Animated Feature, Documentary Feature, and International Feature), but for the first time in the history of its run, I’m nervous for its chances.
Outstanding Directorial Achievement in Theatrical Feature Film:
Paul Thomas Anderson, Licorice Pizza
Kenneth Branagh, Belfast
Jane Campion, The Power of the Dog
Steven Spielberg, West Side Story
Denis Villeneuve, Dune
Outstanding Directorial Achievement of a First-Time Feature Film Director:
Maggie Gyllenhaal, The Lost Daughter
Rebecca Hall, Passing
Tatiana Huezo, Prayers for the Stolen
Lin-Manuel Miranda, Tick, Tick… Boom!
Michael Sarnoski, Pig
Emma Seligman, Shiva Baby
Apart from the inclusion of Tatiana Huezo in the first-time directors category (and a welcome but unexpected nomination for Emma Seligman), there aren’t really any surprises from the DGA this time around. Huezo’s inclusion here does bode well for Prayers for the Stolen in the International Feature race, though, as it continues to climb up the ranks towards a nomination. Apart from that, there’s really not much to discuss about these candidates.
All five directors included in the main theatrical motion pictures category are expected to have a shot at getting nominated for Best Director at the Oscars, but don’t confirm all five just yet. The DGA five has not translated to the Oscars five 1:1 in well over a decade or more, with the Academy usually opting to nominate either a first-time or International director in that coveted fifth spot. Campion, Spielberg, and Villeneuve all feel universally safe here, but it’s Paul Thomas Anderson and Kenneth Branagh who have the best chances of getting bumped out by another candidate (most likely Branagh gets knocked out given what was just discussed about Belfast’s PGA absence).
The most likely scenario is that the fifth spot will go to Ryûsuke Hamaguchi for his work on the three-hour Japanese indie phenomenon Drive My Car, which would make him both a first-time and an international nominee. The film has won not just the International Feature awards but the overall Best Picture award at almost every major critics group ceremony (including NYFCC, LAFCC, and NSFC), and although critics don’t influence the Academy’s taste nearly as much as some think they do, the fact that Drive My Car has been this successful so far means it’s definitely getting in to International Feature, and Hamaguchi is likely to nab that fifth spot, much like Thomas Vinterberg did for Another Round just last year.
And that will do it for Part One of the 2022 Guild Award Nominations Breakdown. We've already covered a lot of important ground, but please stay tuned to The Friendly Film Fan for Part Two coming soon, where I’ll tackle the WGA, ASC, and ACE nominations. Thanks for reading!
- The Friendly Film Fan
Film critic in my free time. Film enthusiast in my down time.