SAG Awards Nominations Analysis: ‘Bombshell’ and ‘Parasite’ Stand Out in a Typically Random Field

With three black film nominees and one nominated ensemble dominated by women, SAG voters may have done barely enough to stave off complaints about a lack of diversity

Last Updated: December 11, 2019 @ 8:32 AM

The Screen Actors Guild is the biggest Hollywood guild that gives out awards, with more than 100,000 members. But the SAG Awards nominations are only given out by a fraction of that number, by randomly chosen film and television nominating committees of a little more than 2,000 people each — and because of that, the results can seem a little random at times, too.

And so they did on Wednesday, when the 26th annual SAG Awards nominations were announced. “The Irishman” landed an all-important ensemble nomination, along with individual noms for costars Al Pacino and Joe Pesci — but Robert De Niro, an acting icon who plays the lead in the film, was overlooked just as he was in the Golden Globe nominations on Monday. Of course, he can take some solace in the fact that SAG is giving him a Lifetime Achievement Award this year, so maybe voters figured he didn’t need a competitive nomination on top of that.

The Korean film “Parasite” landed an ensemble nomination, but none of its cast received individual recognition — while the most affecting non-English performance of the year, Antonio Banderas’ in “Pain and Glory,” was overlooked as well.

Gold

“Marriage Story” got individual nominations for Adam Driver, Scarlett Johansson and Laura Dern, tying with “Bombshell” for the most nominated actors of any film — but all those noms somehow didn’t add up to an ensemble nomination.

“1917,” “Little Women,” “The Farewell,” “Dolemite Is My Name” and “Knives Out” were shut out completely, but the Fox News drama “Bombshell,” which was considered no likelier to land an ensemble nomination than any of those others, not only ended up in the ensemble category but got the most acting nominations of any film, four, adding individual noms for all three of its stars: Charlize Theron, Margot Robbie and Nicole Kidman.

(“The Irishman” and “Once Upon a Time … in Hollywood” also received four if you count their stunt cast nominations.)

You could celebrate the recognition for “Parasite” and for Lupita Nyong’o in “Us” and bemoan the absence of De Niro, Banderas, Eddie Murphy, Willem Dafoe (“The Lighthouse”), Saoirse Ronan and Florence Pugh (“Little Women”), Anthony Hopkins and Jonathan Pryce (“The Two Popes”), Adam Sandler (“Uncut Gems”) and many more, but here’s the bottom line: This particular random group of SAG members really liked “Bombshell.”

And they liked “Parasite” enough to put it in the ensemble category, a clear sign that the movie is here to stay this awards season.

The results may be barely diverse enough to stave off the complaints that inevitably follow nominations these days: Three black actors were nominated (Lupita Nuyong’o, Cynthia Erivo and Jamie Foxx), along with Jennifer Lopez, an American of Puerto Rican descent. And maybe the presence of “Bombshell,” whose nominated ensemble breaks 7-to-2 in favor of women, will help counterbalance the fact that “The Irishman” is 7-to-1 male and “Once Upon a Time … in Hollywood” is 10-to-4 male.

(To qualify for an ensemble nomination, an actor must have a solo card in the film’s opening credits.)

In the last decade, about 75% of SAG ensemble nominees have gone on to receive Best Picture nominations from the Academy, and eight of the 10 Oscar winners have been SAG ensemble nominees. (But the last two winners, “The Shape of Water” and “Green Book,” were not.)

And typically, four of the five SAG nominees in each acting category go on to receive Oscar nominations, but one does not. Among those who have been recognized by SAG but not by the Academy in recent years: John David Washington for “BlackKklansman,” James Franco for “The Disaster Artist,” Emily Blunt for “Mary Poppins Returns” and “A Quiet Place,” Judi Dench for “Victoria & Abdul,” Steve Carell for “The Battle of the Sexes” and Holly Hunter for “The Big Sick.”

On the television side, the other randomly chosen nominating committee had clear biases as well. HBO’s “Succession” may be one of the most celebrated TV shows in recent memory, but it was shut out.

“Veep” got no love in its final season, not even for nine-time winner Julia Louis-Dreyfus. And “Fleabag” not only landed expected nods for comedy ensemble and star Phoebe Waller-Bridge, but its Hot Priest, Andrew Scott, crashed the comedy-actor category as well.

Did it all feel a little random? Sure it did. After all, that’s the way the SAG Awards work.

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