Inside SAG Award Nominations’ Many Snubs and Surprises, From Kristen Stewart to Ben Affleck

Bypassing Stewart and Aunjanue Ellis and sending mixed messages on “West Side Story” and “The Power of the Dog,” SAG makes an odd season even odder

sag awards nomination analysis snub surprise
"Spencer," "The Tender Bar" (Neon; Amazon)

Screen Actors Guild voters just dropped a few bombs into an awards season that was already reeling from the recent cancellation of just about every live event in the month of January. And in the process, the acting group left a few big questions looming.

Like, is Kristen Stewart no longer a lock for an award for playing Princess Diana in “Spencer,” the way her partisans and most pundits have been expecting?

Are there too many supporting actors in “Belfast” for voters to keep them straight?

Is Ben Affleck really a contender for the largely dismissed drama “The Tender Bar”?

What happened to Aunjanue Ellis from “King Richard?”

Do voters think “West Side Story” is a one-woman show starring Ariana DeBose?

And how can “The Power of the Dog” receive three individual nominations and not be nominated in the ensemble category?

In film nominations that contained more surprises than usual, presumed favorites like Stewart, Ellis and “Belfast” actors Jamie Dornan and Ciaran Hinds were bypassed while surprises like Affleck and Cate Blanchett (“Nightmare Alley”) showed up instead.

But the strangest notes came in the ensemble category, where two of the season’s presumed frontrunners, “The Power of the Dog” and “West Side Story,” were left out of a category that is supposed to be a must-have for films that want to win the Best Picture Oscar. And “The Power of the Dog” did so even though it had more individual nominations than any other film, three, while ensemble nominee “Don’t Look Up” didn’t have a single individual nom and “Belfast,” “CODA” and “King Richard” only had one.

Does that mean we have to start treating “House of Gucci” (two individual noms plus ensemble) like the favorite? Absolutely not. It just means that the slightly more than 2,000 randomly-selected SAG members on the film nominating committee made some odd choices and had some unusual favorites.

And it means that while Oscar voters will probably agree with most of SAG’s choices, we can expect to find more disagreements than usual this year.

Still, the failure of “Spencer” to make the longlist of 15 in BAFTA voting, which was also announced Wednesday morning, followed by Stewart’s omission from the SAG nominations, is not a good sign for a film that may well be too austere and arty for voters.

And Netflix can’t be happy seeing “The Power of the Dog” left out of the ensemble category only three days after it won the top award at the diminished and ignored Golden Globes – though the streamer can certainly take some solace in the fact that in three of the last four years, the Best Picture winner hasn’t received a SAG ensemble nomination. (In the 22 straight years before that, every Oscar winner had.)

So there’s no hard-and-fast lesson to be learned from SAG voters this year, except that they can be an odd group. And that this is an odd year that is only getting odder.