This year, the first year ever, I was one of the SAG members asked to nominate feature film performances for the SAG awards. I was really happy about it because I’d finally be able to see every film I was unable to see during the year. For me, the SAG awards represented a place where we actors had a tougher standard and pointed out the stuff that took the breath away from us insiders.
I took my work seriously, I was sent 30ish screener DVD’s and many, many invites to screenings that I was unable to get to. I watched every screener sent to me, even those, like Les Miserables, that were sent just 2 days before the ballot deadline. I put in my time and diligently set out to see if I could find the best of the best and something happened that I didn’t count on: watching films back to back allows you to see how the convention of film overlaps from story to story, film to film and performance to performance. It made the unconventional stand out. I really liked learning that about the process.
This brings me to my point, and boy this is dangerous territory, because by no means am I knocking the actors nominated. The nominees are all deserving, they are all great actors and did great work. My issue is that, though I did nominate most of the actors that are now our nominees, there are some actors that I feel were overlooked due to factors that had nothing to do with their work. Popularity, notoriety of the film, or, just because people didn’t watch all the films they were sent. It was a lot of time spent watching, but, I felt like the producers took the time to send me their film, the least I could do for my fellow actors was give them an honest look in an effort to educate the planet about what “we” find outstanding as actors.
This is where it gets touchy, but I assure you I’m just fighting through the idea that we as a union make this event happen, and potentially it’s not being used to elevate awareness of the outstanding work of all our fellow artists. Perhaps it’s just easier to nominate those who keep movies being made because they draw in the audience and we non-household name actors need them to keep us employed. Maybe I’m learning I’m naive and I alone hold out this purist view of the SAG awards, but if that’s true, it feels like a missed opportunity because the Oscars have this base well covered. I understand there is no real harm done, one could hardly argue with anyone nominated as being great at their job, but as I read the nominations my quandry was; Was their work, this year, in that film, really “outstanding?”
I’m very hesitant to list the names that I voted for and no one in that group is a close friend, so I’m not involved on a personal level for any nominee. It struck me that perhaps the easy road was taken and votes were given to actors who are consistently great, or because they are a friend, or, worse yet, because time wasn’t available to watch all the performances in contention and votes were made based on who is being talked about in the press.
For instance; I thought Michael Pena deserved a supporting nomination for his work in End of Watch, but I did not nominate Jake Gyllenhaal who was great, but for Jake Gyllenhaal, he wasn’t outstanding. Michael Pena was. Logan Lerman and the cast of Perks of a Wallflower did outsanding work. Though we’ve seen her do this role in the past Leslie Mann absolutely elevated herself in This is 40. David Oloyewo was unknown to me and showed up in 3 films but it was the performance in the film I absolutely hated that made me nominate him. Ann Dowd turned Compliance, a terrifying movie about the power of being a cog in the wheel of authority, from a pseudo documentary into a shocking drama that had me yelling at the screen, “no way!” These are a few examples and I have more, which just speaks to the level of talent that was on display. It made the job fun.
Outstanding is subjective, I realize that. This is just my thought on what being able to nominate for the SAG awards means to me; a way to alert the world to the absolute best acting in film.