ANALYSIS: SAG nominations snub ‘The Tree of Life’ and ‘Hugo’

Shailene Woodley and George Clooney in 'The Descendants,' a new film by Alexander Payne -- Photo courtesy of Merie Wallace / Fox Searchlight

Nominations for the 18th-annual Screen Actor Guild Awards have been announced, and the surprising news is less about who made the list and more about who didn’t.

Terrence Malick’s The Tree of Life, which has been hailed by critics and is a serious contender for Best Picture at the Oscars, was completely shut out. No nomination for Brad Pitt, Jessica Chastain or the ensemble. True, both Pitt and Chastain received nominations for other films (Moneyball and The Help, respectively), but the total lack of support for the movie is almost jaw-dropping.

It might be that The Tree of Life came out too early in the year and has faded from people’s memories. It might be that the movie is appreciated more for its directorial flourishes than performances (the SAG Awards are only given to actors, not directors or writers). Nevertheless, this may be the first year that a  film wins the Academy Award or Golden Globe for Best Picture, and receive no love from SAG.

Also missing from the lists: Martin Scorsese’s Hugo. There’s no explanation why this gem wasn’t nominated for Best Ensemble. One could make the argument that individual performances don’t cry out for award recognition, but as a complete acting product, Hugo is stellar.

In addition to Pitt for Moneyball, George Clooney was recognized for his work in The Descendants and Leonardo DiCaprio for his role in J. Edgar. Jean Dujardin is gaining buzz for his leading role in The Artist. The real surprise for this category is the addition of Demián Bichir for Summit Entertainment’s small film, A Better Life.

This one will likely be a contest between Clooney and Dujardin. Also note: No Gary Oldman (Tinker, Tailor Soldier, Spy) or Michael Fassbender (A Dangerous Method and Shame).

The leading actress nominations went to Glenn Close (Albert Nobbs), Viola Davis (The Help), Meryl Streep (The Iron Lady), Tilda Swinton (We Need to Talk About Kevin) and Michelle Williams (My Week with Marilyn). All expected nominees in a fairly weak category. Streep may sweep simply because no other actress has taken the reins.

Christopher Plummer will likely win Best Supporting Actor for his exquisite work in Beginners. A welcome competitor is Nick Nolte in Warrior, an underrated film that unfortunately bombed at the box office. Other contenders in the category are Kenneth Branagh (My Week with Marilyn), Armie Hammer (J. Edgar) and Jonah Hill (Moneyball).

But where’s Albert Brooks for Drive?

Chastain leads the Best Supporting Actress category. Other nominees include Bérénice Bejo (The Artist), Melissa McCarthy (Bridesmaids), Janet McTeer (Albert Nobbs) and Octavia Spencer (The Help). Somehow Shailene Woodley of The Descendants is absent.

The ensemble category features cast members from The Artist (the leader, at this point), Bridesmaids (overrated), The Descendants (worthy contender), The Help (natural choice) and Midnight in Paris (a true ensemble piece).

Overall, there’s some deserved finger-wagging at SAG for leaving out Hugo and The Tree of Life, two movies that will likely (and hopefully) not be overlooked by the Golden Globes and Academy Awards.

In the television category, not too many highlights. The usual suspects are all there: Boardwalk Empire, Game of Thrones, Dexter, Breaking Bad, The Good Wife, 30 Rock, The Big Bang Theory, Glee, Modern Family and The Office.

Look for Boardwalk Empire and Modern Family to clean up.

One interesting tidbit: Betty White was nominated in two categories. She was recognized for her role in Hot in Cleveland and the Hallmark Hall of Fame film, The Lost Valentine.

By John Soltes / Publisher / John@HollywoodSoapbox.com

John Soltes

John Soltes is an award-winning journalist. His writing has appeared in The New York Times, Earth Island Journal, The Hollywood Reporter, New Jersey Monthly and at Time.com, among other publications.

E-mail him at john@hollywoodsoapbox.com

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