Not that you shouldn’t watch all the performances, but it’s difficult, at best, to find the time. As a rule, I don’t sleep, so…here are my observations of the nominated performances.
SUPPORTING PERFORMANCE IN A FILM
Rooney Mara – “Carol” (SHE GETS MY VOTE)
Not quite sure this is a supporting role…I mean, yes, she’s the antagonist, but the movie goes because of her. Earnest, innocent, scared, devilish, crushed…it’s a brilliant performance, more than worthy of a Lead nomination. I think it’s going to come down to her and Mirren when it comes down to it (even if I think that’s an overreach for Mirren), but Mara gets my vote.
Rachel McAdams – “Spotlight”
Another perfectly good, utilitarian performance by Ms. McAdams, who I think we all look at a little differently after her turn on this last season of “True Detective”. However, the role doesn’t provide enough emotional variety to really compete here. But she sure has come a long way from her “Slings & Arrows” debut.
Helen Mirren – “Trumbo”
Ms. Mirren is terrific in this film. Mostly because I think it plays to all her strengths: strong-willed, ironic, funny and adequately filled with hubris. But it veers ever-so-slightly in to charicature, and for that, she loses my vote. But I wouldn’t be surprised if she won. She’s well-loved by the Guild, considering she also received a (wholly undeserved) Lead Actress nomination, as well.
Alicia Vikander – “The Danish Girl”
I’ve gone on record several times as saying I’m not a huge fan of Ms. Vikander’s work. She was especially blah in her other lead role this year, “Testament of Youth.” She’s better in this, but not much….although, it may not be her fault. “Danish Girl” is a wholly underwritten script about a subject that deserved much better. That said, since she could have also been given consideration for a Lead nomination for this role, she will receive a lot of votes. Just not mine.
Kate Winslet – “Steve Jobs”
This is the definition of a supporting role, and as ever, Winslet is good. Occasionally very good. But she comes in a distant fifth in my mind…if for no other reason than her utterly inconsistent accent.
Men (or Where the Hell is Paul Dano?!)
Christian Bale – “The Big Short”
If it weren’t for Rylance, and the glut of incredible performances in “The Big Short”, he’d get my vote. He’s SENSATIONAL! Odd, bizarre, real… But, alas, Mark Rylance…so…
Idris Elba – “Beasts of No Nation”
This was a tough movie and a REALLY good & affecting film. And Elba certainly helps make it so. But the film belongs to the boys, with Elba stuck being a plot carrier…and this never helps when considering the best of the best. Don’t get me wrong, the movie and his performance are more than worth your time investment. I just think it’s a performance that is overshadowed by the subject and the protagonist.
Mark Rylance – “Bridge of Spies” (HE GETS MY VOTE)
Mark Rylance is ridiculous…”all subtlety and expression and heartbreak” as I wrote in my review of the film – a film that is really NOT very good, which makes his performance stand out even more. To have “Wolf Hall” and this performance on your resume in the same year…just give him the metal alloys and let’s move on.
Michael Shannon – “99 Homes”
Typical Shannon performance in a really good little flick. The guy has more charisma in his strange face than most actors have while using all their craft. But this is not the performance that’ll get him the statuette to place on the mantle of his 99 homes (sorry). He’ll be back, though. He’s too much fun to watch. But I sure am glad he was nominated. I might not have made the time to see the film otherwise – and it’s worth it.
Jacob Tremblay – “Room”
I am aware that many of you will hate me for what I’m about to say. I firmly believe, as a rule, that little kids do not deserve awards. I’ve always found that great child performances are more the result of direction, writing and their proximity to a talented co-star. What we love about great performances are how actors bring their own lives and experiences to their character. Kids don’t really have that access. THAT SAID, this performance is the closest I’ve ever seen to being the exception. Without him (and no matter how good Larson’s performance), this film becomes Hallmark-ian very quickly. Regardless, Rylance is on another level.
LEAD PERFORMANCE IN A FILM
Women (…or Where the Hell is Charlotte Rampling?!)
Cate Blanchett – “Carol”
Blanchett is amazing, strong and heartbreaking in this film…as it seems she always is. However, Haynes film is so much about pretty pictures, she gets a little lost in all the gloss and sheen, in a way that Mara does not. Also, this performance certainly doesn’t match some of her previous work, especially “Blue Jasmine”. I know, she’s not competing against herself. But neither should she rewarded for her current role based on past performances.
Brie Larson – “Room”
Another role that could be considered supporting…as this movie belongs to Jack Tremblay. BUT Brie Larson is becoming one of our preeminent actors, and with any luck, this will be the role that puts her in front of us as often, and in as good films, as J-Law or Ms. Blanchett. She might win. People love the book, loved the film and love her. But she comes in third out of these five for me, great as she was. Tough year for the category.
Helen Mirren – “Woman In Gold”
The less said about this OUTRAGEOUS choice for nomination the better. As a SAG member I’d like to apologize to Charlotte Rampling and Lily Tomlin. This addendum to “Monuments Men” is an inconsequential film about a very serious subject. And Ms. Mirren, in this film, is completely outperformed by Tatiana Maslany. Her performance in “Trumbo” was a deserving choice for Top Five, but this? I just have no idea how she was nominated. Out of these five performances, she is a distant tenth. I guess I said more than less.
Saoirse Ronan – “Brooklyn”
Until I watched “I Smile Back” last night, my vote was going to Ms. Ronan. One of the true lead performances in this category. She, like Silverman, is in every frame of the film and carries it with grace, confidence and honesty. I fully expect her to win, and I’d have absolutely no problem with it. It was my favorite Hollywood film of the year and without her performance, it’s not nearly as good.
Sarah Silverman – “I Smile Back” (SHE GETS MY VOTE)
I’m aware very few of you will have had the ability or time to see this. That would be a mistake! Silverman crushes you with this courageous performance. One of the best portrayal’s of suburban (and, hence, privately suffered) mental illness I’ve ever seen. She packs more in to an hour and twenty five minutes than can be imagined. And her journey hits every note. A stunning performance, every bit as magnificent as Blanchett’s in the aforementioned. “Blue Jasmine.” Please watch this before you vote, if possible.
Men (…or Where the Hell is Michael Keaton?!)
Bryan Cranston “Trumbo”
This a wonderfully entertaining performance by Mr. Cranston, and he carries the film quite well. My only problem with it as I look back on my viewing some time ago, is that it was a bit TOO entertaining. When I think of performances related to the Black List oeuvre (if there is such a thing beyond this and “The Front”), Zero Mostel’s towers above all others. There wasn’t enough heartbreak in Cranston…maybe not even as much as co-star Michael Stuhlbarg (GIVE HIM HIS OWN MOVIE ALREADY!!). Nonetheless, well worth the nomination if not the win.
Johnny Depp – “Black Mass”
I’d love to give you a critique of his performance, but I couldn’t see it because the bald wig, contacts and fake teeth kept obstructing my view. A shame, really. GREAT subject. Deserved a better performance. A performance like Michale Keaton’s in “Spotlight”, for instance?!
Leonardo DiCaprio – “The Revenant”
From my reivew of the film: “Full disclosure…I am not a Leo fan. Never have been. I’ve liked him in a couple films and never loved him in any. And this is no different. It’s a helluva performance, don’t get me wrong. What he’s asked to do, to convey, and to accomplish are pretty near impossible…but I always see him acting in ways I never see Hardy. Even his smallest choices seem crafted to impress instead of blend.” Yeah…meh.
Michael Fassbender – “Steve Jobs” (HE GETS MY VOTE…under protest…Keaton is the winner in my mind)
As Sorkin becomes more and more Howard Hawks-like in his demand of actors to say as many words as possible in as short a time span as possible, Fassbender, in this performance, has proven to be his Cary Grant. Fassbender is fascinating, interesting and illuminating. I’m just not sure if it’s enough of an emotional journey. Nonetheless, I’ll vote for him given the competition.
Eddie Redmayne – “The Danish Girl”
This movie was so disappointing to me. What a great and important story and life – and, listen, Redmayne tries like hell. There’s just not enough script for him to get the job done. Don’t get me wrong, he makes you want Lile to persevere, but it’s overlong and redundant in many ways, and so the performance gets a little lost. Too bad.
ENSEMBLE IN A FILM (…or Where the Hell is “Inside Out”?!)
…okay, maybe not, but some V.O. love wouldn’t kill ya! That is how most of us make our money! Anyway…
This is considered SAG’s version of Best Picture. Except it’s not. Script, direction, and structure only count so much as they make the acting stand out. Listen, all five of these ensembles are terrific, but we’re looking for the best cast OUT OF CONTEXT from the rest of the filmcraft. Which means just because a movie is the best, doesn’t mean the ensemble is.
“Beasts of No Nation”
I’m really glad this film was nominated. It deserves the recognition (even if it’s really a television movie that was released theatrically for a couple weeks so it could get in to the Oscar race). The cast couldn’t be more committed, and the performances by the children, especially, are amazing (even if the situations the director puts them through borders on child abuse). Glad it was nominated. Not gonna win.
“The Big Short”
My runner-up, “Big Short” has a cast that is universally perfect, and not one, but two performers that could have been nominated on their own (in Bale and Carrell). If “Spotlight” wasn’t in this category, “Big Short” is the no-brainer pick…and for many of you, will be. It could easily take home the trophy, and I’d be okay with that.
“Spotlight” (THIS GETS MY VOTE)
See above…but this is our generation’s “All the President’s Men”…but instead of just a triumvirate (Hoffman, Redford, Robards), here we have seven such performances! So, yes, this year, the best big cast domestic movie DOES have the best ensemble.
“Straight Outta Compton”
Another excellent choice (hear that, AMPAS?!). The only thing that works against it is that one of the three main performances doesn’t meet the level of the others. That and a couple minor characters suffer from soap opera acting. But well worth your time and investment!
Great individual performances all around. Almost universally, in fact. But they don’t always seem to be in the same movie, and that hurts when you’re up against chamber pieces like “Spotlight” and “Big Short”
Up next? SAG Awards Viewing Guide – Part 2: TV Drama Awards