As is the case any given year, 2018 brought in a fresh slate of new performances that will no doubt be celebrated for years to come. And thanks to this, awards season tends to be a wonderful time because it allows those actors who gave their all to get their due recognition. But alas, there are inevitably always performers who don’t get the acknowledgment they deserve. The recently unveiled 2019 Screen Actors Guild Awards nominees are an example of this: while there were some great actors nominated, there were films completely missing from the list altogether that held not one, but many, of some of the year’s best acting performances.
Given the subjectivity of such a thing, snubs are an unavoidable part of any given awards nominations list. But what’s especially shocking about the SAG nominees this year are the four films featuring career-best or incredible breakthrough performances that were completely shut out of the race. Not only are many of these titles considered frontrunners of the awards pack, but they each hold an astounding cast of actors — including many women of color, who received no representation among SAG’s film nominations — that help shape the films into what they are. The gravity of some of these performances is hard to ignore, so the fact that no nominations were given to these films is disheartening.
Not all hope is lost yet, however. While the list of SAG nominees may be one of the indicators as to who to look out for come Oscar nominations, it is not the end-all, be-all. It’s been proven in the past that a ton of prior nominations aren’t always necessary to get that coveted spot at the Oscars. There is still time yet for some of these performances to be rewarded.
If Beale Street Could Talk
Our own Max Covill writes that “the emotion from Beale Street might ring hollow were it not for the efforts from the cast.” While director Barry Jenkins might have an eye for color and framing, he also has a penchant for choosing the perfect actors for his characters. The lead roles are spearheaded by newcomer KiKi Layne as Tish and Stephan James as Fonny, a young couple who must deal with the turmoil of the latter being imprisoned under false circumstances while a baby is on the way. Layne shines with a quiet desperation that comes through in her facial expressions and body language. The natural way in which she moves makes her character’s pain all the more palpable, and the chemistry between Layne and James is enthralling to witness in the intimate moments dispersed throughout the film.
Beale Street was easily deserving of an ensemble nomination — in addition to Layne and James, the cast also includes superb supporting performances from Teyonah Parris and Colman Domingo among several others. But the real snub of the film was the lack of a nomination for Regina King, who portrays Tish’s tough, compassionate, and determined mother. King’s layered performance reveals the many dimensions of her character, and her demonstrated willfulness to protect her child is easily one of the most moving facets of the film. There is a sequence during which her character reveals exactly what lengths she would go to for her child, and King becomes completely vulnerable for the camera. King has already earned noms at the Golden Globes and Independent Spirit Awards, so a SAG nomination should have been a no-brainer.
Alfonso Cuarón’s black-and-white Mexican period piece is highly acclaimed for several reasons, but one of the driving forces of this film is leading lady Yalitza Aparicio. Aparicio portrays Cleo (deliberately named after the protagonist in Agnes Varda’s Cléo from 5 to 7), a live-in maid who works in the household of a woman named Sofia (Marina de Tavira) and her family. The film intimately follows Cleo’s journey through life and her relationships with others and is very much about this woman’s personal experience of life. The film is largely dependent on Aparicio’s delicate performance, so it’s quite hard to believe that this is the actress’s first major role.
Aparicio approaches this role with an extraordinary authenticity — there is never a hint of overacting; she remains subtle in her actions, but a quiet storm brews within her as moves through the bustling streets of Mexico City in the 1970s. Her easy transparency is one that remains nearly unmatched by other performers this year, so it’s no surprise that she was nominated for Best Actress at the Critics’ Choice Awards despite being so new to the acting scene. However, she was sadly absent from the SAG lineup, but this might also stem from broader issues — not only does the film lack any SAG members, but the organization almost always overlooks foreign film entries (the sole time they recognized anyone from a foreign film was 20 years ago with Life is Beautiful), despite Roma being an Oscars frontrunner this year. The ensemble work in this film could be quite fantastic at times, but Aparicio was definitely deserving of a nomination here.
Damien Chazelle’s latest was highly praised for its technical achievements, but what anchors First Man is its leading performers. Ryan Gosling shines as the quiet, pensive Neil Armstrong, embodying a personality that is quite unlike other roles he has taken on. He is clearly a man who is struck with devastation, even before it is made evident what personal hardships he is undergoing, and the emotional Moon landing scene is one of the film’s absolute best. While many might argue other aspects of the film to be the main attraction, it is quite difficult to imagine anyone else stepping into Armstrong’s shoes with the effortless grace that Gosling does. His portrayal of this role was something incredibly crucial to the success of the film — it is called First Man, after all.
Equally as compelling (and some would even argue more so) was Claire Foy, who played Neil’s first wife, Janet. Also grief-stricken for much of the film, Foy communicates her character’s simultaneous love and anger towards her husband but delivers it all in a way that leaves the viewer filled with sympathy for the utter fear for her family that she clearly so often experiences. Similar to Gosling, Foy doesn’t overdo it and keeps the character grounded, a subtle reminder that this person is much more than a work of fiction. Foy received a Golden Globe nod for her performance but like Gosling was left unacknowledged by the SAG Awards.
Perhaps most surprising of all the SAG snubs was the exclusion of Widows for its stellar ensemble cast, which is easily one of the strongest this year. Viola Davis, Elizabeth Debicki, and Michelle Rodriguez lead the way as three women whose husbands have died in a heist gone wrong, the women left with no choice but to band together and finish the job. Davis is, naturally, a force of nature as Veronica Rawlings and was worthy of her own Best Actress nomination, as well. The way in which she speaks and moves reveals both the somberness of a woman struggling to cope with the death of her husband and the determination of one who will do what it takes to get the job done — it is truly unfortunate that her performance will go unrecognized.
Debicki and Rodriguez were captivating in their own rights, with Debicki especially making strides in her performance as Alice Gunner, a woman who goes to desperate lengths to support herself financially after her husband’s death. Cynthia Erivo was another great addition to the cast, whose level-headed Belle becomes increasingly entangled with the women as the film’s plot progresses. And while it is the women who truly steal the show here, the men have some pretty amazing performances to offer here, also. Daniel Kaluuya‘s performance was another clear standout of the film, who transforms into the sharp but terrifying Jatemme Manning. You never know when his character is going to snap, and Kaluuya becomes a master of suspense. With additional superb performances from Colin Farrell and Liam Neeson, it really is wonder that Widows didn’t land a SAG nomination.