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The 2013 SAG Awards, and the Positive Side-Effects of Empty Awards' Season Hype

By Dustin Rowles | Industry | December 11, 2013 |

By Dustin Rowles | Industry | December 11, 2013 |

Last week, Daniel wrote about the hazards of awards season, and how they it can be damaging to movies. It was, as Dan’s pieces always are, thoughtful, smart, and constructive.

The biggest [problem] is that it turns movies into abstract pieces in an eternal game. Films cease to be works of art or entertainment and become interchangeable objects spoken of only in terms of their marketing campaigns or chances to “win” a certain category of award. The coverage could be about anything. The movies themselves become incidental to the discussion, and such coverage trains us to think about films as merely means to an end filled with trophies.

I completely sympathize with Dan’s point, and to an extent, I agree. But as a guy who runs a site that benefits from the page views that accompanies awards’ season fervor, I obviously also have a stake, however small, in the continuation of it. But I’m also able to separate the movies from the awards coverage, and if anything — as a critic — it’s the buzz or marketing that surrounds a film during awards season that will often ensure that I see a film I otherwise might not.

Take the SAG Awards nominations below, for instance. I’ve seen, or plan to see, almost every movie named, but a movie like, say, Philomena, is not something I’d probably bother with except that I feel compelled to see it because of awards season (is that a mark against my character? Maybe). I’ll probably be thankful that I did.

Another film that I absolutely loved this year, Short Term 12, has made very little at the box office so far, but I am hoping, dearly, that some awards’ season publicity for the film might encourage more people to see it, and in a way, I see that as a win for awards season. How many people would’ve seen The Hurt Locker had it not won the Oscar? Likewise, the Independent Spirit Awards are particularly compelling to me, because they publicize a lot of films that don’t have huge marketing budgets, and even if its in furtherance of a meaningless trophy, the side effect of added exposure is not a bad one.

Many of us may treat awards season like a football game, but I’m OK with that. Within the critical echo chamber, it can be obnoxious and exhausting, but in the wider world outside of Twitter, I like rooting for movies, especially movies that are — for the most part — better than the $200 million budgeted films that dominate commercial airwaves all year long. I also like to express faux-outrage when the movie I think should win, doesn’t, and it gives me an outlet for aspersion casting. Awards season is our chance to find and appreciate the movies that don’t take up 15 out of 16 screens at the local multiplex. It’s typically my favorite time of the year, not because of the awards themselves, but because of the movies I feel compelled to watch because of awards season. Sure, positive reviews are a driving force, but the weight of an entire organization — be it the Academy, a Critic’s Organization, the Screen Actors Guild, or the people behind the Independent Spirit Awards — will push a movie-watching decision over the top, especially if it means feeling left out if I don’t see it.

With that, here are the Screen Actors Guild Awards, and from an awards season perspective, well, there’s not much surprising here. I will say, however, that I’ve been putting off Dallas Buyers Club for a few weeks now, and with these nominations in, I’ll force myself to see it and probably appreciate the hell out of it. When it comes time to announce the awards — which admittedly add no value to the movie itself — I may still feel a personal stake in the outcome.


Outstanding Performance by a Cast in a Motion Picture
12 Years a Slave
American Hustle
August: Osage County
Dallas Buyers Club
The Butler

Outstanding Performance by a Male Actor in a Leading Role
Bruce Dern, Nebraska
Chiwetel Ejiofor, 12 Years a Slave
Tom Hanks, Captain Phillips
Matthew McConaughey, Dallas Buyers Club
Forest Whitaker, The Butler

Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Leading Role
Cate Blanchett, Blue Jasmine
Sandra Bullock, Gravity
Judi Dench, Philomena
Meryl Streep, August: Osage County
Emma Thompson, Saving Mr. Banks

Outstanding Performance by a Male Actor in a Supporting Role
Barkhad Abdi, Captain Phillips
Daniel Bruhl, Rush
Michael Fassbender, 12 Years a Slave
Janes Gandolfini, Enough Said
Jared Leto, Dallas Buyers Club

Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Supporting Role
Jennifer Lawrence, American Hustle
Lupita Nyong’o, 12 Years a Slave
Julia Roberts, August: Osage County
June Squibb, Nebraska
Oprah Winfrey, The Butler


Outstanding Performance by an Ensemble in a Drama Series
Boardwalk Empire
Breaking Bad
Downton Abbey
Game of Thrones

Outstanding Performance by an Ensemble in a Comedy Series
30 Rock
Arrested Development
The Big Bang Theory
Modern Family

Outstanding Performance by a Male Actor in a Drama Series
Steve Buscemi, Boardwalk Empire
Bryan Cranston, Breaking Bad
Jeff Daniels, The Newswroom
Peter Dinklage, Game of Thrones
Kevin Spacey, House of Cards

Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Drama Series
Claire Danes, Homeland
Anna Gunn, Breaking Bad
Jessica Lange, American Horror Story: Coven
Maggie Smith, Downton Abbey
Kerry Washington, Scandal

Outstanding Performance by a Male Actor in a Comedy Series
Alec Baldwin, 30 Rock
Jason Bateman, Arrested Development
Ty Burrell, Modern Family
Don Cheadle, House of Lies
Jim Parsons, The Big Bang Theory

Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Comedy Series
Mayim Bialik, The Big Bang Theory
Julie Bowen, Modern Family
Edie Falco, Nurse Jackie
Tina Fey, 30 Rock
Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Veep

Outstanding Performance by a Male Actor in a Television Movie or Miniseries
Matt Damon, Behind the Candelabra
Michael Douglas, Behind the Candelabra
Jeremy Irons, The Hollow Crown
Rob Lowe, Killing Kennedy
Al Pacino, Phil Spector

Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Television Movie or Miniseries
Angela Basset, Betty & Coretta
Helena Bonham Carter, Burton and Taylor
Holly Hunter, Top of the Lake
Helen Mirren, Phil Spector
Elisabeth Moss, Top of the Lake

Dustin is the founder and co-owner of Pajiba. You may email him here, follow him on Twitter, or listen to his weekly TV podcast, Podjiba.

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