After failing to secure a win in recent critics awards, 12 Years a Slave gained a boost from The Screen Actors Guild (SAG), which honoured it with 4 nominations, for best ensemble cast, male actor in a leading role for Chiwetel Ejiofor, and supporting for Michael Fassbender and newcomer Lupita Nyong’o. Directed by Steve McQueen, the film is an unflinching portrayal of slavery in early America.
Another film dealing with African American history, Lee Daniels’ The Butler, which had been overlooked by other award competitions, received a new injection of life with 3 SAG nods: best ensemble cast, male actor in a leading role for Forest Whitaker and female actor in a supporting role for Oprah Winfrey.
These recognitions are a major triumph for black cinema, which has surged this year, critically and commercially, because the SAGs are the first major nominations in the award season and a leading Oscar bellwether, hence more accolades will most likely follow.
Other pictures with 3 nominations, including the best ensemble cast, were August: Osage County, which had been under the radar, and Dallas Buyers Club. American Hustle, which attained 2 nods, rounded out the best ensemble cast nominees.
Competing against Ejiofor and Whitaker in the male actor in a leading role category were Bruce Dern for Nebraska, Tom Hanks for Captain Phillips and Matthew McConaughey for Dallas Buyers Club.
The female actor in a leading role category was packed with veteran Oscar-winning thespians: Judi Dench for Philomena, Meryl Streep for August: Osage County, Cate Blanchett for Blue Jasmine, Sandra Bullock for Gravity and Emma Thompson for Saving Mr. Banks.
Vying with Michael Fassbender for male actor in a supporting role were James Gandolfini for Enough Said, newcomer Barkhad Abdi for Captain Phillips, Jared Leto for Dallas Buyers Club and Daniel Bruhl for Rush. Meanwhile 3 more ladies will be competing with Oprah Winfrey and Nyong’o in the female actor in a supporting role category: Jennifer Lawrence for American Hustle, June Squibb for Nebraska and Julia Roberts for August: Osage County.
Glaringly missing in these nominations were Robert Redford for All is Lost, who won a critic prize last week; Leonardo Di Caprio and Jonah Hill for The Wolf of Wall Street; Joaquin Phoenix for Her; and Ben Stiller for The Secret Life of Walter Mitty.
Last year’s SAG winners -lead actor Daniel Day-Lewis for Lincoln, lead actress Jennifer Lawrence for Silver Linings Playbook and supporting actress Anne Hathaway for Les Miserables- all went on to claim the Oscar.
The SAG awards will be handed out at the Shrine Exposition Hall in Los Angeles on 18th January 2014.