Statuesque: SAG Continues Sharp Decline for ‘Social Network’

Just after I filed a report about how the DGA Awards pretty much signify the death knell for any Oscar chances for ‘The Social Network’, the Screen Actors Guild Awards came along and kicked me while I was down. Guess which movie won two of the four major “actors” prizes? Yep… That damn stuttering king.

You’ll see the full list of winners below. Basically, ‘The King’s Speech’ won for Best Actor and Best Cast (the “Best Picture” equivalent, since SAG only honors performances and not all that messy technical or creative stuff that goes into making movies). Natalie Portman won for Best Actress, which cements her as easily trumping Annette Bening at the Oscars. Christian Bale won Best Supporting Actor for his live-wire turn in ‘The Fighter’. And Melissa Leo (who, the more I see her, the more I can’t stand her) won for her similarly impassioned Supporting performance in ‘The Fighter’.

Now, if I can just complain about ‘The King’s Speech’, and this particular win for a moment. How many characters are even in ‘The King’s Speech’? If you whittle the movie down to its essence, it’s a three-character piece with Geoffrey Rush, Colin Firth and Helena Bonham-Carter. Sure, Guy Pearce is in there, and Michael Gambon plays the recently-deceased king, and I think Wormtail makes an appearance as future warmonger Winston Churchill –but you can probably count on one hand all the scenes that aren’t immediately concerned with the three main characters.

This lack of scope and character only intensifies the movie’s “televisual” feel.

‘The Social Network’, on the other hand, has a dozen or so main speaking roles, all forced to speak the bramble-bush-thick dialogue of Aaron Sorkin. One actor had to be doubled to play two roles, and even the minor characters (like John Getz’ attorney Sal or Joseph Mazzello’s Dustin) have flash and memorable personalities. What’s even more impressive is the age and relative inexperience of much of the cast. There’s something inherently wrongheaded about awarding a critically beloved film every major award just because it’s beloved. The better film is clearly being overlooked here. And why? Because ‘The King’s Speech’ is austere and uncomplicated? It’s beyond me.

Oh, and yay ‘Boardwalk Empire’! I loves me some Prohibition Era gangsters! Their suits are so good!

Anyway, the winners:

Outstanding Performance by a Cast in a Motion Picture
‘The King’s Speech’

Outstanding Performance by a Male Actor in a Leading Role
Colin Firth, ‘The King’s Speech’

Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Leading Role
Natalie Portman, ‘Black Swan’

Outstanding Performance by a Male Actor in a Supporting Role
Christian Bale, ‘The Fighter’

Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Supporting Role
Melissa Leo, ‘The Fighter’

Outstanding Performance by an Ensemble in a Drama Series
‘Boardwalk Empire’

Outstanding Performance by a Male Actor in a Drama Series
Steve Buscemi, ‘Boardwalk Empire’

Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Drama Series
Julianna Margulies, ‘The Good Wife’

Outstanding Performance by an Ensemble in a Comedy Series
‘Modern Family’

Outstanding Performance by a Male Actor in a Comedy Series
Alec Baldwin, ’30 Rock’

Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Comedy Series
Betty White, ‘Hot in Cleveland’

Outstanding Performance by a Male Actor in a TV Movie or Miniseries
Al Pacino, ‘You Don’t Know Jack’

Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a TV Movie or Miniseries
Claire Danes, ‘Temple Grandin’


  1. By that logic, the more cast members and scope a film has, the more acting merit? Yay for Transformers 2! 😀

    In all honesty I haven’t seen either film yet (Meant to see The King’s Speech, but work’s scuppered the last few weekends, and I can’t say The Social Network has inspired me to see it, despite thinking Fincher is one of the best directors around today)

    You may be right on the acting front, but your reasoning does make it sound a little like you’re just upset that your preferred film lost out to a ‘stuffy period piece’… 😉

    • In Drew’s defense, the SAG “Best Performance by a Cast” award is really just a thinly-disguised “Best Picture” trophy that the organization gives to whichever movie the members liked the best, and has little to nothing to do with acting merit. I mean, honestly, ‘Lord of the Rings: Return of the King’? Was it the acting that anyone found memorable about that movie?

      • Alex

        I’m not sure that “Return of the King” was the best example to use there. Sure, the special effects certainly took top billing, but the acting was superb all around. Between Elijah Wood, Ian McKellan, Viggo Mortensen, Cate Blanchet, and Andy Serkis, it had a marvelous ensemble cast (even with Liv Tyler and Orlando Bloom). Furthermore, there wasn’t a scrap of love dolled out to their splendid acting talents by the Academy. It was a horrible, horrible snub.

  2. EM

    Why do you care?

    Fifty years ago, the Oscar for Best Picture of 1960 went to The Apartment. I’ve seen The Apartment…once. It was OK, I guess, but not my cup of tea. One of my top favorite films of all time is another picture from 1960, Psycho. And it isn’t just my personal taste—I think it’s safe to say that over the decades Psycho has held far greater influence with filmmakers, film critics, and the filmgoing public than The Apartment, which for the most part is barely even remembered.

    The annals of Oscar history are chockablock with similar examples. Sure, sometimes Uncle Oscar makes a pretty good pick—the Best Picture for 1943, Casablanca, is frequently cited as the best picture of all time—but Oscar laureate status is hardly a reliable indicator of a film’s enduring worth, particularly on a personal level.

    I understand admiring a film and wanting to see it get due recognition. But so many Oscar also-rans like Star Wars and Citizen Kane, as well as films completely below Oscar’s radar like Night of the Living Dead and City Lights, have gotten their due recognition without Oscar’s help. Would this be such bad company for a favorite of yours to be in?

    • “it’s safe to say that over the decades Psycho has held far greater influence with filmmakers, film critics, and the filmgoing public than The Apartment, which for the most part is barely even remembered.”

      Psycho is an awesome movie, certainly the most daring mainstream film of 1960. However, I wouldn’t cite its cinematic legacy in its defense. It opened up bold new thematic and storytelling territory, but mostly it paved the way for a handful of decent slasher flicks and a whole lot of dross.

      The Apartment, though it is not as groundbreaking as Psycho, has much better writing and character development. Nor is it a pushover thematically; it tackles loneliness, adultery, sexism and suicide in a smart, cogent way. Sure, the dark storyline pans out happily, but it doesn’t finish with a criminal psychologist babbling exposition.

      To that end, I’ll defend Annie Hall over Star Wars, the latter of which featured spotty acting a purposefully rote story in addition to its surplus of imagination. Annie Hall had better acting, writing, and narratively, it was far more interesting.

      • EM

        So…if The Apartment and Annie Hall had lost (whether to the example films I cited or to other films), would they have been unworthy of your admiration? Would you have described their losses as a (figurative) physical assault on your own person?

  3. EM

    🙁 🙁 No, I was right the first time; it’s a 1942 film which received an award in 1944 for the year 1943. And you thought its plot was a little convoluted.

  4. Simon

    The Kings Speech is by far the superior film for a host of reasons beyond the acting:
    Compelling characters versus the self-centred sicofants of Social Network,
    Wonderfully abstract framing and bleak early century authentic lighting that doesn’t rely on trendy flare tricks like tilt shift or using doubles.
    Period detailing with out the antiques being forced down your throat Vs board rooms and offices. Yeah the subjects call for these settings, but in the Kings Speech they become almost like characters themselves.

    Whilst I agree that Jessie Eiseinberg gave a great performance, he’s not playing it any differently than the motor mouthed geek he’s played in all his previuos roles…see also Zombieland, The Hunting Party…hardly a stretch.

    But to wring every drop of sympathy from an audience whilst playing a bad tempered, privelaged aristocrat is something quite amazing. The writing is the key, but pulling that off is no mean feat. We share the feeling of mounting frustration of a man unable to articulate himself. His every painful attempt building the tension as his looming address to the nation nears. Bertie is played pitch perfectly by a man at the top of his game. Yes, Firth is almost as much the cliched picture of the bumbling Englishman as Hugh Grant, but can you imagine HIM bringing so much to this role without it spilling into lightweight comic territory? No

    I will rejoice when Firth picks up the statuette. It’s never been more deserved. I’m sure Eisenberg’s day will come, but not this year.

    • Says a guy who logged in using his Facebook account. 🙂

      And anyway, ‘The Social Network’ isn’t really about Facebook or the Facebook phenomenon, any more than ‘Wall Street’ is about the airline industry. It’s a movie about business. Facebook just happens to be the product that people are stabbing each other in the backs to claim ownership of.

      • Jane Morgan

        ‘The Social Network’ is 2010’s ‘American Buffalo.’ What I don’t understand is how it made $215M at the box office. Two guys talking made more money than ‘The Bourne Identity.’