Will 'Trumbo' Win An Oscar? Its SAG Nominations Could Be A Game-Changer

One of the most exciting things about awards season is the surprises and snubs that come along with the release of nominations. With Wednesday's reveal of the SAG nominees came some exciting surprises (Sarah Silverman for I Smile Back, Straight Outta Compton for ensemble cast) and some confusing ones (Nicole Kidman for Grace of Monaco!?). But one inclusion that had Film Twitter abuzz this morning is the biopic Trumbo which could win an Oscar if its SAG noms has anything to say about it.

Trumbo, directed by Jay Roach, who is mostly known for Austin Powers and Meet the Parents films, stars Bryan Cranston as Dalton Trumbo who was one of old Hollywood’s top screenwriters. In 1947 he was blacklisted, among other artists and filmmakers, for refusing to testify to the U.S. Congress regarding Communist propaganda in movies and supposed Communists in Hollywood. He spent 11 months in federal prison.

On Wednesday, Cranston earned a nomination for Outstanding Performance by a Male Actor in a Leading Role. The rest of the cast, including Diane Lane, Louis C.K., Elle Fanning, John Goodman, Michael Stuhlbarg and Helen Mirren, were nominated for Outstanding Performance by a Cast in a Motion Picture, with Mirren earning an Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Supporting Role nomination.

The confusing part of Trumbo’s inclusion in this morning’s SAG nominations is that awards prognosticators, and even moviegoers, had all but written the film off. After premiering back in September at the Toronto International Film Festival, Trumbo received mixed reviews from critics. Variety said that the film, “drags for much of its two-hour-plus running time,” while The New York Times called it “ill-conceived,” with “many dull, visually flat and poorly lighted dramatic scenes.” It’s also not doing terribly well at the box office, and with more holiday releases hitting every weekend, a pickup in ticket sales doesn’t sound likely.

So, how did Trumbo make its way into the SAG nominations if it’s not doing so well critically and financially? One thing that’s very important to remember is that Hollywood loves itself. Hollywood loves stories about Hollywood that applaud their efforts, examine their practices, and cheer their works so much that come awards season, even a bland film about Hollywood can still make its way into the awards conversation.

Remember that, of the five most recent Best Picture winners at the Oscars, three of them had to do with show business. Last year’s winner, Birdman, explored the career of a legendary actor trying to make a comeback. 2012’s winner, Argo, detailed a CIA operation to rescue six Americans in Tehran during the Iranian hostage crisis under the guise of a Hollywood film shoot. And 2011’s The Artist was a black and white, silent film about adorable actors in the 1920s. Those wins, not to mention the numerous nominations and actors awards that came along with them, prove that even if a film is counted out by audiences, Hollywood will still find a way to award something about itself.

So can Trumbo and Bryan Cranston ride this SAG wave all the way to Oscar night? As we know, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences is mostly made up of older, white men, men who very well could have worked with Dalton Trumbo back in the day before his death in 1971. That gives the film an edge. And, since the nominating committee for the SAG awards as well as the acting categories for the Oscars are basically the same group of people (actors), it’s not a long shot to assume they’d make the same choices come voting time. With a multiple Emmys and a Tony, Cranston might need to make room on his potentional-EGOT shelf for that O.

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