5 reasons why ‘Licorice Pizza’ can deliver an ensemble nomination at SAG Awards

It’s the best film of the year, according to the National Board of Review. It’s competing in eight different categories at the upcoming Critics Choice Awards. An Oscar nomination for Best Picture is all but assured, and bids for Best Director and Best Original Screenplay (for creator Paul Thomas Anderson) look similarly promising. So why are we dismissing the “Licorice Pizza” cast at the 2022 Screen Actors Guild Awards?

As of this writing, the film looks to be a dark horse in the official Gold Derby odds for an ensemble nomination at the SAG Awards. While I agree it’s a longshot to actually take home the award, I do think that the guild’s nominating committee may well deliver “Licorice Pizza” a Best Film Ensemble bid on January 12. Here are five reasons why.

1. It’s a classic ensemble film.
Sure, “Licorice Pizza” largely revolves around Alana Haim and Cooper Hoffman. But it’s just as much about where they go and whom they meet as it is about them. And during the course of 133 minutes, they go to a lot of places and meet a lot of people. I realize that some have yet to see the non-streaming film, so I’ll spare any details. But just know that Haim and Cooper don’t simply sit around a single San Fernando Valley shaded spot. They appear in dozens of different locations both in and out of the Valley, interacting with a wide variety of fascinating personalities. Those rich interactions make for an acting extravaganza, one that voters might really appreciate.

2. The film features numerous SAG-friendly faces.
While “Licorice Pizza” marks the big screen debuts of both Haim and Hoffman, there are some big name stars in small (but scene-stealing) roles. That includes previous SAG Award champs Sean Penn (2008 Best Actor for “Milk”) and Bradley Cooper (2013 Best Cast for “American Hustle”). The latter could even land an individual nom for his standout supporting turn. Other familiar names include Joseph Cross, Christine Ebersole, Mary Elizabeth Ellis, Harriet Sansom Harris, John Michael Higgins, John C. Reilly, Maya Rudolph, Benny Safdie and Tom Waits. And they aren’t all just throwaway roles – each one plays his/her part to perfection. SAG Award voters may find all those “Pizza” toppings hard to top.

3. Voters often nominates films with younger casts.
Over the years, the SAG Award committee has chosen many pictures showcasing youngish talent. Some have been inevitable Oscar contenders, like “Good Will Hunting,” “Saving Private Ryan,” “The Cider House Rules,” “Little Miss Sunshine,” “Slumdog Millionaire,” “Precious,” “The Kids Are All Right,” “The Social Network,” “Boyhood,” “Moonlight,” “Lady Bird” and “Jojo Rabbit.” But there have been many other ensemble entries that failed to make the Oscar Best Picture lineup. That includes “Almost Famous,” “Billy Elliott,” “In America,” “Hairspray,” “Beasts of No Nation,” “Straight Outta Compton” and “Captain Fantastic.” “Licorice Pizza” shows off the talents of numerous young adults, teens and children. Judging by SAG Award’s history, that gives it a fantastic chance of earning a Best Film Ensemble nom.

4. “Licorice Pizza” is driven by dialogue.
When it comes down to it, SAG Awards are about acting. And sharp scripting is generally the easiest way to exhibit excellent acting. “Licorice Pizza” has received particular praise for its skillful screenwriting. It’s already seen as the frontrunner to win the Best Original Screenplay Oscar. In fact, there seems to be a strong correlation between the Best Original Screenplay Oscar and the SAG Award for Best Film Ensemble. Look at “Shakespeare in Love,” “American Beauty,” “Gosford Park,” “Crash,” “Little Miss Sunshine,” “The King’s Speech,” “Birdman,” “Spotlight” and “Parasite” – all of which claimed both prestigious prizes. Several other Original Screenplay recipients were at least nominated for the guild’s ensemble award, notably “Good Will Hunting,” “Almost Famous,” “Milk,” “The Hurt Locker,” “Midnight in Paris,” “Manchester by the Sea” and “Get Out.” And then there are the SAG Award ensemble honorees that contended for (but lost) the Original Screenplay Oscar, such as “The Full Monty,” “Inglourious Basterds,” “American Hustle,” and “The Trial of the Chicago 7.” Fascinating, isn’t it? One would have to think if “Licorice” really is ahead for the Original Screenplay Oscar, it’s at least in the running for a SAG Award ensemble nomination.

5. There are usually a handful of surprises.
As I write this, I want to emphasize that “Licorice” is hardly a lock for a SAG Award ensemble spot. It could be overlooked by the guild altogether. Nevertheless, we have seen countless dark horse casts come through on the morning of the SAG Award nominations. In the early days, there were films like “Marvin’s Room,” “Little Voice” and “Waking Ned Devine.” In more recent years, we’ve seen “Beasts of No Nation,” “Straight Outta Compton,” “Captain Fantastic” and “The Big Sick” make the cut, as heavy Oscar favorites like “La La Land,” “The Shape of Water,” “The Favourite” and “Vice” were left out. So if SAG Awards go sweet on “Licorice,” there could be an unexpected “Pizza” delivery in this year’s showdown.

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