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SAG nominations: Lady Gaga, Ben Affleck, Will Smith

NEW YORK, NY (AP) -- While the Oscar race is lacking in-person glitz this season, it does not lack star power. Will Smith, Lady Gaga, and Ben Affleck were nominated individually for the 28th Screen Actors Guild Awards. The guild's highest award, the best ensemble, was also presented to the casts of "Belfast," and "CODA."

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SAG nominations: Lady Gaga, Ben Affleck, Will Smith

Rosario Dawson and Vanessa Hudgens announced the nominees on Wednesday via Instagram Live. The nominations were done virtually because of an increase in COVID-19 cases. However, the streamed announcement was still a significant moment in an awards season that has been largely destroyed by the pandemic.

Joining Kenneth Branagh's semi-autobiographical "Belfast" and the coming-of-age drama "CODA" for best ensemble were the casts for Ridley Scott's true-tale, high-camp "House of Gucci," Adam McKay's apocalypse comedy "Don't Look Up" and the family tennis drama "King Richard." Notably left out were the casts of Steven Spielberg's lavish "West Side Story" revival (which landed a supporting nod for Ariana DeBose) and Jane Campion's "The Power of the Dog." Campion's gothic drama, though, landed individual SAG noms for Benedict Cumberbatch, Kirsten Dunst and Kodi Smit-McPhee.

Since the Golden Globes, which are usually the kickoff party for the final Oscar stretch, made little noise, the SAG Awards now have more attention than the Golden Globes. Due to Hollywood's boycotting the troubled Hollywood Foreign Press Association, the Globes were announced unceremoniously on Twitter Sunday in a private ceremony. Critics Choice Awards' January 9 gala was also delayed due to the omicron surge. Oscar season is now virtual for the second consecutive year. It has struggled to make a lot of noise.

The SAG nominations show that many famous faces are up for the challenge this year. Neben Will Smith ("King Richard"), Cumberbatch ("King Richard"), and Andrew Garfield ("Tick, Tick, Boom!"), the nominees to best male lead actor for the SAG are Denzel Washington ("The Tragedy of Macbeth"), Javier Bardem ("Being the Ricardos"), and Javier Bardem (“Being the Ricardos!").

Lady Gaga ("House of Gucci") Jessica Chastain ("The Eyes of Tammy Faye") Olivia Colman ("The Lost Daughter") Nicole Kidman ("Being the Ricardos") Jennifer Hudson ("Respect") are the top contenders for best female lead.

Caitriona Balfe ("Belfast") and Cate Blanchett (“Nightmare Alley”) are the other female supporting nominees. Ruth Negga ("Passing") is also joining DeBose and Dunst. Affleck ("The Tender Bar") Bradley Cooper ("Licorice Pizza") Troy Kotsur ("CODA") Jared Leto (“House of Gucci”) and Smit McPhee are the best male supporting nominees.

Kotsur is the first actor from the deaf to be nominated for an individual SAG award.

SAG Awards, which are presented by SAG-AFTRA actors guild, are one of the most reliable Oscar bellwethers. Rarely does an actor or screen performer not nominate a film or performance for the Academy Awards. The largest percentage of the film academy is made up of actors, so their choices hold the most weight.

Last year, however, SAG and academy diverged more than usual. Only Daniel Kaluuya ("Judas and the Black Messiah") was a repeat winner of the acting award. (The other SAG winners are Chadwick Boseman in "Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom" and Viola Davis "Minari.") The Aaron Sorkin courtroom drama, "The Trial of the Chicago 7", won best ensemble at a virtual SAG Awards. Chloe Zhao’s "Nomadland," which featured many nonprofessional actors, won the Oscars.

This history will offer hope for Kristen Stewart ("Spencer") supporters, who may have been the most well-known performer of Wednesday. Other performers who missed the cut include Peter Dinklage ("Cyrano") Ciaran Hinds (“Belfast”) and Rachel Zegler ("West Side Story”).

Some have hoped for blockbuster hits to boost the Oscars' popularity, but "Spider-Man No Way Home," and "Dune" were not nominated by the actors guild. "Dune" and the "No Time to Die", however, joined "Black Widow," the "The Matrix Resurrections", and "Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings", in the category for stunt ensemble.

But it was the most watched TV series in 2021 that received a lot of attention. The popular Netflix series "Squid Game", which was viewed over a million times, was nominated to win four SAG awards, including best drama series. The nominations for television were also led HBO's "Succession", which received four nods, including best drama and best actor for Jeremy Strong & Brian Cox; Ted Lasso (five nods, including best comedy series); as well as "The Morning Show," which garnered four nods, including best drama and best actor for Jeremy Strong & Brian Cox; and "Ted Lasso", which received five nods that included best comedy series.

The 28th Annual SAG Awards will be held February 27 and will be broadcast by TNT and TBS. The Oscars will be held March 27.

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