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Uncle Orson Reviews Everything
December 17, 2018

First appeared in print in The Rhino Times, Greensboro, NC.

Redundant, New Stanza, SAG Award Nominations

As I watch the American Left become ever-more-savagely intolerant of the slightest deviance from the tenets of their irrational faith, it occurred to me: "Intolerant liberal" used to be an oxymoron. Now it's just redundant.

*

I sang "I Wonder As I Wander" as prelude to our church meeting this past Sunday, but as I prepared for the performance, I felt a serious lack in the song. There is very little actual Christian content in the song -- consisting mostly of mentioning participants in the Nativity, and also referring to the idea that Jesus "did come for to die."

Now, my view is that Jesus came "for to" live -- to teach a better way to live, to rescue lost and losing souls, and to bring about the perfect resurrection of the dead. In order to sing the song in church, as opposed to at a Christmas party, I needed an overtly Christian stanza that wasn't there.

So I wrote that additional stanza, at least to my own satisfaction. With my verse added after the verse about Baby Jesus being entitled to make whimsical demands, here is the text I sang:

I wonder as I wander out under the sky

How Jesus the Savior did come for to die

For poor o'nery people like you and like I.

I wonder as I wander out under the sky.

When Mary birthed Jesus 'twas in a cow stall

With wise men and farmers and shepherds and all,

And high from God's heaven a star's light did fall,

And the promise of ages it then did recall.

If Jesus had wanted for any wee thing --

A star in the sky or a bird on the wing,

Or all of God's angels in heaven for to sing --

He surely could have it, for he was the King.

My sins and my sorrows weigh down like a stone,

But God did not leave me to bear them alone:

He sent to that stable his own perfect Son

To know me, to love me, and then to atone.

I wonder as I wander out under the sky

How Jesus the Savior did come for to die

For poor o'nery people like you and like I.

I wonder as I wander out under the sky.

4th stanza copyright © 2018 by Orson Scott Card

(Anyone who wants to sing the song with that verse included is free to do so without any further permission from me. Nor is there any need to provide spoken or written credit to me. I assert copyright here only to have it on record that I wrote that particular additional stanza.)

*

Each year, the Screen Actors Guild gives awards for acting. Surely the awards bestowed by member of the actors' union must be more thoughtfully bestowed than those given by the overall film and TV academies (Oscars and Emmys)!

Of course, the overwhelming majority of the voters for Oscars and Emmys are, in fact, actors, so maybe actors aren't any better than anybody else at recognizing excellence in acting.

As often as not, the award is given for:

1. Being famous and respected for previous roles that may or may not have received awards. (In other words, a career award.)

2. Having a part with really terrific dialogue or highly emotional situations and actions. (In other words, a writing award.)

3. Starring or having a prominent role in a beloved or admired movie. (In other words, a best-picture award.)

4. Playing the adult version of a character that we fell in love with because of the performance of a child actor as "Young Character" (see My Left Foot, Forrest Gump).

5. Playing a handicapped, crippled, mentally limited, sick, or injured character, even if the performance isn't all that challenging to bring off and the movie was actually carried by someone else (see Rain Man).

6. Being nominated in the "supporting" category for a performance that should have been in the "best" category based on screen time and prominence in the film (see Marisa Tomei in My Cousin Vinny.)

And you know what? I think those are perfectly valid reasons to give awards, since it's good for the profession for the awards to exist, and within a few months nobody remembers who won anyway.

Being on the list of nominees really is good for your career.

Winning does not even imply that a majority of the voters preferred your work. Years later, critics and professionals alike will second-guess the award and say snide things about you, so ... it's kind of like getting a target painted on your back.

The SAG Awards are voted on by all dues-paying members who bother to take part -- and I'm guessing it's a pretty decent percentage. The voters choose among the nominees.

Now, before I was a member of SAG-AFTRA (Screen Actors Guild-American Federation of Television and Radio Artists), I assumed that the nominations were determined by a group of insiders.

Not so. Instead, members of SAG-AFTRA are selected at random, and are offered the chance to take part in the nomination process for film or television performances.

The chosen members can opt out, in which case they aren't on the list of people who are invited to a lot of special screenings and who receive a lot of screeners and free passes to stream series and movies that are being promoted by the networks and studios.

I was chosen this time in the television category, and I opted in.

I used several principles in making my own determinations. First of all, nominators are selecting from a list of eligible performances. We were sent a booklet that listed every television performance that met the criteria of the union for consideration.

I made an effort to see series that wouldn't ordinarily have come across my radar -- I make little use of streaming services, for instance, but for this process I watched several series provided on DVD and streamed some series as well.

I did not watch anything that looked loathsome to me on its face. If I wouldn't have voluntarily watched it, then I'm not going to be able to give any performance in it a fair viewing. No performance can survive a hostile audience.

However, if everybody used that same calculus, presumably all the series are viewed by a fair cross section of the union. And I can do no more than speak for my demographic: Old coots with exquisite and refined taste who can actually distinguish great acting from the categories listed above.

In other words, I think I'm the only one in my category, and my list of nominees is probably going to bear no relationship to the final list of nominees, because my tiny demographic will be swamped by other SAG members nominating on the basis of their own standards of judgment.

I thought it might be amusing for you to see just how isolated I am, by showing you the list of actors I nominated for particular performances.

Outstanding Performance by a Male Actor in a Television Movie or Limited Series

Peter Dinklage -- Hervé Villechaize, My Dinner with Hervé

Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Television Movie or Limited Series

I didn't nominate in this category because almost none of the TV movies or limited series appealed to me enough for me to watch them and single out particular performances.

Outstanding Performance by a Male Actor in a Drama Series

Freddie Highmore -- Dr. Shaun Murphy, The Good Doctor

Rick Hoffman -- Louis Litt, Suits

Richard Madden -- David Budd, The Bodyguard

Jonny Lee Miller -- Sherlock Holmes, Elementary

Richard Schiff -- Dr. Aaron Glassman, The Good Doctor

In this category, both Rick Hoffman and Richard Schiff are playing the role of a lifetime -- and both are doing brilliantly.

Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Drama Series

Keeley Hawes -- Louisa Durrell, The Durrells in Corfu

Tea Leoni -- Secretary Elizabeth McCord, Madam Secretary

Lucy Liu -- Dr. Joan Watson, Elementary

Elizabeth Olsen -- Leigh Shaw, Sorry for Your Loss

Sarah Rafferty -- Donna Paulsen, Suits

I'm nominating Keeley Hawes for this performance because I couldn't nominate her (not on the eligible list) for her performance as the Home Secretary in The Bodyguard. Like Tea Leoni in Madam Secretary, Hawes does a splendid job of being believable as a person who wields political power and manages a team of cantankerous and sometimes disloyal staffers. It's hard work, beautifully done by both Leoni and Hawes.

Outstanding Performance by a Male Actor in a Comedy Series

Iain Armitage -- Sheldon, Young Sheldon

Bill Hader -- Barry, Barry

Tony Shalhoub -- Abe Weissman, The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel

Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Comedy Series

Rachel Brosnahan -- Midge, The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel

Zoe Perry -- Mary Cooper, Young Sheldon

Annie Potts -- Meemaw, Young Sheldon

Raegan Revord -- Missy Cooper, Young Sheldon

Now come the nominations for entire casts -- groups that work together, sometimes for years on end, playing off each other and creating the illusion of real people in a real life. I love SAG for creating these categories:

Outstanding Performance by an Ensemble in a Drama Series

The Good Doctor,

Manifest,

New Amsterdam,

The Rookie,

Sorry for Your Loss

Outstanding Performance by an Ensemble in a Comedy Series

Barry,

The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel,

Young Sheldon

Outstanding Action Performance by a Stunt Ensemble in a Comedy or Drama Series

This category is so specialized, and my ignorance is so profound, that I don't think my nominees are of the slightest interest to anybody. But, again, I'm proud of SAG-AFTRA for including this category.

Let me also point out that unions in the entertainment industry can be a constant obstacle to getting films financed, because they demand a minimum wage, so that if you get a job in the film or TV industry, you can actually earn enough to live.

All those arguments against the minimum wage that I hear from economists apply here -- and they're even wronger than they are everywhere else. That's because acting and writing for film and television are jobs that would have a thousand applicants for every position -- or more.

A cynical or financially strapped producer would relentlessly bid downward for salaries for actors, and the pool of applicants would barely shrink.

Without a strong union to keep salaries artificially high, actors and writers in the industry would be lucky to get paid at all, and would be treated with far more abuse than they already are.

Because the producers/networks/studios would know that, except for bankable stars, they can replace anybody with somebody who is good enough, but who will work for less.

Unions provide an essential function, because without them, the money people would always balance their books by cheating the actors and writers out of the real value of their contribution to the art.

The union minimums for screen acting and screen writing might sound high to people with regular jobs, but remember that people in these professions are lucky to get a gig once every two or three years, despite going on dozens of auditions or writing many spec scripts.

That's why so many actors will modestly respond to praise with, "I'm just glad to be working." They say this because it's true.

Union requirements keep quality far higher than the free market ever would. So giving out awards is far from being the most important contribution SAG-AFTRA or the Writers Guild make to the screen trade.

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