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‘La La Land’ has 14 Oscar nominations but isn’t competing for the top SAG award

LOS ANGELES—La La Land may have tied an Oscar record with 14 nominations, set a Golden Globes record with seven wins and won the top prize at Saturday’s Producers Guild Awards, but it won’t be competing for the top Screen Actors Guild award.

The SAG Awards often serve as an Academy Awards warm-up. That will be true at Sunday’s night’s show in the individual acting categories where awards-season favourites like Viola Davis, Casey Affleck and Emma Stone hope to cement their front-runner status.

But this year’s biggest front-runner, La La Land, isn’t nominated for the Screen Actors’ ensemble award. Nominated instead are the casts for Moonlight, Manchester by the Sea, Hidden Figures and Captain Fantastic.

As attendees arrived at Los Angeles’ Shrine Auditorium on a sunny Sunday, many had their minds on other issues. The executive order issued by President Donald Trump temporarily banning the entry of citizens from Iran, Iraq, Syria and several other Muslim countries, has already been felt strongly in Hollywood.

Earlier Sunday, the celebrated Iranian director Asghar Farhadi, whose The Salesman is Oscar-nominated for best foreign language film, said the ban was “in no way acceptable” and that he would not attend the Academy Awards even if it was permitted.

Though Hollywood is much criticized for its own lack of inclusiveness, the diversity of this year’s awards-season favourites has followed a much different narrative. Stephen McKinley Henderson, co-star of Fences said this year’s nominees were in part a response to the presidential election.

“Art always rises to the occasion,” said Henderson as he was arriving for the SAG ceremonies.

Stunt awards were announced ahead of the show and stunt performers for Mel Gibson’s World War II drama Hacksaw Ridge and those for HBO’s Game of Thrones took the night’s first two honours.

La La Land didn’t arrive at the SAG Awards empty-handed. It earned nods for its leads, Ryan Gosling and Stone. But if Damien Chazelle’s musical is to go on to win best picture, it will be the just the second film to do so without a SAG ensemble nod in the category’s history. Only Gibson’s Braveheart managed it in 1996.

Actors, the largest group in the motion picture academy, hold considerable sway. SAG, though, is much larger, with about 160,000 members, compared to about 1,200 actors in the academy.

Lily Tomlin will be the night’s lifetime achievement honoree, an award to be presented by Jane Fonda and Dolly Parton.

On the television side, competing for best ensemble in a drama is The Crown, Downton Abbey, Game of Thrones, Stranger Things and Westworld. Comedy series ensemble nominees are The Big Bang Theory, Black-ish, Modern Family, Orange Is the New Black and Veep.