The Screen Actor’s Guild Awards are not the most famous of Hollywood’s many awards – it would be the Academy Awards. But the SAG Awards occupy a special place in the industry, as do various other Guild Awards, such as the Director’s Guild Awards and the ACE Eddie Awards for Editors. As SAG notes on its website, “of the best awards in the industry that are presented to actors, only the SAG Awards are selected exclusively by artists of SAG-AFTRA’s peers with 124,000 eligible voters.” Which makes Play squids several SAG nominations even more impressive.
The Netflix show garnered three nominations: Outstanding Performance by a Male Actor, for Lee Jung-jae as Seong Gi-hun, Player 456; Outstanding performance by a female actress, for Jung Ho-Yeon as Kang Sae-byeok, the North Korean actor 067; and an overall award for outstanding performance of an ensemble series.
Netflix has run a significant pricing campaign for Play squid, including pop-ups in Los Angeles, Chicago and Paris with K-pop DJ sets and chances to play the games seen on the show. For an award-winning bag, Netflix handed out dalgona cookies that viewers may remember being obsessed with licking in the show along with an HD projector and noise-canceling headphones.
Netflix has been able to parlay non-US devices at prices for years now, from Kronen to Alfonso Curon’s Rome. But Play squid presents some unique challenges: as opposed to Kronen, it is completely dependent on subtitles, and unlike Rome, the show operates extensively within a particular genre of battle royale dystopias.
It’s not entirely alone on the dystopian front, as Jung Ho-Yeon competes against Elisabeth Moss in The waitress’ story, but Moss has been nominated and won awards for his role as June since 2017. Play squid has only existed for one season.
For Hwang Dong-hyuk, the show’s creator, the whole experience of the awards season has been a new one. “In Korea, when you create a production, you do not really have a price run. One day someone will call you and say, ‘Come and get your price,’” he told the Vanity Fair in December 2021.
He also quotes Parasite as inspiration for his success. Bong Joon Ho’s 2019 film, a massive success in South Korea and critical favorite in the United States, shocked many when Jane Fonda opened an envelope and announced the psychological thriller as the first non-English language film to win the Oscar for Best Picture. The victory helped Hwang Dong-hyuk regain his confidence as he restarted his famous long road to Squid games‘final creation. Parasitethe victory gave him “a more ambitious goal, thinking not only of the local Korean market but also globally, and gave me hope that it might be seen all over the world and that I should make it can be seen around the world, ”he told Vanity Fair.
Although the awards season is flawed in many ways, it is still the most prominent means of judging television and film outside the strictly commercial area with ticket returns and number of seat hours. Having this approval can help a streaming service stand out in the middle of the very crowded field, which may be part of the reason why Netflix has such low subscriber cancellation rates. A successful pricing season may also push back on the recent criticism that many of Netflix’s shows are just not very good.
In the 2010s, Guillermo del Toro, Alejandro González Iñárritu and Curon created an unprecedented moment for Mexican directors and earned a cavalcade of awards and nominations for films such as Gravity, The Shape of Water, Birdman, and other. While Play squid has tough competition in the SAG Awards and what comes after, between the hit show and Parasite, a similar moment may begin for South Korea.
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