As the awards season gets into high gear, each show with implications for the biggest of them all â€“ the Academy Awards â€“ it’s always interesting to see how the festivities adds to the momentum building up to the biggest prizes in Hollywood.
The Screen Actors Guild Awards, for instance, held Sunday night at the Shrine Auditorium, is an event that celebrates only the actors in the industry. You won’t see any producers or directors seated here, no Steven Spielberg, or Martin Scorsese watching from the wings as the acting awards are handed out. And that’s what makes it special. This is an award show where the honorees are selected by their peers. And, it seems to make the acceptance speeches much more appreciated as thanks are offered to people in the room because they recognize that acting is a collaborative art.
And because the winners are selected by their peers, the SAG Awards has become one of the industry’s most prized prestigious events. The only televised awards show to exclusively honor performers, the event presents thirteen awards for acting in film and television and focuses on both individual performances as well as on the work of the entire ensemble of a drama series and comedy series in television, and for the cast of a motion picture.
The Screen Actors Guild Awards are also unique in the way the winners are selected. Two randomly selected panels of 2,100 out of more than 100,000 SAG members from across the country choose the nominees for television and motion pictures. The Screen Actors Guild Awards are also significant in that they are the only national network television show to acknowledge the work of union members. SAG-AFTRA is affiliated with the AFL-CIO through the Associated Actors and Artistes of America (the Four A’s) and brings together two great American labor unions: Screen Actors Guild and the American Federation of Television and Radio Artists. SAG-AFTRA is committed to organizing all work done under their jurisdictions, including negotiating the best wages, working conditions, and health and pension benefits, and preserving and expanding members’ work opportunities. Through the work of SAG-AFTRA, the art of acting continues to grow and flourish in a dynamic entertainment industry.
In terms of glamour, the SAG Awards can certainly hold its own with any of the major awards shows, with plenty of haute couture and designer dresses adorning Hollywood’s most beautiful personalities. L’Oreal was a major presence at the show, offering their L’Oreal Paris’ Style Awards for “Best Trend,” “Best Tressed” (for hair) and “Best Dressed.” In these events, everything starts with hair and the dress.
Sunday night’s biggest moment came when Ben Affleck and the rest of the cast of â€œArgoâ€ solidified their Oscar front-runner status by winning the top prize of cast in a motion picture. It would seem that nothing could surprise the multi-talented director after he’d promoted his CIA movie-within-a-movie thriller for the past five months, but the actor-director-producer was clearly stunned Sunday night when the movie was honored with the ensemble prize.
As Affleck walked off stage at the Shrine Auditorium he stood still for a moment, taking it all in, as around him members of his cast pumped their fists in the air and hugged one another. Affleck was obviously excited about the win and his acceptance speech was heartfelt, saying â€œYou can say a lot of things about a lot of awards shows, but this is an unimpeachable honor because it’s from my peers and I would put myself last among them.” Later in the press room he couldn’t resist taking a dig on the Motion Picture Academy’s director’s branch who ignored him for an Oscar nomination when he said to a reporter, “I’m sorry I overlooked you … I know how it feels.”
The cast of “Argo” took home the Screen Actors Guild’s top honor, increasing its status as a front-runner in an Oscar race that has not had a clear frontrunner this season. The film, in which Affleck stars alongside Bryan Cranston, Alan Arkin and John Goodman, involves a complex story based on a CIA agent assigned with the dangerous task of removing fugitive American diplomatic personnel out of revolutionary Iran.
“Argo,” which also took home the top honor from the Producers Guild of America Saturday night, beat out a strong field of competition that included the casts of “Lincoln,” “Les MisÃ©rables,” “Silver Linings Playbook,â€ and “The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel.”
Tommy Lee Jones won the first award of the night. The actor, who wasn’t at the ceremony, captured Outstanding Male Actor in a Supporting Role for “Lincoln.” In other key awards, Daniel Day-Lewis was honored with best male actor in a leading role also for â€œLincoln.â€ Day-Lewis made one of the more memorable jokes of the evening, saying “When I was wondering if I should take the risk of doing this role, for some reason the guiding principle of the Hippocratic Oath kept nagging me – ‘First, do no harm.’ And with that modest but important ambition I set out. And then it occurred to me that it was an actor that murdered Abraham Lincoln. And therefore somehow it’s only fitting that every now and then an actor tries to bring him back to life again.”
One of the hottest stars in Hollywood, Jennifer Lawrence, continued to gather momentum on her run through awards season after winning female lead actor for her role in â€œSilver Linings Playbook.â€ Lawrence nonetheless took up to the stage in a long Dior dress that appeared to suffer a wardrobe malfunction and separate at thigh level, but recovered nicely to offer her thanks for the award.
Anne Hathaway gave an appreciative and sincere speech when she accepted her award for female actor in a supporting role for â€œLes Miserables.â€ She was also part of one of the evening’s most memorable moments when she and â€œLes Miserablesâ€ costar Hugh Jackman introduced their film by combining the former characters of Catwoman, Wolverine and Amanda Seyfried’s â€œMamma Mia.â€
It was also gratifying to see Sally Field, who grew up in a showbiz family and has had a long career beginning in her teens, be honored with another award at this point in her career. On the red carpet of the SAG Awards on Sunday night, the “Lincoln” star, who was nominated for supporting actress for playing first lady Mary Todd Lincoln, likened acting to â€œbeing part of a tribe.â€
“Every time an actor pays you a compliment, it’s particularly meaningful,” Field told Times reporter Amy Kaufman on the red carpet at the Shrine Auditorium. “They know what it is that you do, and how complicated it is sometimes.”
On the television side, Alec Baldwin won Outstanding Male Actor in a Lead Role for “30 Rock”; Tina Fey won the Outstanding Female Actor in a Lead Role for the same series. “Amy, I’ve known you since you were pregnant with Lena Dunham,” Fey joked during her acceptance to friend and fellow nominee Amy Poehler.
Despite those wins, “30 Rock” lost to “Modern Family” for Outstanding Ensemble in a Comedy Series. “Modern Family” star Jesse Tyler Ferguson thanked the casts of “30 Rock” and “The Office” for inspiration and general awesomeness, as both shows are going off the air after this season.
Julianne Moore won Outstanding Female Actor in a TV Movie or Miniseries for playing Sarah Palin in “Game Change.” Kevin Costner was awarded with the Outstanding Male Actor in a TV Movie or Miniseries for “Hatfields and McCoys,” but wasn’t in attendance to receive his â€œActor award.â€
After the early awards, Baldwin came back out on stage to announce Dick Van Dyke’s Screen Actors Guild Lifetime Achievement Award. Van Dyke gave a moving and appreciative speech, and remains one of the industries must humble and respected talents, now well into his eighties.