SAG Awards Give a Boost to the Best Actor Race

Written by Doug Strassler on . Posted in Film.


With just under a month to go until the Oscars, the 18th annual Screen Actors Guild awards presentation solidified the conventional wisdom as to who the front-runners are in this year’s Best Picture and four acting categories – or at least, in three of ‘em.


Christopher Plummer and Octavia Spencer continued to dominate the supporting actor categories for their work in Beginners and The Help, respectively. Meanwhile, as I predicted,The Help’s Viola Davis emerged as the one to beat in the lead actress race, also for The Help, besting Golden Globe winner Meryl Streep. The Help won a third award for its acting ensemble, which can often serve as a harbinger for the Best Picture race, but often just rewards a big ensemble in a highly-acclaimed film. I still thinkThe Artist is the one to beat in the big race. More about that later.

Paul Giamatti and Kate Winslet each took home their third statuettes in the individual acting categories, for HBO’s Too Big To Fail and Mildred Pierce, respectively. For Winslet, this completed her awards trifecta, following the Emmy and Golden Globe. The ensembles of Boardwalk Empire and Modern Family also took home awards.

Jessica Lange finally earned her first SAG after two prior nods for American Horror Story, after repeat wins for Julianna Margulies. Boardwalk’s Steve Buscemi, meanwhile, took home a second consecutive award. In a bit introduced by Bridesmaids’ introducers Melissa McCarthy, Maya Rudolph, and Kristen Wiig, Buscemi brought a glass up to take a drink when thanking producer Martin Scorsese, except presenter Tina Fey had, rather oddly, removed his glass from the podium when the time came. (More odd, to me – why does Bridesmaids co-star Rose Byrne never ever get to represent the movie with her co-stars? She was there at the ceremony. This is rather telling, methinks.)

Fey’s co-star Alec Baldwin won his sixth consecutive award for 30 Rock, which led me to do some eye-rolling. Six? Do actors really prize his work that much above peers like Steve Carell, Jim Parsons and theModern Family men? It was similar déjavu as Betty White won again for Hot in Cleveland. I like how the nonagenarian is a novel act again, but let’s get real. There’s better comedic acting going on on the tube.

White’s Mary Tyler Moore Show co-star (and Cleveland guest star), Mary Tyler Moore, received this year’s lifetime achievement award, though her intro reel lacked much footage of her eponymous show (no “Chuckles Bites the Dust” clip?) and didn’t bother to show off her great ‘90s achievement, Flirting with Disaster. Stunt ensembles for Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows – Part 2 and True Blood also won competitive awards.

But the big surprise came when Natalie Portman revealed Artist lead Jean Dujardin as this year’s Best Actor, riding a similar wave of sentiment that carried Roberto Benigni to the podium thirteen years ago. Can Dujardin take the big prize in what many (or at least me) had perceived to be a two-man race between George Clooney and Brad Pitt? We have 27 days to find out. But, at long last, I’m finally in suspense.

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