DISPATCH FROM AWARDS SEASON: SAG Honors "Sideways" with Cast Award; Swank & Foxx Win Top Acting Prizes
by Eugene Hernandez
Top prizes at the Screen Actors Guild Awards were shared by a number of Oscar nominees. The cast of Alexander Payne's "Sideways" won the prize for Outstanding Performance by a Cast in Motion Picture, with the honors going to Thomas Haden Church, Paul Giamatti, Virginia Madsen and Sandra Oh. The foursome lead the romantic comedy about a writer and actor from Southern California who meet and pursue a pair of women they meet while on the road during a week-long getaway.
Prizes were presented during a televised ceremony from the Los Angeles Shrine Exposition Center.
Meanwhile, Clint Eastwood's "Million Dollar Baby" won two big prizes at the SAG Awards. Hilary Swank was honored as the best actress for her role as an up-and-coming boxer, while Morgan Freeman was singled out for his turn as a boxing trainer's sidekick in the picture.
The prizes for "Baby" came a week after Eastwood was honored with the Outstanding Directorial Achievement in Feature Film award from the Directors Guild of America.
In the supporting actor categories, Cate Blanchett was singled out for her performance as Katharine Hepburn in the Howard Hughes biopic, "The Aviator."
With just three weeks left before Oscar night, and only two weeks before voting concludes, Oscar nominees continue to make the rounds. Today (Monday) in Los Angeles, AMPAS will hold its annual Nominees Luncheon at the Beverly Hilton Hotel, with more than 100 nominees from the 24 categories expected. 17 of the 19 Oscar nominees for acting awards are expected to attend today's lunch.
Oscar observers are no doubt wondering whether the SAG winners will be an indicator of the way that Academy voters will lean this year. Unlike last year, the SAG Awards were presented during the key period when Oscar ballots are still in voter's hands.
Best Actor Oscar favorite Jamie Foxx, winner of the SAG Prize, is also a nominee in the supporting actor category for his role in "Collateral." He is facing off against Leonardo DiCaprio in "The Aviator" and Clint Eastwood in "Million Dollar Baby" in the Oscar race, with Don Cheadle in "Hotel Rwanda" and Johnny Depp in "Finding Neverland" rounding out the category. Insiders are still buzzing about the omission of "Sideways" star Paul Giamatti in the category.
SAG winner Hilary Swank is shooting for her second Oscar, with Annette Bening in "Being Julia" and Imelda Staunton's powerful performance in "Vera Drake" seen as competitive. Not to be overlooked in the race is frequent nominee Kate Winslet, this year honored for her performance in "Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind." First-timer Catalina Sandino Moreno, star of "Maria Full of Grace" and a favorite within indie circles, is the fifth nominee for best actress.