As Oscar watchers predict what will win on March 2, the Screen Actors Guild Award does have an impact on winning momentum, throwing clips and acceptance speeches in front of the voters.
The coveted Best Ensemble Award which often presages the Best Picture Oscar, as “Argo” did last year, goes to the cast of “American Hustle,” which is the Oscar frontrunner. “David O. Russell makes you feel like you are a part of the family. He is the embodiment of the actors director,” says Bradley Cooper. “He demands. Much is asked of us. And if we deliver, much is returned.”
Continuing her winning streak is Best Actress Cate Blanchett in “Blue Jasmine.” No surprise. She will also take home the Oscar. “I haven’t made a film for a long time,” she says. “Thank you for welcoming me back.” And she thanks Woody Allen again for writing great roles for women. “This is half yours,” she tells co-star Sally Hawkins.
Outstanding male actor in a leading role goes to “Dallas Buyers Club” star Matthew McConaughey, who also won the drama Golden Globe and Critics Choice Awards. “Yeah, wow this feels good,” he says. “I’ve been doing this 22 years,” comparing his career to a bull ride. His recent roles have “really been fun for me,” he says. He expresses in a joyful way his enthusiasm for the work, he’s on a roll, and his super role in new HBO series “True Detective” won’t hurt either.
Jared Leto continues his winning streak, winning the SAG award for Best Supporting Actor for “Dallas Buyers Club,” and dedicates his honor to the people who have lost their lives to HIV AIDs. “I’d like to share this with the Rayons of the world,” he says. He thanks his mother for being the “hottest date in town and the best mother in the entire world.” Leto, like his co-star McConaughey, endured serious weight loss to play this role.
Lupita Nyong’o wins the first of the Saturday night SAG awards for supporting actress. “Thank you for taking a flashlight under the floorboards of this nation and reminding us what we are standing on,” she says to “12 Years a Slave” director Steve McQueen in an eloquent acceptance speech that not coincidentally mentions many of her fellow Oscar nominees. “I’m glad you got a job,” her father told her when she said she had landed a role in a movie co-starring Brad Pitt, who also produced. She advances her chances here of also winning an Oscar.
On the television side, per usual, big-screen actors took home many of the prizes. Helen Mirren wins Best Actress in a TV movie or mini-series for “Phil Spector,” her fifth Actor Award. She singles out rival Elisabeth Moss for her role in “Top of the Lake,” which does not go over too well with the other nominees. More gracious is Emmy and Globe winner Michael Douglas, accepting outstanding Male Actor in a TV or Mini-Series for his role in Steven Soderbergh’s “Behind the Candelabra.” He thanks his fellow nominees and adds, “I am not here without Matt Damon. This is yours too, you know that.”
Inevitably, Male Actor in a Drama Series goes to Bryan Cranston for “Breaking Bad,” which finally won the Drama Ensemble prize after three noms. No one else had a chance. “I won a SAG award,” Cranston croons. He recalls Emma Thompson coming over to him at the AFI Awards lunch as an example of the good actors’ life. Female Actor in a Drama goes to no-show Dame Maggie Smith for “Downton Abbey.”
Julia Louis-Dreyfus wins best female comedy performance in a TV series for HBO’s “Veep” and reprises her comedy schtick in character as the vice-president, fumbling over her Globes and Oscar acceptance speeches. She won an Emmy for this role, and was nominated for both “Veep” and “Enough Said” at the Globes, but did not earn “Enough Said” SAG or Oscar nominations. Her co-star the late James Gandolfini earned SAG and Globe nominations but no Oscar nod.
Ty Burrell takes home the male comedy performance award for TV series for “Modern Family,” which also took home the TV comedy SAG Ensemble Award.
The Life Achievement Award goes to Emmy, Tony, Grammy and Oscar winner Rita Moreno, 82, an actress, singer, and a fighter, says presenter Morgan Freeman. MGM put her under contract and changed her name. She starred in “The King and I” and the role of her life at age 32, Anita in “The West Side Story,” for which she won the best supporting actress Oscar. She won a Grammy for an “Electric Company” record, a Tony for “The Ritz,” and Emmys for “The Muppet Show” and “The Rockford Files.”
Moreno gets a big Standing O, utters the F word, and dances a victory jig. “I’m sorry about that word, actually I’m not,” she says. “Hopefully it’s early in the third act of my life.” Another singing acceptance speech: “This is all ask. This is all I need.” The SAG audience eats it up. “So let the music play, as long as long as there’s a song to sing, then I will be, I will be, younger than spring.”