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SAG ceremony boosts flagging awards season

Cassandra Claire Belek | Tuesday, January 29, 2008

With no Golden Globes awards ceremony to showcase designer gowns on the red carpet, the stars of movies and television brought as much glitz and glamour as they could muster to Sunday night’s Screen Actors Guild Awards. But even though the guild was celebrating its 75th anniversary, its 14th annual awards ceremony was underwhelming.

There were few surprises on the TV side of the awards. Edie Falco and James Gandolfini both won lead acting awards for their roles on “The Sopranos,” a fitting end to a television award season that has shut out the two actors. “The Sopranos” won Outstanding Performance by an Ensemble in a Drama Series, even though “Mad Men” took home the Golden Globe for best drama series. But the win for the mob drama still came as no surprise after the wins for Falco and Gandolfini – and after the series’ win at the Emmys in September.

Alec Baldwin and Tina Fey won top acting awards for their hilarious work on “30 Rock,” but in an unexpected win, “The Office” took home the award for Outstanding Performance by an Ensemble in a Comedy Series. “30 Rock” won the Emmy for best comedy series and has since been picking up the momentum that “The Office” had been losing before the writers’ strike.

Even though the evening offered few surprises, the awards show locked down four Oscar races. Daniel Day-Lewis (“There Will Be Blood”) won Outstanding Performance by a Male Actor in a Leading Role, Julie Christie (“Away From Her”) won Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Leading Role, Javier Bardem (“No Country for Old Men”) won Outstanding Performance by a Male Actor in a Supporting Role and “No Country for Old Men” won Outstanding Performance by a Cast in a Motion Picture. The three actors are almost guaranteed Oscar wins, and the momentum behind “No Country for Old Men” is nearly unstoppable.

One of the few Oscar races still wide open is Best Supporting Actress. While Ruby Dee (“American Gangster”) took home the SAG award, Cate Blanchett (“I’m Not There”) won the Golden Globe, and Amy Ryan (“Gone Baby Gone”) won the Critics Choice Award and awards from multiple cities’ critic associations.

The evening’s acceptance speeches were more touching than humorous. The exception was Tina Fey, who said, “If you’ve seen me on the show with Alec Baldwin, then you know it’s sort of like watching Fred Astaire dance with a hat rack. And after a while, you’re like, ‘Oh, that hat rack is pretty good, too.’ So, you’ve given an award to the hat rack, and I thank you.”

In the most emotional moment of the evening, Day-Lewis, who had previously spoken out about the death of Heath Ledger on “The Oprah Winfrey Show,” dedicated his award to the deceased young actor who he never knew. “It’s always been the work of other actors, and there are many actors in this room tonight, including my fellow nominees who have given that sense of regeneration, and Heath Ledger gave it to me,” he said. Day-Lewis praised Ledger’s performance in “Monster’s Ball” and said he was “perfect” in “Brokeback Mountain.” He added, “And that scene in the trailer at the end of the film is as moving as anything that I think I’ve ever seen.”

The ceremony also had to add Ledger to the deceased tribute at the last moment. At the end of the evening, the SAG Awards remained little more than an entertaining diversion and a chance to see Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt on the carpet. The upsets were sparse, but the awards show cemented the Oscar dreams of a few hopefuls. And unless the Oscars are saved from cancellation, the SAG Awards may have been the last celebratory event of the award season.

Contact Cassandra Claire Belek at cbelek@nd.edu

The views expressed in Scene and Heard are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.