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A Look at the Screen Actors Guild Awards

Stephanie DePrez | Thursday, January 29, 2009

Last Sunday, Hollywood circled the wagons once more for a night of glitz, champagne, and, contrary to popular belief, real food.

The Screen Actors Guild held their 15th awards show, commonly known as the SAGs, amidst growing discontent with the fact that actors still do not receive residuals for work in New Media (like the internet) and the looming shadow of a possible strike. It was all laughs, though, except for a few pointed comments, including the speech of Tina Fey, who won the first award of the night.

The evening started predictably enough, with Fey taking top honors for Outstanding Female Actor in a Comedy Series (no surprise there) and Kate Winslet wining for Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Supporting Role for “The Reader,” a she had done at the Golden Globes.

But things got tricky to predict when Hugh Laurie once again took home the Actor (SAG version of Oscar) for Outstanding Performance by a Male Actor in a Drama Series. Most would have pegged this one for James Spader of “Mad Men.” Hugh Laurie even commented that he’d bet money on Spader, and had apparently lost the bet.

The best moment of the evening was easily Meryl Streep’s win for Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Leading Role. When her name was announced, she looked beyond shocked and immediately started hugging her daughter.

Streep ran through the aisles, arms raised high in the air like a basketball player whose number had just been announced on the court. She raced up to the stage and accepted her Actor, turned to the mic and explained that she was so sure she wasn’t going to win, she didn’t even buy a dress. Indeed, she was wearing black slacks and a nice black blouse, something one would have easily assumed to be a dress if it were only seen from the waste up.

The most poignant moment of the evening was Gary Oldman’s appropriately understated acceptance of Heath Ledger’s award for Outstanding Performance by a Male Actor in a Supporting Role.

Top honors went to Slumdog Millionaire, whose charming stars didn’t fail to look completely delighted to even be mentioned. Female lead Freida Pinto looked quite beautiful in a bay blue gown, and the show’s lead Dev Patel looked like a normal teenager – too tall and skinny for his own pants.

Good news for the Notre Dame community is that “Slumdog Millionaire” film will be coming to the Browning Cinema at the beginning of March.

Overall the show was predictable but enjoyable. The air of the evening was general relaxation. No one at the SAGs is trying to prove anything, because it is community of actors only. The voting pool of 100,000 picks who they think is best, free of producers and politics.

Now all eyes turn to February, the Kodak Theater, and the Academy Awards. New co-producers for this year’s Oscars promise a show like never before, with a new format and a host who can sing, dance, and spring claws from his knuckles. Hugh Jackman and The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences are gearing up for a great show this year, but for now, the Screen Actors Guild has done just fine.