The cast of "The Help" accepts the outstanding performance… (Mark J )
“The Help” was the upset winner Sunday night at the Screen Actors Guild Awards, taking home trophies for Octavia Spencer, Viola Davis and for the ensemble — the equivalent of Oscar’s best picture.
The ensemble win for the drama about racism in the South in the early 1960s was a surprise. Many thought the honor would go to the black-and-white silent film “The Artist,” which had been on a seemingly unstoppable roll going into the show.
Davis accepted on behalf of the cast just moments after she won for outstanding performance by a female actor for playing a domestic who tries to tell the world about the plight of African American servants and their white employers. She said racism and sexism isn’t just a battle to be fought by women or people of color. “It’s all of our burden,” she said, “all of us.” Earlier, Spencer won for outstanding female actor in a supporting role.
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“The Artist” didn’t go away empty-handed at the Shrine Exposition Hall in Los Angeles.
In another upset, a little-known French comic actor beat out some of Hollywood’s biggest names — Clooney, Pitt and DiCaprio. Jean Dujardin, who is a big star in France but is far from a household name here, walked off with outstanding male actor in a leading role for “The Artist.” Dujardin plays a silent-screen star whose career falls apart with the advent of the “talkies” in Hollywood. Considering it’s a silent film, Dujardin seemed speechless, uttering “Oh, my God” over and over. He beat out George Clooney, considered a favorite for his role in “The Descendants," as well as Brad Pitt, nominated for “Moneyball,” and Leonardo DiCaprio, nominated for “J. Edgar.” The win makes Dujardin a bonafide contender at the Oscars next month. There he will once again face Clooney and Pitt in the best actor category.
In the night’s other film award handed out, Christopher Plummer scored for outstanding performance by a male actor in a supporting role for his funny, touching performance as a widower who comes out of closet in “Beginners.”
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"I just can't tell you what fun I’ve had being a member of the world’s second oldest profession," Plummer said to laughter from the star-studded crowd. Then, growing serious, he added: “It’s like being lit by the Holy Grail; thank you, thank you, thank you.”
While a SAG win doesn't always translate into Oscar gold, it’s a good start. With Sunday’s wins, Spencer, Davis and Plummer also become front-runners at next month’s Academy Awards.
On the TV side, the SAG Awards seemed like a retread of last year.
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HBO’s gangster drama “Boardwalk Empire” won its second consecutive trophy for outstanding performance by an ensemble in a drama series. “This is such an honor,” said series lead actor Steve Buscemi. He earlier had won his second consecutive trophy for outstanding performance by a male actor in a drama series.
“Modern Family” also made it two in a row for outstanding performance by an ensemble in a comedy series. It seemed like the cast members were banking on the win. How else to explain the acceptance-speech comedy routine by the youngest actors on the show? It seemed more forced than funny.
Alec Baldwin earned his sixth consecutive SAG award for outstanding performance by a male actor in a TV comedy series for playing the full-of-himself NBC honcho Jack Donaghy in “30 Rock.” Baldwin managed to act surprised — and a bit giddy. “We have the greatest writers,” Baldwin said. “It has been a real pleasure, it has been a real honor.”
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Betty White, 90, was in shock when she heard her name announced for outstanding performance by a female actor in a comedy series for TV Land’s sitcom “Hot in Cleveland.” It was the second consecutive win in this category for White.
The night was a first for a few, though. Jessica Lange won her first SAG award for her unexpected role on FX’s gothic drama “American Horror Story.”
Kate Winslet was a no-show when she won outstanding female actor in a TV movie or miniseries for the HBO melodrama "Mildred Pierce." Another no-show was Paul Giamatti, who won outstanding performance by a male actor in a television movie or miniseries for HBO’s “Too Big to Fail.”
Mary Tyler Moore, 75, was also honored during the two-hour telecast on cable’s TNT and TBS with a lifetime achievement award, presented to her by her TV husband, Dick Van Dyke.