American patriotic dramas Argo and Lincoln continue to build momentum in their charge towards the Oscars, with both films scoring promising wins at the 19th Annual Screen Actors Guild Awards.
CIA thriller Argo picked up best ensemble, the SAGs' equivalent of a best picture win, while Lincoln's stars Daniel Day-Lewis and Tommy Lee Jones dominated both male acting categories.
The Aussie contingent went home empty-handed. With categories no longer separated by genre, as they are in the Golden Globes, the SAGs signal a steepening of competition. This also meant Hugh Jackman had to go toe-to-toe for the first time with awards show darling Day-Lewis, a feat too great for the Aussie star to manage.
Naomi Watts similarly lost out in the lead actress category to Jennifer Lawrence's turn as an emotionally unstable widow in Silver Linings Playbook, which surprisingly beat red-hot favourite Jessica Chastain in Zero Dark Thirty.
Lawrence, visibly shaken by her win, was swarmed at her table before teetering up to the stage to accept the award, delivering a touching thank-you to director David O. Russell.
“You made a movie for your son, so that he wouldn't feel alone and so that he could feel understood, and I think I can speak on behalf of most of us in saying that you've helped more than your son,” the 22-year-old said of the film's celebrated take on mental illness.
Lawrence is firming up to secure her first Academy Award after her 2011 nomination for Winter's Bone.
There were no surprises to be had in the supporting actress category, however, with the seemingly unstoppable Anne Hathaway continuing her surge to Oscar glory, leaving fellow nominee Nicole Kidman to watch helplessly from the sidelines. Kidman also lost out to Julianne Moore's much-lauded performance as former vice-presidential candidate Sarah Palin in telemovie Game Change.
The SAGs ceremony is proving to be the most intimate of the major awards events, with its awards voted exclusively by the winners' acting peers. The candidly humorous offerings from actors in the room that kick off the show set the tone for a rare night of authenticity in Hollywood.
“My father told me that if I ever did anything artistic, I was going to look like a hooker,” said Modern Family star Sofia Vergara. “I told him, 'With these huge boobs that I inherited from your mother, I already look like a hooker.'”
Day-Lewis acknowledged Joaquin Phonenix, whose acclaimed turn in Paul Thomas Anderson's The Master was overlooked.
Dick Van Dyke, accepting the lifetime achievement award at a spritely 87, beamed over a crowd he said comprised “the greatest generation of actors in history”.
There was even a touch of the sentimental, with the SAGs paying respect to retiring sitcom 30 Rock, which picked up wins for stars Tina Fey and Alec Baldwin.
Although it lost out for comedy ensemble, Modern Family star Jesse Tyler Ferguson acknowledged the indelible mark 30 Rock would leave. “You have all set the comedy bar so high,” he said.
Meanwhile, this year's best picture Oscar race is shaping up to be the closest in recent memory. Argo's odds continue to shorten by the day, but no one wants to discount the possibility of Lincoln performing a last-minute swoop, especially considering Argo director Ben Affleck's grand snub by the Academy.
The British Academy of Film and Television Arts Awards are the last of the major ceremonies before the Academy Awards are announced on Monday, February 25 (Australian time).
SAG award winners
Best ensemble – Argo
Best actor – Daniel Day-Lewis, Lincoln
Best actress – Jennifer Lawrence, Silver Linings Playbook
Best supporting actor – Tommy Lee Jones, Lincoln
Best supporting actress – Anne Hathaway, Les Misérables
Best comedy ensemble - Modern Family
Best comedy actor - Alec Baldwin, 30 Rock
Best comedy actress - Tina Fey, 30 Rock
Best drama ensemble - Downton Abbey
Best drama actor - Bryan Cranston, Breaking Bad
Best drama actress - Claire Danes, Homeland
Best actor in a TV movie or miniseries - Kevin Costner, Hatfields & McCoys
Best actress in a TV movie or miniseries - Julianne Moore, Game Change