Massachusetts Daily Collegian

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A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

Massachusetts Daily Collegian

A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

Massachusetts Daily Collegian

Hits, misses and impact of the 30th annual SAG Awards

Winners, speeches and what the Netlix-aired awards show means for other ceremonies this season
Oppenheimer took home the most awards on Saturday, winning three. Photo courtesy of the official “Oppenheimer” IMDb page.

The 30th annual Screen Actors Guild Awards were held Saturday, Feb. 24, awarding standout performances from film and television. The voting body for the awards is made up of thousands of SAG-AFTRA union members, making this year’s ceremony an industry-wide celebration of the end of last year’s months-long strike. The big winners were “Oppenheimer,” taking home three awards, as well as Hulu’s “The Bear” and Netflix’s “Beef,” both receiving two.

The event marks the first time a major awards ceremony was streamed live on Netflix, though the 2023 show was streamed on Netflix’s YouTube channel. The two-hour ceremony was presented with no commercial breaks, resulting in a shockingly brisk night of television. With decades of commercial-laden network TV dictating the rhythms and traditions of awards shows, the switch to streaming feels radical. Other awards shows would do well to follow suit.

Idris Elba opened the event with a brief history of his own experiences coming up as a young actor, lending his signature charm to a few light-hearted jokes. He even made use of Netflix’s relaxed view on profanity, cheekily dropping an F-bomb in a shout-out to Oprah Winfrey, who was there as a producer of the nominated film, “The Color Purple.” Though Elba is undeniably charismatic, you can detect how new he is to the hosting gig, creating a sort of avuncular air that circles back to charming.

Before the awards were handed out, Anne Hathaway and Emily Blunt joined Meryl Streep on stage for a “Devil Wears Prada” reunion, seamlessly falling back into their iconic characters. That sense of looking back remained throughout the show, with short “30 Years of Winners” montages taking the place of commercial breaks. These gave a look back at highlights from past ceremonies, such as wins for Halle Berry and the cast of “The Sopranos.”

As the only televised awards show exclusively recognizing actors, the speeches were unsurprisingly entertaining. Fewer awards meant more airtime for speeches, to which Jeremy Allen White, the winner for Male Actor in a Comedy Series, remarked, “Wow, they give you a lot of time with this one, but that’s all I have. Thanks, guys.”

Both Pedro Pascal (Actor in a Drama Series, “The Last of Us”) and Elizabeth Debicki (Actress in a Drama Series, “The Crown”) seemed caught off-guard by their wins. Pascal claimed to be drunk by the time he hit the stage, closing out his time with, “I’m [going to] have a panic attack and I’m [going to] leave.” Debicki kicked off her heels before giving an off-the-cuff speech about her gratitude for landing any roles at all.

Ali Wong and Steven Yeun, winners for “Beef,” both shouted out their parents, with Wong thanking her mother in the audience. Yeun appealed to his audience of actors by recounting his first major gig in a Milky Way commercial. Being essentially a union event, the SAG Awards have a far more relaxed energy than other awards shows, bringing forward more laughs than tears — though there is the occasional misty-eyed speech.

Continuing her astounding awards season run, Da’Vine Joy Randolph won for her supporting performance in “The Holdovers.” “The Lord of the Rings” stars Sean Astin and Elijah Wood presented her with the award, which she received with characteristic humility and professionalism. “Grief is a slippery emotion to capture,” she said in her speech.

The cast of “The Bear” won Outstanding Performance by an Ensemble in a Comedy Series, giving a charming and unpretentious speech that perfectly matched the working-class energy of the series. Presented by the cast of “Breaking Bad,” Outstanding Performance by an Ensemble in a Drama Series went to “Succession,” which cast member Alan Ruck accepted with a wistful sense of accomplishment.

Midway through the ceremony, attention turned to Jennifer Aniston and Bradley Cooper, each introducing the Life Achievement Award to Barbra Streisand. Cooper’s speech highlighted her tenacity and ever-presence in the entertainment industry for over 50 years. One can see a similar obsessiveness in his own directorial efforts, chasing authenticity and old-fashioned class at every turn.

Streisand’s acceptance speech was suitably showmanlike, giving an anecdotal rundown of her career that might as well have been ripped from her recently released 970-page memoir. Tears overtook the audience, from Anne Hathaway to Taraji P. Henson, as she laid out her illustrious past. She’s exactly what you want her to be: boisterous, warm and a little bit ridiculous (the card bearing her speech matched her black gloves to a tee). “I didn’t like reality. I wanted to be in movies,” she said.

Elba returned to present the supporting male actor award to Robert Downey Jr. for “Oppenheimer,” on a similarly remarkable run for the 58-year-old. Cillian Murphy won for his leading turn as well, tipping a hat to his “Oppenhomies” (a term of endearment for his co-stars).

President of SAG-AFTRA Fran Drescher also came forth to give a speech recognizing their status post-strike. In a strangely, but perhaps not surprisingly, theatrical delivery she praised the solidarity of actors across the country: “Your solidarity ignited workers around the world, triggering what will forever be remembered as the hot labor summer.” She even warned, “AI will entrap us in a matrix.” Rallying the crowd, she called the strike a change in the “paradigm” of the industry, met with applause.

In a telling win, Lily Gladstone won for her lead performance in “Killers of the Flower Moon.” Patting the trophy on the head, she expressed her gratitude toward the filmmakers, as well as the importance of the strike. Tears were also seen at her speech, namely from John Lithgow and her fellow nominee, Carey Mulligan.

“The Fly” co-stars Jeff Goldblum and Geena Davis presented the top award of the night, Outstanding Performance by a Cast in a Motion Picture, to “Oppenheimer,” surely due to its massive cultural presence and remarkably stacked cast. Kenneth Branagh, who plays Danish physicist Niels Bohr in the film, accepted in an ever-articulate speech, citing the film’s frightening relevance.

The SAG Awards are perhaps the best indication of the Oscar wins next month. Sharing nearly identical voting bodies, the two organizations feature a notable overlap in winners. In the past 20 ceremonies, there have been only two deviations from the Oscar winner for Best Actor, and four for Best Actress. Best Actor is a near-lock for Cillian Murphy, but in a tight race for Best Actress, with many other wins going to Emma Stone for “Poor Things,” Gladstone’s win is a very promising sign of her chances on March 10.

This year’s SAG Awards displayed the best and worst of awards shows. It created a great opportunity for rising stars and legends to take the stage, and made space for some strange moments of disconnect between industry insiders and their larger audience.

Thomas Machacz can be reached at [email protected]

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