SAG 2020: A night of expected wins and upsets

Photo from IMDb
The SAG Awards returned to its roots Sunday, focusing on the talent from film and TV this past year.  

For more than two decades, the Screen Actors Guild Awards have brought Hollywood’s most talented and glamorous performers to the Shrine Auditorium to celebrate the best performances in film and television. Last Sunday, the 26th SAG Awards followed suit and once again created a classy ceremony honoring the great work from this past year. 

For its 26th year, the award show returned to its roots by going hostless,  streamlining the broadcast by putting a greater focus on the talent and performances. To fill the void of a host, Dan and Eugene Levy of “Schitt’s Creek” greeted the star-studded crowd with a witty monologue. However, they made sure to clarify that they were not the hosts, as they were not being paid. Throughout the night, other select actors shared stories of their earliest Hollywood memories, serving as inspiration to young actors. 

The night was filled with surprises, especially on the television side. While Tony Shalhoub (“The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel”) and Phoebe Waller-Bridge (“Fleabag”) were expected surefire wins for Best Male and Female Actors in a Comedy Series, it was the Drama Series and Miniseries categories that had the greatest upsets. Perhaps the night’s biggest surprise was Jennifer Aniston winning Best Female Actor for “The Morning Show,” which has received mixed reviews since its release. Not only was it an upset for Olivia Colman (“The Crown”) and Jodie Comer (“Killing Eve”), but it was the first big victory for Apple+. Aniston expressed shock during her acceptance speech and ended with a warm shout out to Adam Sandler for his performance in “Uncut Gems.” 

Peter Dinklage finally won an award for his masterful performance as Tyrion Lannister in the final season of “Game of Thrones,” and while Michelle Williams was a lock to win for “Fosse/Verdon,” her costar Sam Rockwell rocked the second biggest unanticipated win of the night as Best Male Actor in a Television Movie or Miniseries, beating frontrunner Jharrel Jerome (“When They See Us”).

For the best ensemble categories, “The Crown” won for Drama Series, one of the toughest categories of the evening. And for the final shocker in the television categories, “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel” beat out its sister frontrunner Amazon series, “Fleabag.” While Amazon was still the winner, the cast was definitely shocked at the win. 

“I voted for Fleabag,” actress Alex Borstein said. “This is definitely weird. This makes no sense!” 

Many of her costars nodded  in agreement.  

Photo from IMDb
“The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel” cast took home the award for Best Ensemble in a Comedy Series at the Shrine Auditorium Sunday night in a surprise win over Amazon sister show “Fleabag.” 

On the film side of the ceremony, most of the categories had clear frontrunners who had been burning through award season. As many expected, Laura Dern won for Best Supporting Actress for her fiery performance as a divorce attorney in “Marriage Story.” She gave a gracious speech after hugging her father, actor Bruce Dern, on the way to the stage. While her win was practically a guarantee, there were some who had hoped that Jennifer Lopez would take home the award for her role in “Hustlers” after not receiving an Oscars nomination. Meanwhile, Renée Zellweger won for Best Lead Actress for her performance as film and music legend Judy Garland in the self-titled biopic, “Judy.”

For the men, the funniest and most honest speech of the night came from Brad Pitt, who snagged Best Supporting Actor for his suave portrayal of stuntman Cliff Booth in Tarantino’s “Once Upon a Time in Hollywood.” 

“Let’s be honest, it was a difficult part. A guy who gets high, takes his shirt off and doesn’t get on with his wife. It was a big stretch,” Pitt said, jokingly. 

Joaquin Phoenix took home the Best Actor prize for his performance in “Joker” as the troubled title character, beating out Adam Driver’s work in “Marriage Story.” In his humble speech, he praised his fellow nominees graciously before thanking his favorite actor, the late Heath Ledger, who took home the Oscar for the same role in the seminal film, “The Dark Knight.” 

When it came to the final award of the night, Best Film Ensemble, it was up for any one of several great films to take the prize. There were no frontrunners or easy locks, but SAG was clear in its fondness for the South Korean masterpiece, “Parasite.” When the cast presented its film earlier that night, the entire room gave them a standing ovation. So, it only makes sense that the talented cast that created the film would win the night’s biggest award. Their electric and charming personalities came across even through a translator in their humbling speech. 

The  win made history as the first foreign-language film to win Best Film Ensemble, making the Oscar race for Best Picture even more unpredictable. While films such as “1917,” “Once Upon a Time in Hollywood” and “The Irishman” are gunning for the top prize, “Parasite” may prove to be the dark horse that takes it all. 

Aside from those highlights, the SAG Awards were classy and celebratory as ever. Pop culture icons “Avengers: Endgame” and “Game of Thrones” made their presence known through their Stunt Ensemble wins. 

Maybe the best moment of the night was Leonardo DiCaprio’s respectful, personal speech to Robert De Niro for his Lifetime Achievement Award. DiCaprio recounted De Niro’s greatest achievements as well as his own childhood experience of studying the masterful actor when watching “Midnight Run” in theaters with his father. While De Niro’s acceptance speech remained muted on the award, he gave strong words supporting unionization and fighting the current political climate.

As one of the most important nights on the road to the Academy Awards, the 26th Screen Actors’ Guild Awards did not disappoint this year with its palpable communal energy among its actors.