As the 2019/2020 Oscar season speeds along quicker than usual, this month’s Screen Actors Guild Awards remind us why they are still the smoothest-running televised awards show out there: no host and only a dozen categories within a two-hour runtime.
While I can appreciate that every person on a film’s production team is given the chance to be honored at the Oscars and Globes, the average viewer watches these events for the celebrities. The SAGs are perfect for this as it’s just the people seen on screen. I’ve always felt it’s a bit of a rip off that the TV categories are separated by drama and comedy, while film is just combined into one. Besides that, it’s a pretty breezy viewing.
Movie-wise, it’s a good thing events this season are being held almost a month earlier because the acting contenders are bizarrely boring this year.
Joaquin Phoenix and Renee Zellweger won Best Actor and Best Actress again for Todd Phillips’ “Joker” and Rupert Goold’s “Judy,” respectively. While Phoenix’s win could arguably be his “makeup” year for losing previously for performances in movies like Ridley Scott’s “Gladiator” and James Mangold’s “Walk the Line,” it’s still unfortunate – I continue to not see the appeal of “Joker.”
Zellweger’s win is even more baffling because she already got an Oscar 17 years ago for Anthony Minghella’s “Cold Mountain.” One would assume it would be a rare, weak year for female lead roles. But it’s not even that – Ana de Armas of Rian Johnson’s “Knives Out” and Lupita Nyong’o of Jordan Peele’s “Us” are still around. Better yet, give Best Actor and Best Actress to Adam Driver and Scarlett Johansson for Noah Baumbach’s “Marriage Story,” which was just one giant tour-de-force of screen acting anyway.
Brad Pitt and Laura Dern are also getting their “you’ve been around forever and haven’t won anything yet, so here’s your awards” moments as this season’s frontrunners for Supporting Actor and Supporting Actress. Dern, while fine in “Marriage Story,” was still at her best in Joyce Chopra’s “Smooth Talk,” Martha Coolidge’s “Rambling Rose,” and Alexander Payne’s “Citizen Ruth,” and her hype and SAG win for “Marriage” feels a little belated. Pitt on the other hand, has had a steady career as a good actor both blessed and cursed with good looks, distracting his potential with range. He was my favorite of the two male leads in Quentin Tarantino’s “Once Upon a Time in Hollywood,” but was anyone expecting him to keep winning over legends like Al Pacino and Joe Pesci in Martin Scorsese’s “The Irishman”?
The night ended on the most interesting note, with Bong Joon-ho’s Korean satire “Parasite” winning Best Ensemble Cast. Beating out “Once Upon a Time” and “Irishman,” the Guild showed some love for not only a well-performed feature, but also a foreign film. While the winners look underwhelming so far, at least we’re losing three weeks worth of Hollywood politics and attention seeking.