January 18, 2014

OSCARLAND: “American Hustle” Takes Top Prize At the SAG Awards


AMERICAN HUSTLE walked away with the big prize at tonight’s Screen Actors Guild Awards, winning the accolade for Best Ensemble Cast of a Motion Picture.  Although the Ensemble Cast Award is commonly considered SAG’s equivalent of a “Best Picture” honor, it really isn’t, because not every Oscar contender is notable for its ensemble (GRAVITY is probably the year’s best example of one that’s not), and this year only 3 of the 9 Oscar-nominated Best Pictures received SAG Ensemble nominations:  Hustle, 12 YEARS A SLAVE and DALLAS BUYERS CLUB (joined by DALLAS: OSAGE COUNTY and THE BUTLER).  Nevertheless, SAG is the first Hollywood Guild to make its choices known, and its members make up the single largest voting bloc of Academy voters, so they’re a good group to have on your side.  It was especially notable that while Hustle is  considered more of an “actors movie” in some quarters than 12 Years, it was the latter that won an individual acting award, yet still lost the Ensemble prize.

The only individual award with any real meaning to the Oscar race was Lupita Nyong’o beating Jennifer Lawrence for Best Supporting Actress, making the acting race that was already toughest to call even closer, with Nyong’o perhaps edging ahead of Lawrence for now.  Cate Blanchett, Matthew McConaughey and Jared Leto all cemented their frontrunner status, although it’s worth noting that neither Amy Adams nor Leonardo DiCaprio received SAG nominations.  (In a surprisingly tight race, Blanchett took Best Acceptance Speech from McConaughey, trumping his somewhat impenetrable enthusiasm with a tart commentary on it when the show threatened to cut her off.  Meanwhile, both McConaughey and Leto were careful to mention the ravages of AIDS in their speeches, after they were criticized for not doing so at the Golden Globes.)

Tomorrow’s Producers Guild award will be critically important to early momentum in the Oscar race, and it’s one 12 Years, in particular, badly needs to win.

SAG also gives out television awards, which are so distant in time from the Emmys that they have little precursor value.  This year, in any case, they went to the usual suspects, casts and mostly the stars of BREAKING BAD, MODERN FAMILY and BEHIND THE CANDELABRA.

About the Author

Mitch Salem
MITCH SALEM has worked on the business side of the entertainment industry for 20 years, as a senior business affairs executive and attorney for such companies as NBC, ABC, USA, Syfy, Bravo, and BermanBraun Productions, and before that, at the NY law firm of Weil, Gotshal & Manges. During all that, he has more or less constantly been going to the movies and watching TV, and writing about both since the 1980s. His film reviews also currently appear on and In addition, he is co-writer of an episode of the television series "Felicity."