January 20, 2020 at 6:06 pm EST | by John Paul King
SAG winners shake up Oscar race
Cast members from “Parasite” speaking to press backstage after their SAG Award win as Best Cast Performance in a Motion Picture (Image via YouTube)

While its recent announcement of a decidedly non-diverse slate of major nominees has drawn a firestorm of criticism for the Oscars, Sunday night’s presentation of the Screen Actors Guild Awards for 2019 served as a reminder that lack of inclusion is not just an Academy problem – it’s a Hollywood problem.

While the nominees going into the SAG presentation were more diverse than the roster for the upcoming Academy Awards (due partly to SAG’s recognition of television as well as film work), the balance was still skewed highly in a straight, white direction. Out of 40 total nominees in the individual acting categories, only 7 were for people of color; only one – for “Fleabag” actor Andrew Scott – was for a performer who identifies openly as LGBTQ.

Even so, SAG struck a powerful blow for diversity with its choice of winner for Best Performance by a Cast in a Motion Picture (SAG’s equivalent of the Best Picture category), awarding the prize to the all-Korean ensemble of filmmaker Bong Joon-ho’s “Parasite.” One of the year’s most critically-lauded movies, it is one of the few non-English-language films to be nominated in Oscar’s Best Picture category, and its surprise win at the SAGs can be seen as increasing the odds of a potential Academy victory, as well.

Some of the evening’s other choices in the film categories may likewise impact Oscar predictions, though in most cases the winners seemed to be cementing their places as front-runners in their respective categories.

Best Leading Male and Female Actor were Joaquin Phoenix (for “Joker”) and Renée Zellweger (for “Judy”), respectively, with both having already accumulated enough wins this award season to make them clear favorites to take home Oscar gold.

In the Supporting Male Actor category, Brad Pitt took home the prize for his role as a career stunt man in Quentin Tarantino’s “Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood,” making him another likely front runner at the Academy Awards.

The win which might throw the biggest wrench into handicapping efforts for Oscar performance categories came with the win by Laura Dern (“Marriage Story”) for Best Supporting Female Actor. While each of the nominees for the Academy’s equivalent category has their supporters, none have been clearly identified as a front-runner, and Dern’s win last night may give her an edge at the Oscars.

In the television categories, Best Drama and Comedy Ensemble awards went to “The Crown” and “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel,” respectively, with “Maisel” star Tony Shalhoub winning as Best Male Actor in a Comedy Series, as well.

Best Female Actor in a Comedy Series went to Phoebe Waller-Bridge (“Fleabag”), while Best Male Actor in a Drama was awarded to Peter Dinklage (“Game of Thrones”) and Best Female Actor in a Drama was won by Jennifer Aniston (“The Morning Show”).

Rounding out the television category, “Fosse/Verdon” star Michelle Williams continued her awards sweep for her performance as Broadway legend Gwen Verdon as Best Female Actor in a TV Movie or Miniseries, and co-star Sam Rockwell took the prize as Best Male Actor in a TV Movie or Miniseries.

The evening’s other moments of note included the presentation by Leonardo DiCaprio of the 56th SAG Life Achievement Award to veteran actor Robert DeNiro, and SAG-AFTRA Foundation president Courtney B. Vance’s announcement of a $250,000 matching donation that Marilyn and Jeffrey Katzenberg had pledged in response to his own call to raise an additional $1.5 million for the foundation.

Katzenberg told reporters backstage at the ceremony, “The bedrock of what we do are actors and actresses — without them, we have nothing. So, my appreciation for them, and the inspirational goal that our chairman has set, seemed like the right time for us to step up.”

You can find the complete list of nominees and winners from last night’s SAG Awards at the SAG website.

© Copyright Brown, Naff, Pitts Omnimedia, Inc. 2020. All rights reserved.