So, a movie without one recognizable actor, let alone any Hollywood actors wins the Best Ensemble Award during tonight's Screen Actor's Guild Awards. That's pretty damn amazing.
Think about it.
Not only did "Slumdog Millionaire" beat other ensemble films such as "Milk" or "Frost/Nixon," it beat "Doubt" which cinematic success is based only on the powerful performances of Meryl Streep, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Amy Adams and Viola Davis. And, surprisingly, it overcame its main competition at this year's upcoming Oscar show, "The Curious Case of Benjamin Button." A flick that only featured a multitude of small performances by working actors (always helpful when seeking union love) as well as respected nominees Brad Pitt, Taraji P. Henson, Cate Blanchett, Tilda Swinton and Julia Ormand [Thanks for the correction hoffmry].
And yes, "Slumdog" won.
On Friday, I participated in a panel at the Los Angeles Times (which will be online Monday) with The Hollywood Reporter's Gold Rush blogger TL Stanley and The Envelope's Tom O'Neil, Pete Hammond and Scott Feinberg where we discussed the previous day's Oscar nominations. The more we broke down the major categories, the more I got a sinking feeling that "Buttons" could overtake the underdog feel good movie of the year. With 13 nominations and two acting nods among them, "Button" has historical markers that actually make it appear to be the frontrunner. After this weekend, those markers are moot. "Slumdog" has now won PGA and SAG and overcome great odds to do so. SAG is the most important because the largest branch of the Academy are actors and almost all of them are in the Screen Actor's Guild. The door isn't closed shut on "Button," but it would be a big surprise if it beat Danny Boyle's crowd pleaser.
As for the other awards, SAG's winners will certainly affect all the Oscar races except for Best Supporting Actor which is obviously a stone cold lock for Heath Ledger.
Meryl Streep's win for Best Actress wasn't a huge surprise, but if Kate Winslet had won for "Revolutionary Road," conventional wisdom would have made her a lock to win the Oscar for Best Actress where her "Reader" performance is nominated instead. Now, after Streep's joyous and self-deprecating speech tonight (yes these things actually influence voters) it really is down to the two of them for the shiny gold plated statue.
Supporting Actress, on the other hand, is still up in the air with Winslet winning here and at the Globes for "The Reader," but, as just noted, receiving the Best Actress nod at the Oscars for the same performance. The question is whether Penelope Cruz, long thought to be the frontrunner before Winslet's "Reader" came on the scene, can pull off her first win or whether Viola Davis ("Doubt") or Marisa Tomei ("The Wrestler") will triumph instead. Unfortunately, word is Cruz will be out of town for most of the month working on a new film and be unavailable to do any last minute campaigning. It sounds minor, but that could seriously open the door for Davis or Tomei.
In accepting the Best Actor Award tonight, Sean Penn bluntly ripped the media for trying to create a "dogfight" at the Oscars between himself and good buddy Mickey Rourke. Beyond the fact he unintentionally insulted his three fellow nominees by insinuating they didn't have a chance, he brought more attention to a race that after tonight really isn't a dogfight. As much as Rourke's Golden Globes win in this category was a magical moment he needed to get the same results with SAG to truly have a shot at beating Penn for the Oscar. At this point, a Rourke win would be a true upset. So, unless Penn says something ill-timed in public over the next three weeks (which there's always a chance of), he's still the clear favorite at this point.
As for Hollywood's Oscar consultants, the clock is ticking to the Feb. 17 deadline for members to submit their ballots. Who will spend? Who will give up? Who thinks they've got it in the bag? So, much to discuss....