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‘Oppenheimer,’ Lily Gladstone Win at 30th Screen Actors Guild Awards

February 25, 2024

“Oppenheimer” continued to steamroll through Hollywood’s awards season on Saturday, winning the top prize, for outstanding cast, along with awards for Cillian Murphy and Robert Downey Jr., at the 30th Screen Actors Guild Awards.

As the Academy Awards draw closer, Christopher Nolan’s blockbuster biopic — already a winner at the Golden Globes and the BAFTAs — has increasingly looked like the run-away favorite. The SAG Awards, one of the most telling Oscar predictors, will only add to the momentum for “Oppenheimer,” the lead Academy Awards nominee with 13 nods.

The SAG Awards were streamed live on Netflix, a first for a major Hollywood award show. That made for some significant tweaks to the age-old traditions of such ceremonies. There were no ads. Profanity was permitted. (“Don’t say anything you wouldn’t say in front of Oprah,” said Idris Elba.) And winners were occasionally interviewed backstage by red-carpet co-host Tan France — sometimes awkwardly, sometimes charmingly.

The SAG Awards don’t always signify Oscar success. Two of the last five winners from the guild (“The Trial of the Chicago 7” and “Black Panther”) lost at the Academy Awards. But in the past two years, all five of the top SAG prizes — best ensemble and the four acting winners — have corresponded with the eventual Oscar winners, including the ensembles for “Everything Everywhere All at Once” and “CODA.”

That could mean the SAGs offered an Oscar preview in two of the closest contests: best actor and best actress.

The night’s most thrilling win went to Lily Gladstone for female actor in a leading role in Martin Scorsese’s “Killers of the Flower Moon.” No category has been more hotly contested, with analysts evenly split between Gladstone and Emma Stone for “Poor Things.”

But Gladstone won Saturday and the crowd erupted. Stone, too, stood and vigorously applauded. More is riding on Gladstone than perhaps any other Oscar contender this year. Her win would be a first for Native Americans.

“We bring empathy into a world that so much needs it,” said Gladstone. “It’s so easy to distance ourselves. It’s so easy to close off, to stop feeling. And we all bravely keep feeling. And that humanizes people. That brings people out of the shadows. It brings visibility.”

Murphy and Paul Giamatti (“The Holdovers”) have also been seen as in a neck-and-neck contest. But Murphy has now won at the SAGs, the BAFTAs and Globes, suggesting he has the clear edge heading into the Academy Awards.

Downey Jr. and Da’Vine Joy Randolph each won for their supporting performances, likewise solidifying their status as Oscar favorites.

“Why me? Why now? Why do things seem to be going my way?” said Downey Jr., accepting his first SAG Award for a film performance. “Unlike my fellow nominees, I will never grow tired from the sound of my own voice.”

Randolph’s performance in Alexander Payne’s “The Holdovers” has been a breakthrough role for the 37-year-old actor. Now, she appears poised to win the Academy Award.

“To every actor out there still waiting in the wings for their chance, let me tell you: Your life can change in a day,” Randolph said. “It’s not a question of if but when. Keep going.”

After more than two decades airing on TNT and TBS to dwindling viewership, Netflix acquired telecast rights to the SAG Awards in early 2023. Netflix, a dominant force for years in awards season, turned host, too.

“Personally, I can’t wait to get home and have Netflix recommend this show to me based on all the other stuff that I watch myself in,” joked Idris Elba, the night’s de facto emcee.

The TV awards went largely to the same shows that have cleaned up at the Emmys and Golden Globes: “The Bear” (best comedy series ensemble, Jeremy Allen White, Ayo Edebiri ); “Beef” (Ali Wong, Steven Yeun); and the cast of “Succession.”

One exception was Pedro Pascal, who won best male actor in a drama series for “The Last of Us” over a trio of “Succession” stars.

“This is wrong for a number of reasons,” said a visibly stunned Pascal. “I’m a little bit drunk. I thought I could get drunk.”

This year’s SAG Awards follows a grueling months-long strike in which the SAG-AFTRA union fought a bitter battle over a number of issues. Much of the work stoppage was prompted over changes in the film and TV industry brought on by streaming and a sea change led by Netflix.

“Your solidarity ignited workers around the world, triggering what forever will be remember as ‘the hot labor summer,'” said Fran Drescher, president of SAG-AFTRA. “This was a seminal moment in our union’s history.”

The new streaming platform was sure to put even more of a spotlight on one of the most closely-watched predictors of the Academy Awards. Oscar voting wraps Tuesday.

Barbra Streisand held the audience in rapt attention while accepting a lifetime achievement award, presented by Jennifer Aniston and Bradley Cooper.

“I remember dreaming of being an actress as a teenager sitting in my bed in Brooklyn with a pint of coffee ice cream and a movie magazine,” said Streisand, who recalled being transfixed by “my first crush,” Marlon Brando.

Streisand also took a moment to celebrate the Jewish pioneers of Hollywood.

“Now I dream of a world where such prejudice is a thing of the past,” she said.

Saturday’s show was one of Netflix’s most significant forays yet into live streaming events. Netflix has previously hosted a live Chris Rock comedy special, a celebrity golf tournament and a live reunion “Love Is Blind” episode that was marred by technical difficulties. But Netflix is gearing up for more. On March 3, it will stream a live tennis event.

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By JAKE COYLE AP Film Writer

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