Birdman soars at SAG awards
BIRDMAN, a satirical film about acting in the unforgiving world of show business, won top honours from Hollywood's actors on Sunday, in an important show of support for its march towards the best picture Oscar.
The actors from Birdman won best ensemble cast in a motion picture from the Screen Actors Guild (SAG), a day after the film from Mexican director Alejandro Inarritu prevailed at the Producers Guild awards.
While the SAG award for the best ensemble cast does not always translate to a best picture win at the Academy Awards, it does indicate that actors, the largest voting bloc for the Oscars, favour it over another contender, the coming-of-age tale Boyhood.
Michael Keaton, whose own uneven career trajectory mirrors the travails of Birdman protagonist Riggan Thomson, said he was sure the 100,000 SAG members found a kindred spirit in the film.
"I think actors loved this movie for showing the courage the actors had, going out there and laying it out on the line," Keaton said. "I think that is why respectfully they thought as a group we deserved to win the prize."
Birdman could cement its front-runner status for the Feb 22 Academy Awards if it takes the top Directors Guild Award in two weeks.
The individual acting Oscars appear to be sewn up following the SAG awards, which went to the four artists who won Golden Globes two weeks ago: Julianne Moore, Eddie Redmayne, Patricia Arquette and J. K. Simmons.
SAG members prized lead performances by two actors portraying extreme illness.
Moore won best actress for her role as a woman with early-onset Alzheimer's in Still Alice, while British actor Redmayne took best actor for his portrayal of physicist Stephen Hawking, disabled by motor neuron disease, in The Theory Of Everything.
Boyhood, from director Richard Linklater, was believed to be a favourite for the Oscar best picture just days ago as support at the Academy swelled for his tenacious project - filming a boy's life over 12 years with the same actors, and with little backing from Hollywood. Arquette won the best supporting actress trophy for her role as the single mother, her first SAG in six nominations.
"This little movie is not about the most exceptional person on earth...this movie is about human beings and bringing real life onto the screen," said Arquette.
Simmons, an actor with a long resume in television and film, was honoured for his portrayal as the intense music teacher of a young jazz drummer in the independent film Whiplash.
In the television awards, it was a particularly strong night for streaming company Netflix. Its women's prison comedy, Orange Is The New Black, won best comedy ensemble and best actress for Uzo Aduba.
Kevin Spacey won best actor in a drama series for his conniving congressman Frank Underwood in the political thriller House Of Cards. But it was also a big night for recognising diversity in Hollywood, a much-debated topic this awards season, with black actresses taking two of the top acting honours.
In addition to Aduba, Viola Davis won best actress in a drama series as the lawyer in How To Get Away With Murder.