Crime caper pays off at SAG awards
THE cast of the 1970s crime caper American Hustle grooved its way to the top prize, Outstanding Performance by a Cast in a Motion Picture, from the Screen Actors Guild (SAG) on Saturday, in a key test of the film's Oscar mettle six weeks ahead of a likely competitive race for the Academy Awards.
American Hustle, directed by David Russell, has been hailed for the cast's performances, although it won no individual acting awards and only Jennifer Lawrence was nominated for her supporting role. It prevailed over another presumed Oscar front runner, 12 Years A Slave, which took home only a best supporting actress trophy.
Australian Cate Blanchett won best actress for her role as a socialite who suffers a breakdown in Woody Allen's Blue Jasmine, while best actor went to Matthew McConaughey for his turn as an unlikely Aids activist in Dallas Buyers Club.
Both actors are the clear front runners for best acting Oscars after winning the Golden Globes on Jan 12. However, SAG awards are honours that actors relish because they come from their peers.
In what is widely considered one of the best years for quality films in recent memory, SAG and other guild awards to be handed out in the next two weeks could collectively steer the race in favour of one film for the industry's highest honour, the best picture Oscar, on March 2.
The SAG ceremony is one of the most closely watched of the Hollywood awards season because the guild makes up the largest voting group - or around 20 per cent of the 6,000 members of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences - that votes for the Oscars.
Bradley Cooper accepted the best ensemble cast award on behalf of a line-up that included Christian Bale and Amy Adams, in addition to Lawrence. All four of them are nominated in the four acting Oscar categories, a repeat feat by Russell after his hit, Silver Linings Playbook, last year.
"He is an actor's director," said Cooper. "That notion is tossed around; He is the embodiment of it. He's the reason why all of us wanted to become actors when we were children."
American Hustle is a romp through a loose 1970s New York and tells the story of petty con artists who are caught and forced to collaborate with the Federal Bureau of Investigation in a sting operation, inspired by the real-life Abscam case.
It won 10 Oscar nominations on Thursday, co-leading the field with space thriller Gravity, basically a one-woman show starring Sandra Bullock as a stranded astronaut, which is most recognised for its technical innovation.