Civil rights drama The Help got a leg up in the Oscar race recently when the movie won three awards from the Screen Actors Guild,including best cast in a surprise over silent movie romance The Artist.
The Help,which came into the show with four nominations,more than any other film,also earned its star Viola Davis the SAG award for best actress,while Octavia Spencer was named top supporting actress. They both played maids who face discrimination in the film set in Mississippi during the 1960s. Davis thanked another African-American actress,Cicely Tyson,who inspired her as a child and was in the audience. Davis talked of dreaming big as a child when she wanted to become an actress. She encouraged others to do so,too. Dream big and dream fierce, she said. Davis also took the opportunity to remind the celebrities in attendance,including A-listers George Clooney,Brad Pitt,Angelina Jolie and Meryl Streep,as well as TV audiences,that change is still necessary in current U.S. culture.
The stain of racism and sexism is not just for people of colour or women, she said. Its all of our burden. All of us,and we can,absolutely all of us,we can inspire change. Silent movie The Artist could only claim one trophy. Jean Dujardin was named best actor in a drama for his role as a fading screen star at the end of the talkies who is ultimately saved by love.
Dujardin,who beat out Clooney and Pitt in the category,seemed genuinely surprised as he held his statue and thanked SAG. Like Davis,he noted that as a kid he was always a dreamer and said his teachers called him Jean of the moon.
I was always dreaming, he said. I realise now that I never stopped dreaming. Thank you very much. Others winning SAG film honours included Christopher Plummer for supporting actor. Plummer,82,who plays an elderly man who reveals his homosexuality,much to the chagrin of his family,thanked his fellow actors from the stage,calling them a wacky but wonderful bunch of artistes.
SAGs film awards are closely watched for their impact on Oscars because actors make up the biggest voting group at the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences that picks winners. The Academy Awards take place in Los Angeles on February 26.
Coming into the SAG Awards,The Artist had been favoured by pundits because it has claimed a string of victories in recent weeks at the Golden Globe and Critics Choice honours,as well as among industry groups like the producers and directors guilds. However,pundits may now have to re-calculate their odds back toward The Help with its SAG wins. Another key Oscar contender,The Descendants,was shut out by SAG voters.