‘Hidden Figures,’ ‘Stranger Things’ triumph at SAG Awards

August 9, 2022 | WTOP's Jason Fraley recaps the SAG Awards (Jason Fraley)

WASHINGTON — “These women? They are ‘Hidden Figures’ no more.”

That’s how Taraji P. Henson accepted the top prize at the 23rd annual Screen Actors Guild Awards next to an emotional Octavia Spencer and Janelle Monáe at the Shrine Auditorium in Los Angeles on Sunday.

“The shoulders of the women that we stand on are three American heroes,” Henson told the crowd. “Without them, we would not know how to reach the stars. … These women didn’t complain about the circumstances, the issues. … They focused on solutions. … God rest his soul in peace, John Glenn!”

Thus, Henson paid touching homage to NASA mathematicians Katherine Johnson, Dorothy Vaughan and Mary Jackson, whose data-crunching put Glenn into orbit, as “Hidden Figures” won Best Ensemble over nominees “Captain Fantastic,” “Fences,” “Manchester by the Sea” and “Moonlight.”

Ironically, this year’s Oscar front-runner — Damien Chazelle’s musical “La La Land” — wasn’t even up for SAG’s top prize, likely because it doesn’t feature a large ensemble cast but rather two lead actors. After a record-tying 14 Academy Award nominations, “La La Land” has to remain the Oscar favorite.

Even so, Sunday’s victory was a very worthy feather in the cap for “Hidden Figures,” the culmination of wide critical acclaim and weeks of box-office success. Does it now have a shot at scoring an Oscar upset for Best Picture? Not necessarily, if you crunch the numbers of recent award-season history.

Since its 1995 inception, SAG has only predicted Oscar’s Best Picture half of the time: “Shakespeare in Love,” “American Beauty,” “Chicago,” “The Lord of the Rings: Return of the King,” “Crash,” “No Country for Old Men,” “Slumdog Millionaire,” “The King’s Speech,” “Argo,” “Birdman” and “Spotlight.”

Its failure rate is just as frequent, as SAG champions “Apollo 13,” “The Birdcage,” “The Fully Monty,” “Traffic,” “Gosford Park,” “Little Miss Sunshine,” “Inglorious Basterds,” “The Help” and “American Hustle” all went on to lose the Oscar to “Braveheart,” “The English Patient,” “Titanic,” “Gladiator,” “A Beautiful Mind,” “The Departed,” “The Hurt Locker,” “The Artist” and “12 Years a Slave,” respectively.

While the Best Picture implications are often a 50-50 proposition, SAG has been far more accurate in predicting the acting categories in recent years. After all, this is the Screen Actors Guild. So which performances got a bump going forward in the Oscar hunt? Some races just became very interesting.

Emma Stone (“La La Land”) got a big Oscar boost using her triple-threat skills to swipe Best Actress from Natalie Portman (“Jackie”), Amy Adams (“Arrival”), Emily Blunt (“Girl on the Train”) and Meryl Streep (“Florence Foster Jenkins”). Last year, this category correctly predicted Brie Larson (“Room”).

“Thank you so much to Damien Chazelle for this opportunity,” Stone said. “Ryan [Gosling], you’re the best. That’s just the truth. No one can argue it. …  We’re at a tricky time in the world. … I’m just so grateful to be part of a group of people that cares and that wants to reflect things back to society.”

Likewise, Denzel Washington (“Fences”) instantly became the new Oscar favorite, winning Best Actor over touted Golden Globe winner Casey Affleck (“Manchester by the Sea”), Andrew Garfield (“Hacksaw Ridge”), Ryan Gosling (“La La Land”) and Viggo Mortensen (“Captain Fantastic”).

The SAG Best Actor winner has successfully predicted the eventual Oscar winner ever year since 2003, including last year with Leonardo DiCaprio’s win for “The Revenant.” If this trend holds true, Washington would join the company of Katharine Hepburn, Jack Nicholson, Meryl Streep, Walter Brennan, Ingrid Bergman and Daniel Day Lewis as the only actors ever to win three or more Oscars.

“Tennessee Williams, Arthur Miller, Eugene O’Neill, Edward Albee and August Wilson — first,” Washington said, saluting his “Fences” playwright. “Oh, one last thing. Two [words]: Viola Davis!”

Best Supporting Actress went to favorite Viola Davis (“Fences”), who defeated Naomie Harris (“Moonlight”), Nicole Kidman (“Lion”), Octavia Spencer (“Hidden Figures”) and Michelle Williams (“Manchester by the Sea”). Last year, this category correctly predicted Alicia Vikander (“Danish Girl”).

“Denzel, what can I say? Friend and a fan,” Davis said of her director and co-star. “What August did so beautifully is he honored the average man, who happened to be a man of color. Sometimes we don’t have to shape the world and move the world and create anything that’s in the history books. The fact that we breathed and lived a life … just that means we have a story and it deserves to be told.”

Best Supporting Actor went to Mahershala Ali (“Moonlight”) over Jeff Bridges (“Hell or High Water”), Hugh Grant (“Florence Foster Jenkins”), Lucas Hedges (“Manchester by the Sea”) and Dev Patel (“Lion”). Last year’s winner, Idris Elba (“Beasts of No Nation”), wasn’t even nominated at the Oscars, awarding Mark Rylance (“Bridge of Spies”) over Globe champ Sylvester Stalone (“Creed”).

“What I’ve learned from working on ‘Moonlight’ is we see what happens when you persecute people. They fold into themselves,” Ali told the crowd. “What I was so grateful about the opportunity of playing Juan was playing a gentleman who saw a young man folding into himself as a result of the persecution of his community and taking the opportunity to uplift him and tell him that he mattered.”

Wrapping up the film categories was the non-televised category of Outstanding Stunt Ensemble, which went to “Hacksaw Ridge” over “Civil War,” “Doctor Strange,” “Jason Bourne” and “Nocturnal Animals.” Last year’s champ, “Mad Max: Fury Road,” went on to win six Oscars in technical categories.

Meanwhile, on the TV side, the big winner was Netflix’s “Stranger Things,” which won Best Drama Ensemble over “The Crown,” “Downton Abbey,” “Game of Thrones” and “Westworld.” Winona Ryder looked in shock at the show’s upset victory as the young cast (Millie Bobby Brown, Finn Wolfhard, Gaten Matarazzo, Caleb McLaughlin) danced with joy behind David Harbor’s rousing speech.

“As we act in the continuing narrative of ‘Stranger Things,’ we 1983 Midwesterners will repel bullies, we will shelter freaks, outcasts and those who have no home,” Harbor said. “We will get past the lies, hunt monsters, and when we’re at a loss amid the hypocrisy and casual violence of certain individuals and institutions, we will, as per Chief Jim Hopper, punch some people in the face when they seek to destroy the meek, the disenfranchised and the marginalized. … We thank you for this responsibility.”

The TV drama acting prizes both went to Netflix’s “The Crown,” as John Lithgow beat Sterling K. Brown (“This Is Us”), Peter Dinklage (“Game of Thrones”), Rami Malek (“Mr. Robot”) and Kevin Spacey (“House of Cards”), while Claire Foy beat Millie Bobby Brown, (“Stranger Things”), Thandie Newton (“Westworld”), Winona Ryder (“Stranger Things”) and Robin Wright (“House of Cards”).

Netflix also dominated on the TV comedy side, as Best TV Comedy Ensemble went to “Orange Is the New Black,” beating out “The Big Bang Theory,” “Blackish,” “Modern Family” and “Veep.” Notably absent was F/X’s “Atlanta,” which won Best TV Comedy and Best Actor Comedy at the Globes.

With the hilarious Donald Glover (“Atlanta”) not in the running, Best TV Comedy Actor instead went to William H. Macy (“Shameless”), who topped Anthony Anderson (“Blackish”), Tituss Burgess (“Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt”), “Ty Burrell” (“Modern Family”) and Jeffrey Tambor (“Transparent”).

Best TV Comedy Actress went to Julia Louis-Dreyfus (“Veep”) over Uzo Aduba (“Orange Is the New Black”), Jane Fonda (“Grace and Frankie”), Ellie Kemper (“Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt”) and Lily Tomlin (“Grace and Frankie”). It marked Louis-Dreyfus’ sixth SAG Award after “Veep” and “Seinfeld.”

Finally, in the TV Movie/Miniseries realm, Bryan Cranston emerged victorious for playing LBJ in HBO’s “All the Way.” Is it possible the vote tally was split between “The Night Of” stars Riz Ahmed and John Turturro and “The People vs. O.J. Simpson” stars Sterling K. Brown and Courtney B. Vance?

Either way, “People vs. O.J. Simpson” star Sarah Paulson won for her role as prosecutor Marcia Clark, besting nominees Bryce Dallas Howard (“Black Mirror”), Felicity Huffman (“American Crime”), Audra McDonald (“Lady Day at Emerson’s Bar and Grill”) and Kerry Washington (“Confirmation”).

Rounding out the TV winners was the non-televised category of Best TV Stunt Ensemble, as fan-favorite “Game of Thrones” topped “Daredevil,” “Luke Cage,” “The Walking Dead” and “Westworld.”

What was the best moment beyond all the winners? It had to be Dolly Parton cracking anatomical, self-deprecating “sag” jokes while presenting the Lifetime Achievement Award to her “9 to 5” co-star Lily Tomlin, who stuck her finger out of the mouth of her SAG Award statuette. “And that’s the truth!”

Jason Fraley

Hailed by The Washington Post for “his savantlike ability to name every Best Picture winner in history," Jason Fraley began at WTOP as Morning Drive Writer in 2008, film critic in 2011 and Entertainment Editor in 2014, providing daily arts coverage on-air and online.

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