In a flurry of wins at the Screen Actors Guild Awards and the Sundance Film Festival, diversity made a comeback. Over just a few hours Saturday night, the SAG Awards and Sundance showered their honors on a parade of performers and films that presented a stark contrast to the racial crisis that has plagued the Oscars.
Shortly after the screen actors handed out awards to Queen Latifah, Uzo Aduba, Viola Davis and Idris Elba (twice), Nate Parker's Sundance sensation "The Birth of a Nation," a drama about Nat Turner's slave rebellion, swept the festival's awards. The two ceremonies, in Los Angeles and Park City, Utah, offered a night of reprieve from weeks of rancor over systemic inequality in the movie business.
"Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to diverse TV," said Elba in his third trip on stage as a presenter at the SAG Awards. His first two were to accept awards for his supporting performance in the Netflix child soldier drama "Beasts of No Nation" and for his lead performance in the BBC miniseries "Luther."
At Sundance, Parker took the festival's grand jury prize and its audience award.
The SAG Awards top honor, best ensemble in a film, went to the newspaper drama "Spotlight," which came into Saturday badly in need of momentum. Accepting the most outstanding ensemble award in a comedy series for Netflix's "Orange Is the New Black," co-star Laura Prepon gestured to the cast standing behind her. "Look at this stage," said Prepon. "This is what we talk about when we talk about diversity."
SAG winners for individual performances the last three years have corresponded with eventual Academy Award winners. Thus Leonardo DiCaprio ("The Revenant"), Brie Larson ("Room") and Alicia Vikander ("The Danish Girl") all cemented their status as Oscar favorites. Each won, as expected.
Vigoda bid goodbye with humor
Nobody who knew "The Godfather" and "Barney Miller" actor Abe Vigoda made mourners smile through their tears Sunday faster than comedian and friend Gilbert Gottfried. "This is the 20th time we buried Abe Vigoda," Gottfried announced. It was a reference to a running joke about whether Vigoda, the character actor best known for his portrayal of Mafia soldier Sal Tessio in "The Godfather," was dead or alive — the result of a false report of his death decades ago. The true end came Tuesday when Vigoda died in his sleep at 94 at his daughter's New Jersey home, where he went to escape the East Coast blizzard.