We must say, it's fun when our jaws actually drop.
The 18th Annual Screen Actors Guild Awards—which have no host and therefore tend not to be the most, er, entertaining of award shows—were pretty much going along as per usual Sunday, a lovely tribute to Mary Tyler Moore being the only thing to distinguish this ceremony from any other.
But just when were ready to deem SAG the union most fearful of shaking things up (Alec Baldwin six years in a row, really?), the night got interesting.
Here were the five biggest surprises:
1. George Clooney Descends: With Clooney already a Critics' Choice and Golden Globe Award winner for The Descendants, most eyes were on the ladies' race to see if the pendulum would swing in Viola Davis' or Meryl Streep's direction. So consider us sacré bleu'd when The Artist's Jean Dujardin beat out Clooney for Outstanding Performance by a Male Actor in a Leading Role. True, Dujardin also won a Globe, but that was in the musical/comedy category, and we never saw Sherlock Holmes or Sweeney Todd swoop in to best the King Georges of the world when it counted. When it comes down to it, though, both Dujardin and Clooney gave marvelously subtle performances—not talking and making us care is hard, people!—in their respective films and both give great acceptance speeches (although if Dujardin doesn't start thanking Uggie, we're going to have to write an angry letter). And, even more importantly, the Oscar race for Best Actor just got interesting.
2. The Help Reopens for Business: It was a lock for a best picture Oscar nominee, but the heartwrenching-and-warming film based on Kathryn Stockett's bestseller had rather fallen by the wayside as The Artist and The Descendants jockeyed for front-runner status. It's a whole new ball game now (sorry, not for you, Moneyball), however, as The Help won the SAG Awards' top prize, Outstanding Performance by an Ensemble in a Motion Picture. Unlike some presidential candidates, we love seeing the wealth get spread around, don't you?!
3. Grease Stain: Really, SAG? Jeff Conaway, already snubbed by the Emmys' in memoriam segment (yeah, we get that you can't include everybody, sure, whatever) and relegated to a mention on the Emmy website, got the shaft tonight, too. The late star of Grease and Taxi passed last May—giving both talent-honoring ceremonies a chance to include him. But we were awfully surprised that SAG didn't make a point of getting Conaway in tonight's tribute segment, especially considering the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences dropped the ball last year. (Also not making the montage: Welcome Back, Kotter's Robert Hegyes, who died last week.)
4. Times They Aren't A-Changin': OK, we were a little surprised at the voters' lack of horizon-broadening. The casts of Boardwalk Empire and Modern Family won for the second straight year, as did Boardwalk's Steve Buscemi and Hot in Cleveland's Betty White (once we get, but...) and Alec Baldwin. Oh, wait, Baldwin just won for the sixth straight year. We love him, but are screeners getting lost in the mail or something? There's a lot of talent out there, actors.
5. And...Scene: Instead of pick up her second award in two weeks for Mildred Pierce, Kate Winslet decided to skip tonight. As did the winner for male actor in a TV movie or miniseries, Paul Giamatti, who unlike Winslet didn't win either the Globe or Emmy for Too Big to Fail and maybe just figured it wasn't worth getting the tux out. Regardless, both Winslet and Giamatti have got to be thinking, "Wow, didn't I shoot that years ago?" and perhaps decided that the third time would be more of a hassle than a charm.
(Originally published on Jan. 30, 2012 at 5:30 a.m. PT)