Review: 14th annual SAG Awards

Bottom line: The awards show finally went on, with scant reference to the strike.

More SAG Awards coverage:
'Sopranos,' 'No Country' take top honors
Winners' reactions
Show review
Winners list & photo gallery

8-10:02 p.m.
Sunday, Jan. 27

One award show does not a season make, except possibly this year, when Sunday night's SAG Awards might have been the only chance we get this year to see red carpets, drop-dead gowns, emotional acceptance speeches and a lifetime achievement award. Fortunately, the SAG awards had all of the above squeezed into its traditional two-hour telecast.

Nearly as suspenseful as who would win the Actor statue was what would be said about the ongoing writers strike, which already has derailed the Golden Globes and the People's Choice shows and threatens to do the same for the Oscars.

As it turned out, the WGA was mostly ignored.

SAG president Alan Rosenberg alluded to it briefly as he introduced WGA West president Patric Verrone. Tina Fey, winner for female actor in a comedy series, thanked actors for supporting the strike as she exited. Outside of that -- and an oblique reference to the importance of unions by winning female movie actor Julie Christie -- it was business as usual at the Shrine.

And business was good, sometimes very good. You had to get a little misty when octogenarian Charles Durning tackled the few steps to the stage to accept SAG's Life Achievement Award. Humble yet eloquent, bright lights reflecting off his regal but unpowdered forehead, he called the moment "a dream come true."

"I'm just getting the hang of it," he said, quoting Sir Ralph Richardson on the craft of acting. Had he let it, the standing ovation could have gone all night.

Another memorable and poignant moment occurred when Daniel Day-Lewis, winner for male movie actor, turned his acceptance speech into a short tribute to Heath Ledger, who died last week at 28.

At the other extreme was veteran Mickey Rooney, who never met a mike he didn't love. It took at least a couple of minutes to figure out he was onstage as a presenter, not an accepter.

On several occasions, presenters struggled with the words on the teleprompter. That's no sin, of course, but it made the introductions sound wooden, which is probably the last thing you'd expect from people who are particularly skilled at making written words come alive.

Overall, acceptance speeches were heartfelt and mostly without the annoying (for viewers) laundry list of thank-yous. And there were fewer of them, as well, because three of the 10 awards to individuals were won by absentee actors (Kevin Kline, Queen Latifah and Alec Baldwin).

The event also marked the 75th anniversary of SAG. Blair Underwood appeared three times to introduce brief clips that summarized guild accomplishments in economic and social justice. It was a nice touch -- informative without being overly self-congratulatory.

The 75th anniversary theme was reflected in the production design of John Shaffner and Joe Stewart, who turned the stage into an art deco palace. The few overhead shots were so captivating that you wished director Jeff Margolis had taken several more. At the same time, you had to credit Margolis with staying with the action and, particularly, getting the right reaction shot just about every time.

14th annual SAG Awards
Jeff Margolis Prods. in association with SAG

Executive producer/director: Jeff Margolis
Producer: Kathy Connell
Supervising producers: Gloria Fujita O'Brien, Mick McCullough
Writer: Stephen Pouliot
Production designers: John Shaffner, Joe Stewart
Lighting: Jeffrey Engel
Musical director: Lenny Stack
Art directors: Keaton S. Walker, Keith Greco
Executive in charge of production: Benn Fleishman