Oppenheimer dominates ahead of Oscars


LOS ANGELES  -  Oppenheimer continued its dominance of awards season as it scored several major prizes at the Screen Actors Guild (SAG) Awards on Saturday night. The presti­gious prize for best performance by a cast at the SAG Awards is historically a strong predictor for the Oscars, and makes “Op­penheimer” a formidable frontrunner for best picture. Christopher Nolan’s epic drama about the father of the atomic bomb also took the awards for best actor for Cillian Murphy, who plays the titular scientist, and best supporting actor for Robert Downey Jr, portraying his bitter ri­val. “Thank you for the invitation to play a genuine part in making this scarily impor­tant film,” said Kenneth Branagh, speaking on behalf of the cast. The mood at the gala was celebratory all round, as members of SAG-AFTRA -- the union that repre­sents some 120,000 performers, includ­ing A-list stars -- congregated in numbers for the first time since the strike ended in November. Branagh recalled how the film’s cast had walked out of their Lon­don premiere last July as the work stop­page was about to begin. “We went from the red carpet and we didn’t see the film that night. We happily went in the direc­tion of solidarity with your good selves. “So this, this is a full circle moment for us,” he said, to loud applause. The guild ultimately extracted hard-fought gains in­cluding better pay and protections against artificial intelligence (AI) from studios in­cluding Disney and Netflix. “You survived the longest strike in our union’s history with courage and conviction,” said SAG-AFTRA president Fran Drescher. Warning that AI could “entrap us in a matrix where none of us know what’s real,” Drescher said “seminal” gains made in talks would “set the trajectory for many generations to come.” “Oppenheimer” has been re­lentlessly scooping up awards all season. The movie has already won top prizes at the Golden Globes, Critics Choice Awards, Directors Guild of America Awards, and Britain’s BAFTAs. It now adds the top SAG-AFTRA award for best cast, which has led to recent best picture Oscar wins for movies such as “Parasite,” “CODA” and “Everything Everywhere All at Once.” Many of the same actors who vote for the SAG Awards also make up the largest vot­ing bloc for the Academy Awards, which will be held this year on March 10. “Op­penheimer” saw off “Barbie,” “Killers of the Flower Moon,” “American Fiction” and “The Color Purple” for top honors. In the best actress category, Lily Glad­stone (“Killers”) bested her main rival Emma Stone (“Poor Things”) in a closely watched result that throws that Oscars race wide open. The Indigenous actress, who portrays an Osage woman being ex­ploited by nefarious white neighbors in Martin Scorsese’s 1920s-set epic, began and ended her acceptance speech in her native Blackfeet language. Supporting ac­tress prizes have been going consistently this season to Da’Vine Joy Randolph (“The Holdovers”), and Saturday’s gala was no different. And Barbra Streisand received a lifetime achievement award, earning a rapturous standing ovation in a rare pub­lic appearance for the 81-year-old.

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