British dames Helen Mirren & Julie Andrews dominate predictable SAG Awards
The 2007 SAG Award winners were announced on Sunday, Jan. 28. British dames dominated the evening.
Dame Helen Mirren was the expected Best Actress (or Best Female Actor) winner for her sympathetic portrayal of the U.K.'s Queen Elizabeth II in Stephen Frears' The Queen, set in the aftermath of Princess Diana's death.
That wasn't all for Dame Helen.
In the SAG Awards' television categories, she was voted Best Actress in a Television Movie or Miniseries for her portrayal of another British queen named Elizabeth: the title character in Tom Hooper's Elizabeth I, which focuses on the queen's relationship with the Earl of Leicester, played by Best Actor in a Television Movie or Miniseries winner Jeremy Irons, and the Earl of Essex, played by Hugh Dancy, who wasn't even nominated.
A side note: Both Michael Curtiz's The Private Lives of Elizabeth and Essex (1939), with Errol Flynn as the Earl of Essex, and Henry Koster's The Virgin Queen (1955), with Richard Todd as Sir Walter Raleigh, treaded on similar territory. Bette Davis played Elizabeth I in both productions.
The other British dame to cause a splash at this year's SAG Awards ceremony was Life Achievement Award winner Julie Andrews, in movies since The Americanization of Emily and Mary Poppins back in 1964.
See also: “Awards Season Double Dose: Helen Mirren as Queen Elizabeth + Mexican Directors Are U.S. Critics' Winners.”
'Little Miss Sunshine' to win Best Picture Oscar?
As unsurprising as Dame Helen Mirren's English queen wins was Forest Whitaker being named Best Actor for his performance as Uganda leader Idi Amin Dada in Kevin Macdonald's The Last King of Scotland.
The kind of ensemble piece that SAG Award voters love, Jonathan Dayton and Valerie Faris' sentimental family comedy Little Miss Sunshine was the Best Cast winner. Following on the heels of its Producers Guild Award victory, the modestly budgeted feel-good flick of the year is now considered the front-runner for the 2007 Academy Awards.
The problem with that prediction, however, is that Little Miss Sunshine failed to get a Best Director Oscar nod. The last movie to win Best Picture without a Best Director nomination was Bruce Beresford's Driving Miss Daisy 17 years ago. Although Little Miss Sunshine may indeed be on its way to top Oscar honors, it still faces strong competition on all fronts.
SAG Awards: Winners & nominations
Theatrical Motion Pictures
Best Supporting Actor
Alan Arkin, Little Miss Sunshine.
Leonardo DiCaprio, The Departed.
Jackie Earle Haley, Little Children.
Djimon Hounsou, Blood Diamond.
* Eddie Murphy, Dreamgirls.
William H. Macy.
Mary Elizabeth Winstead.
Anika Noni Rose.
* Little Miss Sunshine
Screen Actors Guild Life Achievement Award: Julie Andrews.
Best Actor in a Television Movie or Miniseries
Thomas Haden Church, Broken Trail.
Robert Duvall, Broken Trail.
* Jeremy Irons, Elizabeth I.
William H. Macy, Nightmares & Dreamscapes.
Matthew Perry, The Ron Clark Story.
Best Actor in a Drama Series
James Gandolfini, The Sopranos.
Michael C. Hall, Dexter.
* Hugh Laurie, House.
James Spader, Boston Legal.
Kiefer Sutherland, 24.
Best Actress in a Comedy Series
* America Ferrera, Ugly Betty.
Felicity Huffman, Desperate Housewives.
Julia Louis-Dreyfus, The New Adventures of Old Christine.
Megan Mullally, Will & Grace.
Mary-Louise Parker, Weeds.
Jaime Pressly, My Name Is Earl.
Best Actor in a Comedy Series
* Alec Baldwin, 30 Rock.
Steve Carell, The Office.
Jason Lee, My Name Is Earl.
Jeremy Piven, Entourage.
Tony Shalhoub, Monk.
Best Ensemble in a Drama Series (partial list)
* Grey's Anatomy
Steven Van Zandt.
Best Ensemble in a Comedy Series (partial list)
* The Office
Sundance winners: Identity theft & kibbutz coming-of-age tale
In other (borderline-related) awards season news, the 2007 Sundance Film Festival winners have been announced.
The U.S. Grand Jury Prize - Dramatic went to Christopher Zalla's Padre Nuestro (lit., “Our Father,” or “The Lord's Prayer”), a mostly Spanish-language drama about a young Mexican (Jorge Adrián Espíndola) who sets out to New York City, where his long-lost father (Jesús Ochoa) is supposed to live. Things go awry when his identity is stolen by another immigrant (Armando Hernández).
The World Cinema Jury Prize - Dramatic was given to screenwriter-director Dror Shaul's Sweet Mud. Set in a “progressive” Israeli kibbutz in the 1970s, the semi-autobiographical coming-of-age comedy-drama chronicles the struggles of a boy (Tomer Steinhof) dealing with all-around social and cultural hypocrisy as his mother (Ronit Yudkevitz) falls prey to mental illness.
See further below a partial list of the 2007 Sundance Film Festival winners.
Update: Upon its U.S. release in 2008, Padre Nuestro was rebaptized Sangre de Mi Sangre (“Blood of My Blood”).
Female politician in patriarchal Afghanistan & Brazil violence
Eva Mulvad's Enemies of Happiness, about 28-year-old female politician Malalai Joya's parliamentary victory in rabidly patriarchal Afghanistan, was named the winner of the World Cinema Jury Prize - Documentary. (It should be noted that Joya later got in trouble for denouncing the presence of warlords in the Afghan Parliament.)
The U.S. Grand Jury Prize - Documentary was handed to Jason Kohn's Manda Bala (lit. “Send a Bullet”), which also earned Heloísa Passos the documentary cinematography award. Kohn is a former research assistant to Oscar winner Errol Morris (for the documentary feature The Fog of War: Eleven Lessons from the Life of Robert S. McNamara, 2003), who has given generous praise to Manda Bala.
Less enthusiastic was the New York Sun's Darrell Hartman, who criticizes Kohn's effort for seeming “a bit too proud of its Rubik's Cube complexity. It also suffers from Tarantino syndrome: The jazzy soundtrack drowns out a woman who lost an ear, and the carefully maintained color scheme of bright blue, green, and yellow seems downright insensitive alongside grainy footage of blindfolded kidnapping victims who fear for their lives.”
Iraq War tearjerker & Irish musical
Described as a “tearjerker,” James C. Strouse's Grace Is Gone won the U.S. Audience Award - Dramatic. John Cusack stars as a man who goes on a road trip with his daughters while trying to muster up the courage to tell them that their mother has died while serving in Iraq. Strouse also took home the Waldo Salt Screenwriting Award.
The Grace Is Gone score was composed by two-time Best Director Academy Award winner Clint Eastwood (Unforgiven, 1992; Million Dollar Baby, 2004) – reportedly the first time he has taken up that task for a film he didn't write, direct, and/or star in.
Speaking of film scores, John Carney's Irish-made romantic musical Once was the Sundance audience's non-U.S. narrative pick, while David Sington's British-made In the Shadow of the Moon, about NASA's Apollo Space Program, was Sundance festivalgoers' best non-U.S. documentary.
Irene Taylor Brodsky's Hear and Now, the story of two deaf 65-year-olds who undergo cochlear implant surgery in an attempt to gain the ability to hear, received the U.S. Audience Award - Documentary.
Two performers were given Special Jury Prizes for Acting: Jess Weixler for Mitchell Lichtenstein's vagina-centered horror-comedy Teeth, and Tamara Podemski for playing a Native American trying to make ends meet in Tulsa, Oklahoma, in Sterlin Harjo's Four Sheets to the Wind.
Unimaginative indie dramas + 'excellent' documentaries
CNN's Tom Charity was mostly unimpressed with the downbeat films he saw at this year's Sundance Film Festival, including the much ballyhooed Dakota Fanning cause de scandale Hounddog. “What was lacking, almost across the board,” Charity writes, “was something to shape and define this vague malaise. Visually nondescript and overwhelmingly conventional in its language and address, American independent cinema has fallen significantly behind series TV for edge and originality.”
Kenneth Turan admired the nonfiction entries. “This year proved to be such a strong one for documentaries that several excellent works came away empty-handed,” Turan explains in the Los Angeles Times. “One such was Julien Temple's Joe Strummer: The Future Is Unwritten. An engrossing biopic about the self-described 'punk rock warlord' and legendary front man for the Clash, Unwritten reveals Strummer to have been thoughtful, charismatic and something of a visionary.”
“Also richly deserving but unrewarded,” the Los Angeles Times' Kenneth Turan continues, “was Steven Okazaki's White Light/Black Rain, a dispassionate but emotionally devastating account of the effects of the atomic bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, two bombs that ended up eventually killing more than 350,000 people. Alternating grim footage of the human damage and current interviews with those who survived, White Light/Black Rain conveys the horror of those events in unflinching detail.”
The 2007 Sundance Film Festival was held from Jan. 18–28 in Park City, Utah. Various jury members included Catherine Hardwicke, Sarah Polley, Raoul Peck, Juan Carlos Rulfo, Lynne Ramsay, and Darren Aronofsky.
Sundance Film Festival winners (partial list)
U.S. Grand Jury Prize - Dramatic: Padre Nuestro.
World Cinema Jury Prize - Dramatic: Sweet Mud, Israel.
Special World Cinema Jury Prize - Dramatic: The Legacy / L'heritage, France, dir.: Géla Babluani & Temur Babluani.
World Cinema Jury Prize - Documentary: Enemies of Happiness / Vores lykkes fjender, Denmark.
Special World Cinema Jury Prize - Documentary: Hot House, Israel, dir.: Shimon Dotan.
U.S. Grand Jury Prize - Documentary: Manda Bala.
World Cinema Audience Award - Dramatic: Once, Ireland.
World Cinema Audience Award - Documentary: In the Shadow of the Moon, United Kingdom.
U.S. Audience Award - Dramatic: Grace Is Gone.
U.S. Audience Award - Documentary: Hear and Now.
Directing Award - Dramatic: Jeffrey Blitz, Rocket Science.
Directing Award - Documentary: Sean Fine & Andrea Nix Fine, War Dance.
Waldo Salt Screenwriting Award: James C. Strouse, Grace Is Gone.
Cinematography Award - Dramatic: Benoît Debie, Joshua.
Documentary Editing Award: Hibah Sherif Frisina, Charlton Mcmillian & Michael Schweitzer, Nanking.
Special Jury Prizes for Acting: Jess Weixler, Teeth (“for a juicy and jaw-dropping performance”) & Tamara Podemski, Four Sheets to the Wind (“for a fully realized physical and emotional turn”).
Jury Prize in U.S. Short Filmmaking: Everything Will Be OK, dir.: Don Hertzfeldt.
Jury Prize in International Short Filmmaking: The Tube with a Hat, Romania, dir.: Radu Jude.
Gong Li & Jet Li top Hong Kong Film Critics Awards
The 2007 Hong Kong Film Critics Society Award winners were announced on Jan. 24.
Johnnie To's Election 2 / Triad Election, a follow-up to the Hong Kong Film Critics' 2005 winner Election, revolves around additional power struggles within Hong Kong's organized crime underworld. To also took home the Best Director prize – but for Exiled, the tale of a Macau hitman pursued by two other hitmen.
Gong Li was named Best Actress for her performance as a 10th-century Tang Dynasty empress in Curse of the Golden Flower, Zhang Yimou's $45 million mix of period spectacle and dysfunctional family drama, while Jet Li was the Best Actor for his portrayal of 19th-century martial-arts master and Chinese nationalist Huo Yuanjia in the Ronny Yu-directed biopic Fearless.
Best Film: Election 2 / Triad Election.
Best Actress: Gong Li, Curse of the Golden Flower.
Best Actor: Jet Li, Fearless.
Best Director: Johnnie To, Exiled.
Best Screenwriters: Wong Jing & Gary Tang Tak-hei, Wo Hu: Operation Undercover.
Films of Merit: After This Our Exile, Confession of Pain, Exiled, Fearless, The Heavenly Kings, Heavenly Mission, On the Edge, Wo Hu: Operation Undercover.
SAG Awards website.
Dame Julie Andrews SAG Awards quote via Variety.
Glen Hansard and Markéta Irglová Once image: Fox Searchlight Pictures.
White Light/Black Rain image: HBO.
“SAG Awards: British Dames Julie Andrews & Helen Mirren + Immigration & Identity Theft Drama Tops Sundance” last updated in August 2018.