Argo wrapped up a hat-trick weekend last night, winning the top prize for Best Ensemble Cast from the Screen Actors Guild. The surprising win came after a victory from the Producer’s Guild of America the night before, with both voting bodies opting for Ben Affleck’s historical drama over the supposed Oscar frontrunner Lincoln. And with another likely win on the way for Argo from the Director’s Guild next week, the film will have the trifecta of guild wins that almost always notates an eventual Best Picture winner.
Lincoln certainly wasn’t under-represented, taking home awards for Best Actor (Daniel Day-Lewis) and Best Supporting Actor (Tommy Lee Jones), though the latter’s absence from the ceremony may not bode well for his chances in the eyes of Oscar voters. Also making noise were Silver Linings Playbook and Les Miserables, netting prizes for Best Actress (Jennifer Lawrence) and Best Supporting Actress (Anne Hathaway), respectively.
But Argo was the night’s big winner, especially considering its relative absence from the other acting categories. Both Lincoln and Silver Linings Playbook seemed likely Ensemble Cast bets, each bearing nominations in three of the four acting categories. (Silver Linings got all four at the Oscars.) Argo‘s sole acting nomination came in the form of a nod for Alan Arkin, who has been scoring nominations all season for his hilariously off-the-wall supporting actor portrayal.
Backlash was immediately running high for Argo following the victory, with fans of other films taking to internet message boards to air their grievances. That’s hardly surprising, from my experience: once a Best Picture frontrunner emerges, the film lucky (or unlucky) enough to be carrying that title comes under fire from viewers believing another movie is more deserving. But despite the strong ensemble casts in Silver Linings Playbook and Lincoln, Argo makes a lot of sense alongside former winners in the category. From The Help to Inglourious Basterds to Slumdog Millionaire to The Return of the King, SAG often champions a cast with across-the-board effectiveness and depth over one with a few dominating lead performances. And while no one could argue against Lincoln‘s astounding depth of character actors and ensemble players, it’s widely accepted that Day-Lewis is the film’s driving force. Argo, on the other hand, has a cast that lives and dies as a unit, and I’ve seen writers choose everyone from Affleck to Arkin to John Goodman to Bryan Cranston to Scoot McNairy as the film’s best-in-show. Since most of these actors can’t hope to score nominations on their own, it just seems right that the film gets a Best Ensemble award.
Elsewhere, the TV awards paid tribute to 30 Rock, which will end its seven-season run this coming Thursday. Tina Fey took home Best Actress in a Comedy Series, while Alec Baldwin made his clean-sweep a reality, winning Best Actor in a Comedy Series for the seventh year in a row. Meanwhile, Downton Abbey and Modern Family won the TV ensemble awards, and Argo‘s Bryan Cranston scored his own SAG Award for his unparalleled work in Breaking Bad.
Click here for a full list of winners and check back next weekend for coverage of the DGA Awards and further analysis of where the Oscar season is headed.