Sunday, January 27, 2008

SAG = Sopranos Age Gracefully

First of all, let me say that Sunday night's presentation of the 14th Screen Actor's Guild Awards was a very good show; and while I'm unsure of the status of the writer's strike's affect on future 2007 film and television honors, if it was the last time we're going to see all of these beautiful people together in the same room for a while, it wasn't a bad way to go out. There were a few surprises (namely Ruby Dee's win, which considerably raises her chances of winning the Oscar), but the real highlight was the class and sophistication that emanated from the screen. Genuine, heartfelt and funny speeches from winners like Daniel-Day Lewis, Julie Christie, Javier Bardem, and No Country cast spokesman Josh Brolin, tear-inducing tributes to fallen stars (Lewis' Ledger dedication in particular), and a real collective sense of actor comraderie that seemed more heightened than previous years made for one refreshing telecast.

Aside from that, the theme of the night was certainly honoring seasoned veterans of the industry. In addition to Dee and Christie's wins, obligatory oldest actor in the room Mickey Rooney received a standing ovation from his peers, and longtime scene-stealer Charles Durning claimed a Lifetime Achievement Award. Perhaps the most telling example of such was the recognition of the stars of The Sopranos. The brilliant HBO drama, which revolutionized scripted television for me and the rest of the world, ended its ten-year run with its sixth and final season this past year. And while I normally despise it when actors and works are rewarded simply due to age and/or longevity (it cheapens the honor to more of a parting gift), This is one instance where the recognition was well deserved.

Both James Gandolfini and Edie Falco were awarded for their leading roles in the drama series, and the entire cast walked away with Best Ensemble. While different people have different opinions about the way the groundbreaking show chose to play out its final act (I personally see it as genius in retrospect), no one can deny the caliber of the performances that graced the series for six seasons. Gandolfini crafted one of the most iconic TV personalities of our time, and greatly stretched the depth and range of his character last year. Falco, by far the finest actor on the show, stayed true to the conflicted nature of her screen persona to the end, in one of the most harmonious matches of actor and role I've ever had the pleasure of watching on the small screen.

It was a thrill to see New Jersey's first family get top honors from fellow members of the industry for their last hurrah. I rarely watch television, let alone dip into analyzing it for writing purposes, but The Sopranos has always felt different to me. Soon after becoming an instant fan, I figured out why: it's wonderfully cinematic. As a whole, the show feels like one of the greatest movies I've ever seen, filled with compelling drama, Oscar-worthy acting, potent storylines, and resonant themes. I'm sad to see it go, but I'm glad to see I'm not the only one who feels that way.

Complete list of winners from the 14th Annual Screen Actor's Guild Awards:


Male Actor in a Drama Series: James Gandolfini, "The Sopranos"
Female Actror in a Drama Series: Edie Falco, "The Sopranos"
Male Actor in Mini Series/TV: Kevin Kline, "As You Like It"
Female Actor in Mini Series/TV: Queen Latifah, "Life Support"
Male Actor in a Comedy Series: Alec Baldwin, "30 Rock"
Female Actor in a Comedy Series: Tina Fey, "30 Rock"
Drama Series Cast: "The Sopranos"
Comedy Series Cast: "The Office"

Male Lead Actor: Daniel Day-Lewis, "There Will Be Blood"
Female Lead Actor: Julie Christie, "Fiona"
Male Supporting Actor: Javier Bardem, "No Country For Old Men"
Female Supporting Actor: Ruby Dee, "American Gangster"
Outstanding Performance for a Cast: "No Country For Old Men"

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