The SAG Awards were handed out in Hollywood Saturday night, in what is often seen as a reliable Oscar predictor for the Academy Awards. "American Hustle" took only one SAG trophy, but it was the coveted one for cast award, nudging the 70s and 80s movie drama ahead of Oscar season's months-long front-runner, "12 Years a Slave" in what is proving to be a tight race.
The 20th annual Screen Actors Guild Awards understandably bestowed the best picture prize on a large cast of A-listers, according to the Los Angeles Times on Jan. 19. "American Hustle" had been described as a movie full of screwball performances.
It's also a drama set in the 1970s and early '80s, in which stars Christian Bale and Amy Adams portray con artists forced by an FBI agent Bradley Cooper to participate in an elaborate sting to catch corrupt politicians. Jennifer Lawrence plays Bale's character's unpredictable wife.
Fresh on the heels of being nominated for 10 Oscars Thursday, "American Hustle" also beat out the casts of "August: Osage County", "Dallas Buyers Club" and "Lee Daniels' The Butler" for the SAG Award.
The SAG category of cast in a motion picture is often viewed as a reliable predictor for the Academy Award best picture prize, because many SAG members are part of the actors branch of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, the largest voting bloc within the organization.
According to E! News, the SAG Awards are seen as the real test, since the winner of that has gone on to take the Best Picture Oscar for the last six years.
On the television side, AMC's "Breaking Bad" won for performance by an ensemble in a drama series, and ABC's"Modern Family" was named the top ensemble in a comedy for the fourth straight year.
Matthew McConaughey, who just won a Golden Globe and Critics Choice Award over the past week, took the lead actor prize for his performance as homophobic but ultimately pioneering AIDS patient Ron Woodroof in "Dallas Buyers Club".
In his acceptance speech, McConaughey gave a somewhat rambling speech in which he talked about Neptune and bull rides. That prompted lead female actor winner Cate Blanchett to take producers to task.
While accepting for her performance in "Blue Jasmine", the teleprompter warned her she was running out of time only seconds into her speech, to which she responded by saying, "Matthew McConaughey spoke about Neptune. I think I can have five seconds".
Meanwhile, popular drama series "Breaking Bad", which ended its show last fall, continued picking up trophies. The dark AMC drama about a high school chemistry teacher turned ruthless meth kingpin won the top honor for a television drama series.
Lupita Nyong'o took home her first SAG Award last night, after winning a supporting actor award for her performance as a brutally abused slave in "12 Years a Slave".
In her speech, Nyong'o thanked Solomon Northup, whose 19th century memoir is the basis for the movie. "Thank you for taking a flashlight and shining it underneath the floorboards of this nation and reminding us what we stand on", Nyong'o said.
Jared Leto also sparked a serious note after winning the supporting actor trophy for "Dallas Buyers Club". Jared plays Rayon, a transgender woman with AIDS in the film.
"I'd like to dedicate this special honor to people who have lost their lives to this dreadful disease...the Rayons of the world", Leto said.
The Life Achievement Award was presented to Rita Moreno, the Puerto Rico-born actress, dancer and singer best remembered for playing the role of Anita in "West Side Story".
Moreno is one of the few entertainers who lay claim to all four top honors one can win, an Oscar, Emmy, Grammy and Tony. At 82, she made one of the more memorable appearances of the evening, dropping an F-bomb and singing "This is All I Ask" in a leg-baring dress.
"I'm the lady that said the bad word", joked to reporters backstage as she entered the press room. "I had one glass of wine and boy, am I disaster", she laughingly added, according to USA Today.
Michael Douglas' daring portrayal of the flamboyant gay showman Liberace in HBO's "Behind the Candelabra" already snagged him an Emmy and Golden Globe. Saturday night he grabbed the SAG Award for performance by an actor in a television movie or miniseries.
Douglas had nothing but praise for his costar Matt Damon, who played the pianist's much younger lover. Michael said the truth is, he's not there without Matt Damon, adding, "This is yours too".
And Helen Mirren won the award for female actor in a television movie or miniseries for HBO's "Phil Spector". Maggie Smith, who wasn't present, won the trophy for female actor in a drama series for PBS' "Downton Abbey".
Among the comedies up for awards, "Modern Family" won its fourth consecutive honor for top comedy series. Costar Ty Burrell took the comedy actor award, while Julia Louis-Dreyfus won for female actor in a TV comedy role for HBO's "Veep".
The 86th Academy Awards will take place March 2 at the Dolby Theatre in Hollywood.