The rise and rise of the comic-book aesthetic was confirmed last night when Black Panther, a super-hero epic from Marvel, took the ensemble award from the Screen Actors Guild.
Rami Malek won best actor in a movie for his turn as Freddie Mercury in Bohemian Rhapsody. Glenn Close took best actress for The Wife. The Marvellous Mrs Maisel and This Is Us were the big winners in the TV awards.
The team from The Favourite, an Irish production by Element Pictures, will have been disappointed to walk away with nothing, but none of their three nominees was quite the front-runner. The Favourite had a peculiar result at the SAG nominations, somehow scoring three mentions – Olivia Colman for best actress; Rachel Weisz and Emma Stone for best supporting actress – without securing a place in the best ensemble race. Go figure.
Opinions differ as to what all this means for the upcoming Oscars. First inaugurated as recently as 1995, the ensemble award has a patchy record in predicting the best picture. Over the last 23 years, the prizes have matched on just 11 occasions.
Last year, Three Billboards Outside Ebbing Missouri took the SAG and The Shape of Water ran away with the Academy Award. In 2017, Hidden Figures won with the Actors, but failed to win a single Oscar.
This weekend's prizes say more about what's on the way down than what's bound for glory. Only a few months ago, Bradley Cooper's A Star Is Born seemed close to unbeatable for the big prizes.
A miserable night at the Golden Globes and a mildly underwhelming batch of Oscar nominations placed the showbusiness saga on the back foot. It needed to win best ensemble here to demonstrate that it was regaining momentum. Lady Gaga, who plays the rising ingénue opposite Bradley Cooper’s drunken country star, also needed to take some silver.
The (to give it its full title) "Screen Actors Guild award for outstanding performance by a female actor in a leading role" has a much surer record in predicting Oscar success. In the past decade only one winner of that prize – Viola Davis for The Help – has failed to convert with the Academy.
Close, among Oscar greatest losers, is now permitted some optimism about her chances of converting her seventh nomination into a first win. “One of most powerful things we have as human beings are two eyes looking into two other eyes,” she said at the podium.
Rami Malek also looks like a strong Oscar favourite for Bohemian Rhapsody. Despite further accusations of sexual misconduct concerning the film's nominal director Bryan Singer – fired during production – Bohemian Rhapsody continues to defy expectations at the box office and with awards voters.
The unexpected victory for Black Panther acknowledges the advance of African-American talent. Featuring such performers as Chadwick Boseman, Michael B Jordan, Lupita Nyong’o, Daniel Kaluuya and Letitia Wright, the picture certainly meets the definition of an “ensemble” achievement.
Coming two years after the victory by Hidden Figures, concerning the black women who worked on the space programme, this SAG award argues for increasing diversity in Hollywood. It will also be seen as a victory for the mainstream.
This is the first time in its history that the ensemble prize has gone to the highest grossing film at the US box office for the preceding year (if you're wondering, The Full Monty beat Titanic). "We knew that we had something special, that we could create a world that exemplified a world that we wanted to see," Boseman said.
There were a few surprises and a few anomalies elsewhere. Everyone expected Mahershala Ali to win best supporting actor for his turn as a pianist touring the segregated south in Green Book and he did indeed take "The Actor" (as the statuette is dubbed).
Emily Blunt's victory in best supporting actress for A Quiet Place – a horror film directed by her husband John Krasinski – will have unnerved Amy Adams, up for Vice, and will have annoyed those who monitor "category fraud" at awards ceremonies.
Not nominated at the Oscars, Blunt is surely the lead in A Quiet Place. That's her face right there on the poster. There's no logic to these things. On the stage, Blunt thanked Krasinski for casting her and added: "You would have been in major trouble if you hadn't."
The SAG lifetime achievement award went to Alan Alda, 82, the veteran actor probably best known for the 1972-83 series M.A.S.H. In July, he revealed that he had been living with Parkinson's disease for more than three years but that he had been leading a full life despite the movement disorder.
After being introduced by Tom Hanks, who noted that the actor's real name is Alphonso D'Abruzzo, Alda took the stage to a lengthy standing ovation from an audience that included his M.A.S.H co-star Mike Farrell.
“It may never have been more urgent to see the world through another person’s eyes,” he said onstage, his hands trembling. “And when the culture is divided so sharply, actors can help, at least a little, just by doing what we do.”
Here is the complete list of winners:
Outstanding cast: Black Panther
Best actor: Rami Malek, Bohemian Rhapsody
Best actress: Glenn Close, The Wife
Best supporting actor: Mahershala Ali, Green Book
Best supporting actress: Emily Blunt, A Quiet Place
Outstanding stunt ensemble: Black Panther
Outstanding ensemble, drama series: This Is Us
Outstanding ensemble, comedy series: The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel
Best actor, drama series: Jason Bateman, Ozark
Best actress, drama series: Sandra Oh, Killing Eve
Best actor, comedy series: Tony Shalhoub, The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel
Best actress, comedy series: Rachel Brosnahan, The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel
Best actor, TV movie or miniseries: Darren Criss, The Assassination of Gianni Versace
Best actress, TV movie or miniseries: Patricia Arquette, Escape at Dannemora Outstanding stunt ensemble, comedy or drama series: Glow
– Additional reporting: New York Times, PA