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‘Hidden Figures,’ ‘Fences’ win big at SAG Awards

Free Press wire reports | 2/4/2017, 10:24 a.m.
Free Press wire reports HOLLYWOOD, Calif. The cast of “Hidden Figures” rocketed to the Screen Actors Guild top award at ...
From left, “Hidden Figures” stars Octavia Spencer, Janelle Monae and Taraji P. Henson celebrate winning the SAG award as the top cast in a motion picture. Mike Blake/Reuters

Free Press wire reports

HOLLYWOOD, Calif.

The cast of “Hidden Figures” rocketed to the Screen Actors Guild top award at a fiery, protest-laden ceremony last Sunday that was dominated by words of defiance and dismay about President Trump’s sweeping immigration ban.

An uplifting drama about African-American women mathematicians who aided NASA’s 1960s space race, “Hidden Figures” was the surprise best movie ensemble winner during the ceremony at Los Angeles’ Shrine Auditorium.

With the Oscar front-runner “La La Land” not nominated in the category, most expected a contest between “Moonlight” and “Manchester by the Sea.”

“This story is about unity,” said Taraji P. Henson, who stars alongside Octavia Spencer and Janelle Monae in “Hidden Figures.”

“This story is about what happens when we put our differences aside and we come together as a human race,” Ms. Henson continued. “We win. Love wins every time.”

From the first remarks by presenter Ashton Kutcher, the ceremony was peppered with speeches that argued passionately for inclusion.

In a very well-dressed version of the demonstrations sparked nationwide by the president’s action, most award winners spoke in some way — either through personal anecdote or a call to arms — against President Trump’s halting of immigrants from seven predominantly Muslim nations entering the United States.

Julia Louis-Dreyfus, who added another honor for her performance in the political satire “Veep,” said she was the daughter of an immigrant who fled religious persecution in Nazi-occupied France.

“Because I love this country, I am horrified by its blemishes,” said Ms. Louis-Dreyfus. “And this immigrant ban is a blemish, and it is un-American.”

Perhaps the most moving speech came from Mahershala Ali, who won best supporting actor for his acclaimed performance in Barry Jenkins’ coming-of-age portrait, “Moonlight.”

Mr. Ali said he saw lessons for today in “Moonlight,” in which he plays a character who makes a difference in a shy, gay Miami boy’s hard life. “We see what happens when you persecute people,” he said. “They fold into themselves.”

An ordained minister’s son who converted to Islam 17 years ago, Mr. Ali spoke of his strong ties to his Christian mother.

“We put things to the side,” he said of their faith differences. “I’m able to see her. She’s able to see me. We love each other.”

Mr. Ali was among several Oscar favorites who cemented their front-runner status, including best actress winner Emma Stone for “La La Land” and best supporting actress winner Viola Davis for “Fences,” the film adaptation of the celebrated August Wilson play.

Best actor went to Ms. Davis’ co-star and director, Denzel Washington, for his performance in “Fences.”

Mr. Washington expected the award to go to Casey Affleck for his work in “Manchester by the Sea.”

“I’m a God-fearing man,” Mr. Washington said in accepting the award, still shaking his head as he reached the podium. “I’m supposed to have faith, but I didn’t have faith.”

The most blistering anti-Trump speech came from David Harbour, who led the cast of Netflix’s “Stranger Things,” winner of best ensemble in a TV drama series.

“We will hunt monsters,” Mr. Harbour vowed in lengthy remarks that drew a standing ovation.

The hit Netflix series “Orange Is the New Black” won best ensemble in a comedy series for the third straight year.

“We stand up here representing a diverse group of people, representing generations of families who have sought a better life here from places like Nigeria, the Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico, Colombia, Ireland,” said star Taylor Schilling, while a cast member added “Brooklyn!”

“And we know that it’s going to be up to us and all of you to keep telling stories that show what unites us is stronger than the forces that divide us,” Ms. Schilling said.

Lily Tomlin, the lifetime achievement honoree, gave a warm, rollicking speech that dispensed both drinking advice and regret over wasting “a lot of time being ambitious about the wrong things.”

“Did you hear? The Doomsday Clock has been moved up to two and a half minutes before midnight,” said the 77-year-old actress. “And this award, it came just in the nick of time.”

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