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‘Bad’ victory lap continues at SAGs Nyong’o, Leto take supporting acting honors

McConaughey also further boosted his Oscar hopes with his role in “Dallas Buyers Club,” based on the true story of a homophobic rodeo hustler who gets HIV and becomes an activist for early anti-HIV drugs in the 1980s. “I’ve been able to recently find some characters I could humble myself to their humanities and then get feverishly drunk on their obsessions,” said McConaughey, who won the best actor Golden Globe last weekend. In the television categories, Michael Douglas won best actor in a miniseries or TV movie for his portrayal of flamboyant entertainer Liberace in “Behind the Candelabra,” with Matt Damon as his young gay lover. Britain’s Helen Mirren won the female equivalent for HBO’s “Phil Spector,” in which she played the lawyer for the erratic music producer on trial for murder, played by Al Pacino. “I was terrified of working with Al Pacino,” Mirren said backstage afterwards.

She added: “Showtime and HBO are great channels. And Netflix. The whole landscape is changing. I’m very happy to be working at the time it’s changing. “It’s a wonderful, exciting moment for television drama and television film.” “Breaking Bad” star Bryan Cranston won best actor in a drama series for his take on a chemistry teacher turned drug kingpin, while Briton Maggie Smith won best actress for hit period drama “Downton Abbey.” Ty Burrell, one of the stars of “Modern Family,” swept up the best comedy actor prize. Julia Louis-Dreyfus won best actress for her vice-presidential role in “Veep.”

The “Breaking Bad” victory lap continued at the Screen Actors Guild Awards, taking honors for outstanding dramatic cast and for lead actor Bryan Cranston. “What a way to go out in style!” Cranston said, accepting the ensemble’s award at the Los Angeles ceremony Saturday. For his indelible performance as teacher-turned-meth dealer, Cranston added his second lead actor SAG Award, to go with his recent Golden Globe win and his numerous Emmys. “Breaking Bad” memorably wrapped late year. “We have the nicest bunch of white supremacist Nazis I have ever worked with,” said Cranston, looking over his cast mates. “I swear to you I would kill you all over again.”

Lupita Nyong’o and Jared Leto established themselves as Oscar favorites with supporting acting wins. Nyong’o won for supporting actress at the 20th annual SAG Awards in Los Angeles on Saturday for her performance as the singular slave Patsy in Steve McQueen’s historical drama “12 Years a Slave.” She thanked McQueen “for taking a flashlight and shining it underneath the floorboards of this nation and reminding us what it is we stand on.” The Kenyan actress, who has been hailed for her red-carpet grace this awards season, recalled her celebratory phone call to her father when she got the part — her first feature film.

Leto was honored for supporting actor for his performance in the Texas HIV drama “Dallas Buyers Club,” in which he plays the gaunt transsexual Rayon. He dedicated the award to those who have died of AIDS and to “the Rayons of the world.” Two big-screen veterans won awards for TV films: Michael Douglas for HBO’s Liberace drama “Behind the Candelabra,” and Helen Mirren for the biopic “Phil Spector,” also on HBO. “I am not here without Matt Damon,” said Douglas, after making a gay sex pun that made his co-star wince. The ABC sitcom “Modern Family” enjoyed another round of awards, winning for ensemble in a comedy series and taking the male actor in a comedy series honor for Ty Burrell. Coming two days after Academy Award nominations, the SAG Awards, held at the Shrine Auditorium just south of downtown Los Angeles, are particularly monitored for predicting Oscar momentum.

Actors make up the largest branch of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, so SAG-AFTRA union members (numbering more than 165,000) have perhaps more sway in determining Academy Awards winners than any other group. The five nominees for SAG’s top honor, outstanding performance by a movie cast, are: “12 Years a Slave,” ‘’American Hustle,” ‘’Dallas Buyers Club,” ‘’August: Osage County” and “Lee Daniels’ The Butler.”

SAG and the academy don’t always agree: Neither “August: Osage County” nor “The Butler” were nominated for best picture, and “The Butler” was snubbed entirely. The effects-heavy, sparsely peopled “Gravity” was predictably overlooked by SAG (except for a best actress nomination to Sandra Bullock), while it garnered 10 Oscar nods. Australian Cate Blanchett won best actress for her role as a socialite who suffers a breakdown in Woody Allen’s “Blue Jasmine,” while best actor went to Matthew McConaughey for his turn as an unlikely AIDS activist in “Dallas Buyers Club.”

Both actors are the clear front-runners for best acting Oscars after winning Golden Globes last Sunday. Screen Actors Guild (SAG) awards are honors that actors relish, however, because they come from their peers. In what is widely considered one of the best years for quality film in recent memory, SAG and other guild awards to be handed out in the next two weeks could collectively steer the race in favor of one film for the industry’s highest honor, the best picture Oscar, on March 2.

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