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SAG Awards are underway on Netflix, where ‘Oppenheimer’ and ‘Barbie’ are vying for the top prize

AP Film Writer

The 30th Screen Actors Guild Awards, streaming for the first time live on Netflix, are underway, with Oscar momentum up for grabs for “Oppenheimer,” “Barbie” and some of the closest acting contests.

The host-less ceremony kicked off Saturday at the Shrine Auditorium & Expo Hall in Los Angeles. The SAG Awards’ signature “And I’m an actor” openings were given by Michael Cera, Colman Domingo, Hannah Waddingham and Idris Elba.

“Personally, I can’t wait to get home and have Netflix recommend this show to me based on all the other stuff that I watch myself in,” said Elba.

After more than two decades airing on TNT and TBS to dwindling viewership, Netflix acquired telecast rights to the SAG Awards in early 2023. That meant some different rules, including no ads and permitted bad language. Elba, who kicked off the show on stage, suggested a delicate dance.

“Don’t say anything you wouldn’t say in front of Oprah,” said Elba, who promptly added an expletive.

This year’s SAG Awards follows a grueling months-long strike in which the SAG-AFTRA union fought a bitter battle over a number of issues. Much of the work stoppage was prompted over changes in the film and TV industry brought on by streaming and a sea change led by Netflix.

The ceremony’s first group of presenters — Meryl Streep, Anne Hathaway and Emily Blunt — formed a reunion for “A Devil Wears Prada.” They announced the award for best male actor in a comedy series, which went to Jeremy Allen White for “The Bear.”

The new streaming platform was sure to put even more of a spotlight on one of the most closely-watched predictors of the Academy Awards. With Oscar voting wrapping up Tuesday, Saturday night’s SAG winners might also be Oscar favorites.

Two awards for stunt ensemble were announced during the red carpet. Those went to the stunt performers of “Mission: Impossible — Dead Reckoning Part One,” in the film category, and for “The Last of Us” in television.

The movie favorite — you may have heard this one before — is “Oppenheimer.” Christopher Nolan’s atomic epic is up for a leading four awards, including SAG’s top honor, best ensemble. But Greta Gerwig’s “Barbie” is also up for four awards and could challenge “Oppenheimer” for best ensemble.

Three of the past four SAG ensemble winners have gone on to win best picture at the Oscars. “Everything Everywhere All at Once,” “CODA” and “Parasite” all won at the SAG Awards before triumphing at the Academy Awards. The exception was the 2021 winner “The Trial of the Chicago 7.”

Among television nominees, “Succession” will look to add to its Emmy and Golden Globe hauls. It’s up for five awards. Also in the mix are “The Bear,” “Ted Lasso,” “Beef” and “The Last of Us.”

While some categories have been seemingly iron clad for weeks, like supporting actress favorite Da’Vine Joy Randolph (“The Holdovers”), a few of the biggest awards are less certain. The night’s most closely-watched contests are in the lead actor awards.

Cillian Murphy (“Oppenheimer”) may have the slight edge for best male actor, though Paul Giamatti (“The Holdovers”) is neck-and-neck with him. The same could be said for best female actor, where either Lily Gladstone (“Killers of the Flower Moon”) or Emma Stone (“Poor Things”) could win.

The SAG Life Achievement Award will be given to Barbra Streisand.

Saturday’s show was one of Netflix’s most significant forays yet into live streaming events. Netflix has previously hosted a live Chris Rock comedy special, a celebrity golf tournament and a live reunion “Love Is Blind” episode that was marred by technical difficulties. But Netflix is gearing up for more. On March 3, it will stream a live tennis event.


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