Faces of Defeat: The Screen Actors Guild Awards Through the Eyes of the Conquered

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For our money, the Screen Actors Guild throws the greatest of all the seasonal kudo-orgies, the purest expression of what it is for an insular, statuette-proffering body of craftsmen to recognize the greatness in their midst. Yes, the Academy’s trinket is the gold standard of Hollywood self-celebration, but its voting members are a disparate coalition of the awards-willing, not a unified brotherhood gathered to celebrate the magic of a single vocation. The Saggies are a safe space for practitioners of the ancient art of pretending to be among others who understand what it’s like to disappear into the invisible skin-suits of character and prance around deliriously, temporarily free of their own crippling inadequacies. The Oscar is a career-boosting validation, a congratulatory hug from the industry; the Actor is a sacred totem, a 14-hour session of tantric eye contact with the infinite after the ritualistic masks of Drama fall away, leaving only Truth. The tears here are genuine, the borderline panic attacks of gratitude heartfelt. Unless they’re faking it. Everybody in the room’s so fucking good at acting! Even most of the losers!

On Sunday night, the members of SAG met at Los Angeles’s storied Shrine Auditorium to confer their highest honor. And on this Monday morning, we relive this most perfect of awards shows through the expertly manipulated rictuses of the beaten as they try — and often fail — to hide the crushing disappointment of returning to their limousines empty-handed and broken-spirited because their peers chose to recognize someone else’s talent. It is time, once again, to gaze upon the Faces of Defeat.

And the Actor for Outstanding Female in a Comedy Series Goes to … Uzo Aduba for Orange Is the New Black


Edie Falco can’t feel her hands. Her hands have entered another dimension, a fun house–mirror dimension where they are politely coming together for this woman who has just taken Falco’s award. She didn’t sign up for 15 years of junkie-nurse purgatory to lose to Netflix and have those hands flapping away like some doves she let loose at a tacky wedding. Oh, Jesus Christ, Aduba’s speech is beautiful. She’s an angel. And Falco doesn’t care. She hopes Crazy Eyes goes to real jail, and knows that’s a terrible thought, but she owns it, an actor always owns her feelings. Where are her hands? They’ve flown away. They’re gone. They’re never coming back.

And the Actor for Outstanding Male in a Comedy Series Goes to … William H. Macy for Shameless


Ty Burrell flinches ever so slightly as television spouse Julie Bowen grinds the tip of her butter knife — she doesn’t want to puncture quite yet, she just wants him to know he’s vulnerable, sitting there like a grinning chump — into his kidney. They are a Modern Family of winners. Winning is what they do. They’ve won so many Emmys, year after year after year, that the winning has become not just routine but a sacrifice upon the altar of their perpetual success. He’s failed her, failed the entire clan, and there will be a price to pay. He hopes only that she’ll make it quick. Please, God, make it quick.

And the Actor for Outstanding Ensemble in a Comedy Series Goes to … the cast of Orange Is the New Black


Julie Bowen feels the bile rise. She swallows it down. It’s fuel for her murder machine. She jumps to her feet. Is she overcompensating? Of course she is. The audience needs to buy graciousness and she needs to sell it. She knows that mere feet away, Sofia Vergara is smiling at her himbo werewolf and Burrell is quietly staunching his kidney wound with a dinner napkin, but she’s the face of this family. The camera will find her. It always does. And when it does, she will be standing. She might stand forever.

And the Actor for Outstanding Female in a Supporting Role Goes to … Patricia Arquette for Boyhood


Keira Knightley was ready for her statue. She put on every earring she owned for good luck. But she shouldn’t have needed luck; Harvey said he’d get this one for her. No, he promised. It was in the bag. He was candid about the Oscar, that was not going to happen, not this year. He could deliver a Saggie — actors are easy to intimidate, they’re already shitting their pants on the conference call between “I have Harvey Weinstein” and “on the line.” You just let them babble their way into compliance, let them believe they’re one wrong answer from dangling upside down from a high window at the Beverly Hills Hotel. But: Nope. Not tonight. Poor Keira was at least one earring and one Weinstein-ordered hobbling short.

And the Actor for Outstanding Male in a Supporting Role Goes to … J.K. Simmons for Whiplash


Play an asshole, they said. An asshole recognizable as Edward Norton, they said. Show you have a sense of humor about yourself, show you know your reputation for being “difficult,” show you’re willing to play around with it, they said. Jam this stunt-boner into your Jockeys and pretend like it’s the most natural thing in the world to cradle a banana in your hammock while you’re trying to create, they said. Well: Never listen to “they.” Only listen to Edward. Edward’s Hulk was the best Hulk. Edward’s natural boner would have been the best boner. Edward’s psychotic jazz teacher would’ve been the best psychotic jazz teacher. From now on, no “they.” Just Edward.

And the Actor for Outstanding Male in a Television Movie or Miniseries Goes to … Mark Ruffalo for The Normal Heart


Why is Billy Bob Thornton even here if Ruffalo can’t be bothered to show up and get his Actor? So that Adrien Brody could hit him up for coke in the men’s room, then, when Billy Bob says he doesn’t have any, he’s not hitting the slopes these days, he can suddenly find Brody’s greedy little hands going through his pockets? Brody’s never once brought the coke. Not once. He thinks kissing Halle Berry at the Oscars has given him a free coke-pass for eternity. He’s wrong about that. History Channel Houdini’s gotta make his own blow appear at the SAG Awards. No one even remembers The Pianist.

Winner’s Interlude! And the Actor for Outstanding Female in a Television Movie or Miniseries Goes to … Frances McDormand for Olive Kitteridge


“Who just crushed Julia Roberts, biggest movie star in the world 1988 through 2010? Hmm. Little ol’ me? For a cable miniseries about a pissed-off woman in Maine? Who’s the pretty woman now, missy? Olive Kitteridge, that’s who. Suck it.”

And the Actor for Outstanding Male in a Drama Series Goes to … Kevin Spacey for House of Cards


Matthew McConaughey’s at peace with the universe. He’s got an Oscar, a fleet of brand-new Lincolns gassed up and ready to go wherever the night leads, the robot butler Chris Nolan gave him as a wrap gift fetching his ice-cold Lone Stars. Matty Two-Ms has danced this tango with the Spaceman before, good on Little Frankie Underwood for taking the lead this time. Now, if you’ll excuse him, Mr. McConaughey didn’t grow that beard just to look J.K. amazin’ at an awards show, he’s got the Civil War to win. All right times three.

And the Actor for Outstanding Female in a Drama Series Goes to … Viola Davis for How to Get Away With Murder


Claire Danes knows that she has a tendency to over-emote. But she also knows that her face is her instrument, and there’s a quick warm-up period before they announce a winner when a virtuoso can make sure everything’s in tune. You have to go big, stretch everything out enough so if they call out somebody else’s name, your cheekbones don’t blast right through that improvised smile and send your eyes bouncing into somebody’s champagne flute across the table. That’s a mistake rookies make. Rookies who haven’t spent a few anguished seconds at the Golden Globes fishing their eyes out of someone else’s Moët glass with a soup spoon before the camera can catch you.

And the Actor for Outstanding Ensemble in a Drama Series Goes to … Downton Abbey


Buscemi’s cool with it. Huge Dowager Countess fan. What are you gonna do, go hard at Dame Maggie Smith? She’ll tear you in half and plant a dozen prize roses in your steaming guts. Just clap and appreciate. She’s earned it.

And the Actor for Outstanding Male in a Leading Role Goes to … Eddie Redmayne for The Theory of Everything


“Is that British kid still talking? He’s still talking. There’s never been a time when he hasn’t been talking. You have to go up there and shut him up, Michael. You’re the Birdman. He’ll keep talking the way Norton kept talking, telling you how to play all your scenes, until you popped him in his weasel face and his fake boner fell out. Go pop motormouth Stephen Hawking, Michael. I’ve never steered you wrong. This is our year.”

And the Actor for Outstanding Female in a Leading Role Goes to … Julianne Moore in Still Alice


Reese goes through the checklist. Are the lips the right distance apart? Is she getting full extension on the concession applause? Do her eyes glimmer with appreciation for a living legend like Julianne Moore, but with a hint of sadness for a squandered opportunity for Jennifer Aniston, because when’s the next time this is going to happen for her, the poor dear? Is she giving no thought at all to Rosamund Jones and Felicity Pike, whoever they are?  Check marks on everything. Perfect. That’s why she makes the list. It’s a lot to remember on your own.

Winner’s Outro! And the Actor for Outstanding Cast in a Motion Picture Goes to … Birdman


Two castmates share a touching moment as they read their names from the winning envelope.

“I’m sorry I popped you and made your fake boner fall out, kid.”

“It’s OK. I probably deserved it.”

“Good luck at the Oscars.”

“You too.”

“I don’t mean that.”

“Yeah, me neither.”

Their names are Michael Keaton and Edward Norton, and they are actors.

Filed Under: Awards, Screen Actors Guild Awards, 2014 Awards Season, birdman, michael keaton, edward norton, eddie redmayne, the theory of everything, Matthew McConaughey, Downton Abbey, House of Cards, kevin spacey, Julianne Moore, Reese Witherspoon, Modern Family

Mark Lisanti is an editor at Grantland.

Archive @ marklisanti