The best and worst moments from the 30th SAG Awards

Clockwise from left: Emily Blunt, Meryl Streep, and Anne Hathaway; Atmosphere inside the Shrine Auditorium during the ceremony; Lily Gladstone; Idris Elba and Hannah Waddingham (All photos: Matt Winkelmeyer/Getty Images)
Clockwise from left: Emily Blunt, Meryl Streep, and Anne Hathaway; Atmosphere inside the Shrine Auditorium during the ceremony; Lily Gladstone; Idris Elba and Hannah Waddingham (All photos: Matt Winkelmeyer/Getty Images)
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Of all the awards shows on the calendar, the SAG Awards has a special place, because it’s all about actors honoring each other. There’s a feeling of community you don’t usually see on other shows. The winners are encouraged to talk about their first acting jobs and what it meant to them to join SAG. The atmosphere is celebratory, with a bit less pressure than the Oscars. That doesn’t mean it can’t tell us anything about what the Academy Awards have in store in just a few weeks. We saw many of the same winners we’ve been seeing all season, thanking many of the same people. It really is a testament to their acting skills that they make their speeches seem genuine and impromptu every time.

In a first for the platform, this year’s show was live-streamed on Netflix. There are still some kinks to work out, clearly. Without commercial breaks (not that we miss the ads) the producers had to fill the time somehow, and their solutions didn’t all work out. It’s also probably not a good idea to tell a room full of attention-seekers they’re not supposed to swear. That’s just asking for a constant blitz of F-bombs. So let’s take a look at all the fucking highs and lows of this year’s ceremony.

Best: “I Am An Actor” intro

Idris Elba, Hannah Waddingham
Idris Elba, Hannah Waddingham

It’s become a tradition for the SAG Awards to open the show the same way, with famous actors delivering a few lines about their careers. The bits are usually pretty funny, and this year was no exception. Barbie’s Michael Cera kicked things off by talking about getting his union card at the age of 13 and being treated like an adult. He handed it off to Coleman Domingo, who listed some of his notable roles, then threw it to Hannah Waddingham, who stole the opening of the show with a story of finding a mouse in her dress while performing in Spamalot in the West End. Until Idris Elba upstaged her with his impressive Robert De Niro impression.

Worst: Pre-show awards for Stunt Ensemble

Tom Cruise in Mission: Impossible—Dead Reckoning Part One
Tom Cruise in Mission: Impossible—Dead Reckoning Part One

There are so few major awards shows that honor the unsung heroes of the stunt world, who put their lives on the line so the big stars don’t have to. But instead of giving them their moment on stage, the awards for stunts in television and film, which went to Mission: Impossible—Dead Reckoning Part One and The Last Of Us—were announced on the red carpet pre-show by host Elaine Welteroth and SAG ambassador Taylor Zakhar Perez. It’s not like they didn’t have any dead air to fill, they could have easily worked the award into the official ceremony.

Best: Devil Wears Prada reunion

Emily Blunt, Meryl Streep, Anne Hathaway
Emily Blunt, Meryl Streep, Anne Hathaway

There were several reunions on stage at the SAG Awards, including Elijah Wood and Sean Astin from the Lord Of The Rings films, The Fly’s Jeff Goldblum and Geena Davis, and the casts of Modern Family and Breaking Bad. But the best was the trio from The Devil Wears Prada. When Meryl Streep takes the stage in a fluster and says she forgot her glasses and the envelope, you believe her. But it was only a ruse to have Emily Blunt and Anne Hathaway come out on stage and bring them to her. The three of them looked fabulous together, and cracked each other up doing impressions of some of Miranda Priestly’s most famous lines. Even Tan France couldn’t stop gushing about it.

Worst: Backstage interviews during the show

Ayo Edibiri, Tan France
Ayo Edibiri, Tan France

Since the show was streaming on Netflix, there weren’t any commercial breaks to give folks a break from all the handing out of trophies and a chance to stretch their legs during the three-hour ceremony. Netflix’s solution was to have host Tan France conduct long interviews with the winners backstage. France did fine as an interviewer, but we’re used to seeing those kinds of post-awards interviews after the show, not in the middle of it. The cutaways were a bit awkward and broke up the flow of the presentation. We can’t say we’d prefer commercials, but there are plenty of other creative options that might have worked better. Hopefully, Netflix is still tinkering with the format and will try something different if it does another one of these live streams in the future.

Best: Barbra Streisand’s lifetime achievement award

Barbra Streisand
Barbra Streisand

After touching tributes by Jennifer Aniston and Bradley Cooper, and a video package to remind everyone why she was there, Barbra Streisand took the stage to accept her lifetime achievement award. A member of SAG for over 60 years, Streisand talked about discovering her love of movies through foreign films and musicals and her first acting job on Funny Girl. She reminded everyone of the importance of the movies as escapism, and the Jewish founders of the major Hollywood studios, who were escaping persecution in Eastern Europe. It was a simple speech, but an emotional one, and each cutaway to the audience showed another A-list star with tears in their eyes.

Worst: Fran Drescher’s post-strike speech

Fran Drescher
Fran Drescher

After a long strike that ended with a historic billion-dollar contract, no one would begrudge SAG-AFTRA president Fran Drescher a victory lap at the guild’s first awards show since it all happened. But the room never seemed to warm up to her as she gave her speech, thanking them for their “collective dignity and perseverance.” She didn’t seem at all natural using phrases like “hot labor summer” and throwing up heart hands to show her love. And while her comments warning of the dangers of AI were well-intentioned, the phrasing was super awkward, referencing “a matrix where none of us know what’s real.” It should have been her shining moment, but instead it just fell flat.

Best: Everyone else’s strike comments

Lily Gladstone
Lily Gladstone

When you’re an outsider looking in on something like the SAG Awards, it can sometimes feel like there are things going on that aren’t apparent to viewers at home. While Drescher drew a smattering of polite applause from the audience and a few side-eyes, the other winners and presenters got a much stronger reaction when they mentioned the strike. Idris Elba got loud cheers when he took a moment during his opening comments to honor all of his fellow actors who “stood up and supported the union.” They also cheered when Lily Gladstone brought it up during her acceptance speech after winning Best Female Actor.

Worst: Lisa Ann Walter’s hot mic

Lisa Ann Walter secretly records her fellow Abbott Elementary cast members on the red carpet
Lisa Ann Walter secretly records her fellow Abbott Elementary cast members on the red carpet

When Lisa Ann Walter set up the segment with the explanation that she wanted to be like a Super Bowl coach and have her conversations recorded live, we were expecting a funny, scripted bit. It might have worked. But it was just footage of her and her running commentary on the red carpet and during the show, talking about her dress and fawning over celebrities. The idea had potential, but someone should have thought it through more, and maybe pre-written some jokes. Also, Tan France voiced the same question we had when he asked her, “Is that even legal?”

Toss-up: No big surprises

The cast of Oppenheimer wins for Best Cast
The cast of Oppenheimer wins for Best Cast

By this point in awards season trends usually start to emerge, but you never know when someone will sneak into a category and surprise everyone with a win. This year, however, there hasn’t been much variation. Oppenheimer continues to dominate the male acting categories, Da’Vine Joy Randolph is as close to a shoo-in as you can get for her supporting performance in The Holdovers, and Lily Gladstone is making history with each award she gets for Killers Of The Flower Moon. It’s still fun to see people like Robert Downey Jr. and Ayo Edibiri get up there and do their thing, but at a certain point, it starts to feel like we’re watching the same speech over and over again. We’re not saying they didn’t deserve to win. That’s why we listed the lack of surprise as a toss-up. But honestly, if it weren’t for all the swearing, we might have fallen asleep by the end.