LOS ANGELES — Tommy Lee Jones had the flu and didn’t show up to the Screen Actors Guild Awards at the Shrine Auditorium on Sunday night. He should have tanked up on Emergen-C and made the trip.
Jones won the male actor in a supporting role prize for his part as an abolitionist lawmaker in “Lincoln,” allowing the oft-terse actor to be even less loquacious.
In a show with few notable stage moments, perhaps the most conspicuous speech was the one Jones didn’t give.
The absence made for an awkward moment near the top of the SAG Awards. Nor was it the only eyebrow-raiser of the TBS broadcast. In a show notorious for union-thumping and guild genuflection several incidents seemed likely to elicit groans across America.
Reading the voice-over for a Dick Van Dyke lifetime achievement prize, Alec Baldwin described the octogenarian’s volunteerism in soup kitchens in a speech that stopped just short of saying the “Mary Poppins” actor saved cats from tall treetops and cured terminal diseases with his hair.
Van Dyke, for his part, gave a speech that was short and classy, and free of the Jodie Foster riddles that marked her lifetime achievement speech at the Golden Globes two weeks ago.
There seemed to be no shortage of teeth-gnashing from winners over the continuing success of “The Big Bang Theory,” with both “Modern Family” and “30 Rock” stars dropping snark about it. “Family’s” Jesse Tyler Ferguson had an under-his-breath jibe about “‘Big Bang Ratings’ — I mean ‘Theory.’”
Tina Fey addressed the viewing public in regard to her own show’s finale this Thursday against the popular nerd comedy with an unexpected plea to watch hers: “Just tape ‘The Big Bang Theory’ for once, for crying out loud,” she said.
Fey was a breath of fresh air in the show, also noting that she’s known Amy Poehler since the “Parks &Recreation’ star was “pregnant with Lena Dunham.”
Male actor in a leading role winner Daniel Day-Lewis seemed to have the joke of the night when he noted that “it was an actor who murdered Abraham Lincoln,” but then fell back down the earnestness hole when he talked about actors bringing the 16th president back to life.
Anne Hathaway took a dive into the sincerity pool herself when she won for female actor in a supporting role.
Another young star, Jennifer Lawrence, continued her quite literally breathless run through awards season after winning female lead actor. Getting over pneumonia, Lawrence nonetheless did her effusive thing at the Shrine when she strode up to the stage in a long Dior dress that appeared to rip en route.
The big moment of the night came when Ben Affleck and the rest of the cast of “Argo” solidified their Oscar front-runner status by winning the top prize of cast in a motion picture. Affleck’s acceptance speech played the gracious card, but in the press room he couldn’t resist a knock on the Motion Picture Academy’s directors branch when he called on a reporter he had hadn’t seen before by saying, “I’m sorry I overlooked you … I know how it feels.”