The awards season now turns on a delicate dance between "American Hustle" and "12 Years a Slave."
The 20th Annual Screen Actors Guild Awards gave David O. Russell's con-man comedy "American Hustle" the top prize Saturday night, making it the front-runner for Oscar gold. But if it has any competition at the Academy Awards, it seems to be from Steve McQueen's harrowing look at slavery in America.
The guild's award show, considered a leading indicator of Oscar gold, did little to clarify a season that has seen both Academy Award nominees take home several top honors, including coveted trophies at the Golden Globes just last Sunday. The only honor "12 Years a Slave" won Saturday night at the Shrine Exposition Center in Los Angeles was for Lupita Nyong'o, for her supporting turn in her feature debut.
Also solidifying their front-runner status Saturday night: Oscar nominees Cate Blanchett, Matthew McConaughey and Jared Leto.
All three have won the lion's share of trophies this awards season.
Blanchett won the trophy for lead female actor in a film for "Blue Jasmine," playing a mentally troubled widow. McConaughey and Leto won for their performances in "Dallas Buyers Club." McConaughey picked up the honor for lead actor for his role in the drama as a homophobic engineer who discovers he has AIDS, and Leto won for supporting male actor as a transgender woman dying of the disease.
The SAG honors TV as well as film, with AMC's "Breaking Bad" and ABC's "Modern Family" both winning two awards apiece, including top ensemble honors in drama and comedy, respectively.
"What a way to go out in style," Bryan Cranston said as he accepted the honor on behalf of the cast of the TV drama series about a ruthless meth kingpin. The series ended its run last fall, but is still reaping the rewards. Cranston also topped off his Emmy and Golden Globe wins with the SAG prize for male actor in a drama series for playing Walter White.
Julia Louis-Dreyfus won the SAG award for female actor in a TV comedy series for HBO's "Veep" and had the audience laughing with an acceptance speech that riffed off her role as the ambitious vice president. And Ty Burrell was even funnier. Winning for male actor in a TV comedy for "Modern Family," he accepted the honor with a speech that included his five simple rules for failing his way to success.
But the winner who earned the loudest applause was barrier-breaking 82-year-old Rita Moreno.
The veteran actress, who is one of Hollywood's rarest birds -- an EGOT, a winner of an Emmy, Grammy, Oscar and Tony award -- relished her moment in the spotlight as she received the prestigious Life Achievement Award.
"I'm so [bleeping] thrilled," Moreno said after doing a victory dance around the stage in accepting the honor from her "Electric Company" co-star, Morgan Freeman. (At least that's what it sounded like, because, well, it was bleeped.) She sang, she flirted with Brad Pitt and Jeremy Renner, and earned herself a standing ovation.
Another acting veteran -- Michael Douglas -- celebrated a win for the role of a lifetime, playing Liberace.
Douglas will always be remembered for his Oscar-winning role as Gordon Gekko, of course, in 1987's "Wall Street." But his daring turn as the flamboyant gay showman in HBO's "Behind the Candelabra" has been a revelation. It earned him an Emmy and a Golden Globe. And at the SAG Awards, he won the trophy for male actor in a television movie or miniseries.
And as has been the routine this awards season, he has had nothing but praise for his co-star, Matt Damon, who played the pianist's much younger lover. "The truth is, I am not here without Matt Damon," Douglas said. "This is yours, too."
In other awards handed out Saturday evening, Helen Mirren won the trophy for female actor in a television movie or miniseries for HBO's "Phil Spector," and Maggie Smith won the statuette for female actor in a TV drama series for PBS' "Downton Abbey."