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Bullock and Bridges win as Oscar favourite overlooked

'AVATAR' was left feeling blue but Jeff Bridges and Sandra Bullock's boosted their chances of Oscar glory with gongs at the Screen Actors' Guild (SAG) Awards at the weekend.

The computer-assisted performances of 12ft-tall blue aliens in James Cameron's 'Avatar' didn't make the cut for SAG nominations. But the groundbreaking sci-fi film remains a strong best picture contender for the Oscars in March.

For Bridges of 'Crazy Heart', Bullock of 'The Blind Side' and for SAG supporting-acting honourees Mo'Nique of 'Precious' and Austrian actor Christoph Waltz of 'Inglourious Basterds', there's reason to suspect the Oscar ceremony will be a happy rerun of the weekend's SAG Awards and last Sunday's Golden Globes.

All four were recognised at the Globes as well, while 'Avatar' was named best drama and Cameron won as best director.

He will face competition from director Quentin Tarantino, whose 'Inglourious Basterds' won the SAG Award for best ensemble performance, which can be a precursor to the top Oscar award.

Last year, SAG's movie cast award was presented to 'Slumdog Millionaire', which went on to win the best picture Oscar.

Bullock refused to look ahead to the Academy awards.

"Shhhhh. Shhhhh. Shhhhh," she said backstage when asked to speculate on her Oscar chances. She won for her portrayal of a tenacious real-life mother, Leigh Anne Tuohy, who helped a youth in need.


"I would be a hostess or a waitress or a house restorer before I ever considered myself an actor, because I never thought I was good enough," she added.

Although respected by his peers, Bridges has largely been bypassed for major awards.

"I love being an actor -- pretending to be other people and getting into the shoes of other folks," said Bridges, who plays a hard-luck, hard-living country singer in 'Crazy Heart'.

Christoph Waltz was honoured for his role as an enthusiastically ruthless Nazi.

Mo'Nique's trophy came for her searing portrayal of an abusive mother in 'Precious', which was based on the novel 'Push' by Sapphire.

On the TV side of the SAG Awards, the cast of 1960s advertising agency saga 'Mad Men' won the trophy for best drama series ensemble for the second year in a row, while 19 cast members of newcomer 'Glee', about misfits in a school singing club, accepted the award for best comedy series ensemble.

'Glee' also claimed the best comedy series award at the Golden Globes.

Alec Baldwin and Tina Fey of NBC's '30 Rock' won for best acting in a comedy series, allowing Fey to get in a sly joke about NBC and its bitter late-night battle with Conan O'Brien in her acceptance speech.

"I just wanted to take a moment to say to everyone at NBC, we are very happy with everything, and happy to be there," she said. Both she and Baldwin won the award last year.

Golden Globe winner Michael C Hall of Showtime's serial-killer thriller 'Dexter', wearing a cap because of treatment he's receiving for Hodgkin's lymphoma, won best actor in a drama series.

The award for best actress in a drama went to Julianna Margulies of 'The Good Wife', in which she plays the spouse of a jailed politician.


Kevin Bacon won as best actor in a movie or mini-series for the war-themed drama, 'Taking Chance', while Drew Barrymore received best actress honours in the category for 'Grey Gardens', about eccentric relatives of Jacqueline Onassis.

Betty White (88) accepted a lifetime achievement award from Bullock for an enduring career that included 'The Mary Tyler Moore Show' and 'The Golden Girls', and showed her sharp comedic chops.

When Bullock joked that she found White annoying, White shot back: "Isn't it heartening to see how far a girl as plain as she is can go."

"I should be presenting an award to you for the privilege of working in this wonderful business all this time. And you still can't get rid of me," White told the audience.

Actors in two critically acclaimed films went home empty-handed, including 'Up in the Air' star George Clooney and the film's supporting actresses, Vera Farmiga and Anna Kendrick. Clooney, however, was lauded by SAG president Ken Howard for helping organise Friday's telethon to raise money for earthquake-devastated Haiti.

Irish Independent