The Screen Actors Guild awards and surprise winner Ruby Dee put some excitement back into the Oscar race

By Lynette Rice
Updated February 01, 2008 at 05:00 AM EST

A ferocious winter storm had just dumped nearly eight inches on the L.A. region. But on Jan. 27, the stars rang up their hairdressers and screwed on their smiles anyway for the 14th Annual Screen Actors Guild Awards, the first big awards show since the Writers Guild of America began picketing last November. Though bursts of wind and rain pelted the arrival tent at L.A.’s Shrine Auditorium, A-listers like Brad Pitt, Angelina Jolie, and Tom Cruise turned out to support their peers. ”I understand the value of a union and certainly the value of writers,” said John Turturro, who earned a SAG nod for his work in ESPN’s The Bronx Is Burning. ”We are supportive of them. They gave us a go on our show.”

In return, the SAGs put Oscar on notice that at least one category may not be a fait accompli come Feb. 24: 83-year-old Ruby Dee shook up the supporting-actress category with a win for her brief role in American Gangster, besting favorites Amy Ryan (Gone Baby Gone) and Cate Blanchett (I’m Not There). Other kudos were more predictable: Daniel Day-Lewis (There Will Be Blood), Julie Christie (Away From Her), and Javier Bardem (No Country for Old Men, which also took best ensemble) all continued their awards-season winning streaks.

The honors for TV were less diffuse: James Gandolfini, Edie Falco, Tina Fey, and no-show Alec Baldwin scored acting prizes for The Sopranos and 30 Rock, while The Office earned a second consecutive win for best ensemble. Still, the 12-week-old strike didn’t exactly put Jenna Fischer in the mood to party. ”I hope they solve this thing. I miss saying, ‘Dunder Mifflin — this is Pam.”’