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A prelude to the Oscars


Edward Asner.

RUSSELL CROWE was named best actor at the recently held 8th Screen Actors Guild Awards for portraying a schizophrenic mathematician in ``A Beautiful Mind,'' and Halle Berry was named best actress for her role as the widow of an executed inmate in ``Monster's Ball.'' Last year, Crowe won the Academy Award for best actor for ``Gladiator.'' If Crowe were to win the Oscar for ``A Beautiful Mind,'' he would be the first person to win two straight best-actor Oscars since Tom Hanks won for ``Philadelphia'' and ``Forrest Gump'' in 1993 and 1994.

The guild awards provide a glimpse at how the Oscars might shake out on March 24. In SAG's seven previous awards shows, 11 of 14 lead-actor recipients went on to win Oscars. The SAG awards, voted on by the union's 98,000 members, are given in five film and eight television categories. Ian McKellen won the supporting- actor honour for portraying the wizard Gandalf in ``The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring.'' Helen Mirren took the supporting-actress prize as a cool, efficient housekeeper in ``Gosford Park.''

Transcending black label

Halle Berry says she's on a mission to be a transcending black actress -- a pursuit that has been an uphill battle at times. Berry said she has had several encounters with racism during her film career, which has included roles in ``Monster's Ball,'' ``Swordfish'' and ``Bulworth.'' ``What's hardest for me to swallow is when there is a love story, say, with a really high-profile male star and there's no reason I can't play the part,'' said Berry. ``They say, `Oh, we love Halle, we just don't want to go black with this part.' What enrages me is that those are such racist statements, but the people saying them don't think they are.'' Berry is up for best actress at the Academy Awards for her role as a worn-out waitress in ``Monster's Ball.'' If victorious, she would become the first black woman to win a best actress Oscar. A win would also put her a step closer toward succeeding in her mission ``to be an actress of colour who can make a difference and go down a path that no woman has gone before.'' The guild's highest honour, the 38th Annual Life Achievement Award was presented to Edward Asner by Tom Selleck. Some of the veteran actor's memorable performances have been in ``Lou Grant'', ``Roots'', ``Rich Man, Poor Man'' and in the comedy series ``The Mary Tyler Moore Show''. Among the many recognitions that have come his way are Emmy and The Golden Globe Awards.

The awards in the other categories went to:

For Outstanding Performance by the Cast of a Theatrical Motion Picture: ``Gosford Park''.

For Outstanding Performance by a Male Actor in a Television Movie or Miniseries: Ben Kingsley (``Anne Frank'').

For Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Television Movie or Miniseries: Judy Davis (``Life With Judy Garland: Me And My Shadows'').

For Outstanding Performance by a Male Actor in a Drama Series: Martin Sheen (``The West Wing'').

For Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Drama Series: Allison Janney (``The West Wing'').

For Outstanding Performance by a Male Actor in a Comedy Series: Sean Hayes (``Will and Grace).

For Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Comedy Series: Megan Mullally (``Will and Grace'').

For Outstanding Performance by an Ensemble in a Drama Series: ``The West Wing''.

For Outstanding Performance by an Ensemble in a Comedy Series: ``Sex And The City''.

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