‘Three Billboards’ wins top prize, women stand center stage at SAG Awards

The Screen Actors Guild Awards gravitated back toward something approaching award-show normalcy, while straining to exhibit its relevance vis-à-vis the Time’s Up/#MeToo movement. It was, to say the least, an ungainly process, one that made for an uneven, disjointed telecast.

Color might have crept back into the outfits, but the presentation itself was conspicuously drab.

After the Golden Globes produced an array of stirring moments and a concerted fashion statement in the form of black attire, the question lingered whether the activism unleashed by sexual-misconduct allegations against producer Harvey Weinstein and others would carry through awards season.

Sunday’s telecast outlined some limits on engaging in that conversation in this context, despite a lineup of female presenters — and for the first time a host, Kristen Bell — seemingly designed to advance it.

The bottom line is for those who complain about lectures from Hollywood A-listers — who would rather awards shows be self-congratulatory, promotional affairs, better off being boring than controversial — well, this was your night.

Bell played a modest role in the two-hour ceremony, which incorporated planned references to sexual harassment dotted throughout the show. That included remarks from SAG president Gabrielle Carteris, who garnered applause for stating that a “massive cultural shift” is happening, saying, “Truth is power. And women are stepping into their power.” Rosanne Arquette — one of Weinstein’s accusers — also appeared as a presenter, noting that she was speaking for others who were similarly victimized.

Still, much of the staged presenter banter proved awkward, squandering the likes of Sarah Silverman and Olivia Munn. Few of the acceptance speeches were particularly memorable, perhaps because of a repetitiveness among the winners — Gary Oldman, Frances McDormand, Sam Rockwell, Nicole Kidman for “Big Little Lies” — that is, to be fair, beyond the producers’ control.

Despite Hollywood’s liberal tilt, allusions to politics were muted. William H. Macy, for example, said acting, in its pursuit of truth, was a great way to make a living in an age when “so many people either can’t recognize the truth or don’t think it’s important.”

Instead, the winners basked in the recognition from their peers, and offered uplifting messages of encouragement to those who were waiting tables while hoping for their big break.

The show — televised by TNT, like CNN, part of Time Warner — sparked to life sparingly, such as when Rita Moreno received a standing ovation before presenting a lifetime achievement award to Morgan Freeman.

The big winner, “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri,” moved a step closer to the Oscar podium, although after the Producers Guild of America honored “The Shape of Water” on Saturday, anything approximating consensus in this year’s best-picture race remains elusive.

Mostly, the SAG Awards were a night for actors to talk up and revel in their craft. As TV events go, however, the industry’s highest-profile guild failed to put on much of a show.