by Natalie Finn | Wed., Jan. 17, 2018 5:00 AM
The Screen Actors Guild Awards, as one of the newer big shows on the block, tends to be a glamorous blip on the award season radar amid the more boisterous Golden Globes, rollicking pants-optional Grammys and drenched-in-history Oscars.
Heck, the show used to be held on Saturday not all that long ago.
This Sunday, however, the 2018 SAG Awards will play a pivotal role as the next step, following the Golden Globes' concerted display of female empowerment and solidarity, on the uncertain road to figuring out what is the new normal when it comes to both Hollywood's public displays of celebration and its overall response to the countless women who've come forward to say "me too."
The Time's Up movement is still in its infancy, and the rebuilding of this industry's entrenched power structure will be a work in progress for the foreseeable future—but in the meantime, as first-ever SAG Awards host Kristen Bell points out, there is still plenty to celebrate, and we're allowed to enjoy it.
"The Time's Up movement is making clear, I think, that we are moving forward," Bell said in an interview with E! News. "This is not something that everybody's going to talk about with a sad face forever. There was a time where we had a lot of headlines that were hard to digest and a lot of bad swirling emotions for everyone—and it's called diagnosing a problem. And that's what happens, when you get the bad news in the doctor's office, there is a period of mourning. And then there's the period where you go, 'OK, how do we get healthy again?'"
And she's up for the task that Golden Globes host Seth Meyers, as the host of the first major award show held in the wake of the #MeToo movement, compared to being the first dog launched into outer space.
"Weirdly, I think that's why I'm proud to not just be a part of it but to be hosting the awards at this particular moment, because I am a person that permanently believes in hope!" Bell exclaimed. "Even in the darkest moments I've ever had—and I've had some dark ones—there's something in my bones that believes in hope.
"And I think the message of moving forward—and yeah, nobody knows exactly how to do it, and people are going to watch every awards show and every movie and every TV show on the planet and say, 'well, that person did this wrong.' Yes, but a lot of these things are subjective. What we're talking about is, we might not all do it right in the beginning, but we do want to do it together, and I'm here for you."
The hundreds of power players who've lent their names and given their money to Time's Up—which has raised more than $15 million for a Legal Defense Fund set up to aid women who work in blue-collar, service and other industries where mistreatment is rampant, and who wouldn't otherwise have the resources to stand up for themselves—made their presence known in a variety of ways at the Golden Globes, most visibly with the sea of black attire that flooded the red carpet and the Time's Up pins dotting lapels and waistbands.
But the ultimate aim isn't to make Time's Up into the militant wing of award show attendees. The point is to turn the values that are fueling the movement—equality, fairness, respect, inclusion, empowerment—into an ever-present state of mind, in Hollywood and beyond.
"The Time's Up movement is really about showing that we're a united force of decent people that will fight for anyone who feels marginalized," Bell says. "The Legal Defense Fund is available to anyone that feels they can't challenge their boss. We're here for you...We're not isolating anyone anymore. You don't have to keep secrets. We're all friends."
Asked how she felt about the movement sweeping Hollywood, Sally Hawkins, a nominee for Best Performance by a Female Actor in a Leading Role for Shape of Water, told E! News that she was "incredibly proud" to be present for it. Similarly, Best Performance by a Female Actor in a Supporting Role nominee Mary J. Blige called Time's Up "very important." The Mudbound star said it's vital "to stand up for just women period, it's us. It's time."
(It bears mentioning that this award show is the only one where both men and women have always, since its inception in 1994, been equally referred to as actors, the word "actress" not officially in the SAG Awards lexicon.)
Jamie McCarthy/Getty Images for National Board of Review
And though the SAG Awards red carpet is expected to be awash in the usual array of color, metallics and more freewheeling displays of sartorial expression, the ceremony will provide a spirited reminder of the sea change that's under way.
For starters, though there will be men from the nominated film casts onstage to present clips from those movies, all of the competitive awards will be presented by women. Emma Stone, Lupita Nyong'o, Kelly Marie Tran, Halle Berry, Zoe Kazan, Frances McDormand, Laurie Metcalf and Saoirse Ronanwill be among the female stars doing the honors.
And in appointing a host for the first time, the guild has more or less put Bell in charge of setting the tone for the evening at the top of the show—though where it goes from there will be determined by the winners' speeches (and, perhaps, any unscripted moments, such as Natalie Portman's dig at this year's Golden Globe-nominated directors all being men, made while she was presenting Best Director).
Last year, the roiling real-world battle over the newly imposed travel ban wasn't far from the actors' minds, and that was reflected in many of the winners' speeches, but Beltway politics played a decidedly smaller role at the Globes on Jan. 7 in light of the pressing conversation taking place about #MeToo and Time's Up.
It seems likely that the trend will continue, but the ceremony is still a whole four days away. You never know what might happen.
Case in point: Two of this year's SAG-nominated male actors may or may not be inclined to join their peers on Sunday in light of very recent accusations of sexual misconduct. James Franco, who won the Golden Globe for acting in a comedy or musical film for The Disaster Artist, was accused that very night on Twitter; he gave interviews in which he said that the accusations laid out in tweets were inaccurate but he was willing to "take a knock" out of respect for the women's right to be heard, and to show his support for Time's Up. He skipped the Critics' Choice Awards last week, however, after a Los Angeles Times article detailed claims made by five women, including two who had tweeted after his win at the Globes.
Franco actually ended up winning the Critics' Choice Award, to tepid applause in the room. SAG Award voting started Dec. 19 and closed Jan. 19, so depending on how early people got their ballots in, it's theoretically possible he could win (though it would be a major upset over Gary Oldman, the Golden Globe winner for acting in a motion picture drama). Whether he's planning on being there to win or lose in person has yet to be announced.
Ashley Judd, a prominent voice of the #MeToo movement, praised Franco's response to the accusations as "terrific," noting "it takes that kind of individual accountability to collectively make the change on a large scale."
Aziz Ansari, also a Globe winner for acting in a comedy series and a nominee for Master of None this Sunday, was accused of bad behavior in a controversial article published Saturday night detailing a young woman's uncomfortable experience she had with the comedian on a date last September. She recalled expressing her feelings to Ansari via text the day after their date after he texted that it had been nice meeting her; Ansari, in responding to the report Monday, said he "took her words to heart and responded privately." He concluded, "I continue to support the movement that is happening in our culture. It is necessary and long overdue."
In addition to giving actors a platform to speak their piece should they choose to do so, SAG Awards do mean a tremendous amount to the actors who win them, as it's their fellow actors who vote for the winners, implying a certain heightened level of understanding when it comes to truly honoring the best performances of the year. Hence the drastically different nominees in the Best Performance by a Cast in a Motion Picture category than the group the Hollywood Foreign Press nominated for Best Motion Picture, Drama, at the Globes.
Historically (and as only a 24-year-old show), the SAG Awards have tended to be ahead of the curve, the diversity among the nominees and eventual winners at the ceremony in 2016, for instance, serving as a real "whenever you're ready to catch up" challenge to that year's whitewashed Oscars.
And with the overall intention of Time's Up being the creation of a truly level playing field, and an environment in which women have their fair share of the power and opportunities without having to pay an unfair price, the SAG Awards once again will have its moment to move the needle forward and shine.
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