Faye Dunaway and Warren Beatty were back for a do-over this year, after they mistakenly announced La La Land and not Moonlight had won Best Picture in 2017. No one disputed it this time when they read out the winner, The Shape of Water, a fable about a mute janitor in a Cold War-era lab who falls in love with a sea creature kept there, a fanciful allegory about tolerance.
All the acting Oscars went to the heavy favorites: Frances McDormand as a grieving, angry mother in Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri; Gary Oldman for Darkest Hour, in which he played Winston Churchill; Allison Janney as Tonya Harding’s mother in I, Tonya; and Sam Rockwell as a racist cop in Three Billboards.
Some were surprised at The Shape of Water’s Best Picture win, in light of the fact that a lawsuit was filed against it for plagiarism by the estate of Paul Zindel. The lawsuit details similarities to Zindel’s 1969 play, Let Me Hear You Whisper, about an introverted janitor who falls in love with a talking dolphin kept in a government lab.
In spite of the lawsuit, The Shape of Water also won Oscars for Best Director (Guillermo del Toro), Best Production Design and Best Achievement in Music (Original Score).
“I am an immigrant,” said del Toro, whose win marked the fourth time a Mexican has won the Best Director Oscar since 2013. “. . . I was a kid enamored with movies, growing up in Mexico, I thought this could never happen. It happens. And I want to tell you, everyone that is dreaming of using fantasy to tell the stories about the things that are real in the world today, you can do it. This is the door. Kick it open and come in.”
There was irony in the fact that The Shape of Water was the winner in a year of more overtly political movies, such as Jordan Peele’s horror/social satire, Get Out, or Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri, Martin McDonagh’s darkly comic story of the aftermath of a small-town killing, although Peele did win Best Original Screenplay for Get Out. Eighty-nine-year-old James Ivory, one of the oldest Oscar winners ever, took home the Best Adapted Screenplay Award for the gay, Jewish love story, Call Me By Your Name, based on a novel by Andre Aciman.
Jimmy Kimmel, hosting for the second year in-a-row, got as edgy as he could, given that he was faced with the unenviable task of having to spotlight the MeToo movement and tell jokes at the same time.
In a reference to Harvey Weinstein, the multi-Oscar winning producer and studio head whose sexual harassment of actresses sparked the MeToo movement, Kimmel looked at a huge statue of the Oscar and said that Oscar was the most respected man in Hollywood, because he “keeps his hands where you can see them, never says a rude word and most importantly, no penis at all . . . That’s the kind of man we need more of in this town.”
President Donald Trump was barely mentioned during the course of the evening, but he and his administration never seemed to be far from the presenters’ thoughts. Kimmel introduced Lupita Nyong’o, the Best Supporting Actress winner from 12 Years a Slave in 2014, saying she was born in Mexico and raised in Kenya, and added, “Let the tweetstorm from the president's toilet begin.” Mentioning the gay-themed Call Me By Your Name, Kimmel said, “We don’t make movies to make money, we make movies to upset Mike Pence.”
Nyong’o and Kumail Nanjiani, the actor/writer who co-wrote the Oscar-nominated screenplay for The Big Sick and who was born in Pakistan, presented the Oscar for Best Production Design together. Like del Toro, they referenced the fact that they are both immigrants. “So to all the Dreamers out there, we stand with you,” Nyong’o said, referring to the term used for those brought to the US as children who are are in the middle of a political controversy over their legal status.
Three of the actresses who shared the stories of their sexual harassment last year with such publications as The New York Times and The New Yorker — Salma Hayek, Ashley Judd and Annabella Sciorra — took to the stage to celebrate MeToo and Time’sUp.
Judd said, “The changes we are witnessing are being driven by the powerful sound of new voices, of different voices, of our voices, joining together in a mighty chorus that is finally saying Time’s Up,” as the three introduced a video package of actors and filmmakers talking about diversity and struggle. The package included interviews with some of the other women who have accused Weinstein of sexual assault and rape, including Oscar winner Mira Sorvino. Kumail Nanjiani referred to the financial success of several of the movies this year that featured diverse characters, including The Big Sick, and urged producers to continue making such films. “Do it because you can get rich,” he said.
McDormand made an emotional speech in which she asked all the female nominees to stand up, saying, “Meryl, if you do, everyone else will.” Streep, who was nominated an Oscar for the 21rst time for her performance in Steven Spielberg’s The Post, duly rose and the others followed suit. “Look around ladies and gentlemen, because we all have stories to tell and projects we need financed,” continued McDormand, adding that she had two words to tell the audience, “Inclusion rider,” a reference to a contract clause stipulating the cast and crew of films be diverse.
McDormand was decidedly not glamorous, wearing a gown that looked as if it were made out of a carpet — a reference to the dress Scarlett O’Hara made in Gone with the Wind? — but multi-colored high fashion ruled the red carpet, in contrast to mostly black gowns worn at the Golden Globes, a nod to the MeToo Movement. Perhaps the standout was presenter 86-year-old Rita Moreno, who wore the same gown in which she accepted her 1962 Best Supporting Actress Oscar for West Side Story. Moreno presented the Oscar for Best Foreign Language film to A Fantastic Woman, a film from Chile about a transgender woman.
Much was made of the fact that the first woman ever was nominated for the Best Cinematography Award, Rachel Morrison (Mudbound), but in the end the Oscar went to Roger A. Deakins for Blade Runner 2049. Deakins is a 14-time nominee who has worked on many of the best films over the last two decades and who had never won before.
But for many, the reason to watch the extremely long and slow-paced Oscar telecast was summed up by two words: Gal Gadot. The Israeli-born Wonder Woman star presented the award for Best Makeup and Hairstyling with Call Me By Your Name star Armie Hammer. Gadot was also part of a Kimmel stunt where a group of actors crashed a screening of a movie nearby. In addition, Wonder Woman was included in a montage of clips of great movies.
The award that may have meant the most to audiences was a jet ski that Kimmel promised to the winner who made the shortest speech. He kept his word: The jet ski was presented by Helen Mirren to Mark Bridges, the winner for Best Costume Design for Phantom Thread, who climbed aboard it at the end of the broadcast.