“The Shape of Water” wins big in well-orchestrated Oscars Ceremony

The film won four awards, including best director for Guillermo del Toro.

In an era dominated by uncertainty, it’s nice to know that some things are still predictable. The winners of last night’s Academy Awards had all been front-runners in their categories for months. There were no upsets and plenty of perennial runners-up getting their time in the spotlight.

The ceremony itself went off without a hitch, which, after last year’s best picture debacle, could be seen as an achievement. But in a time and town so steeped in politics, the most striking aspect of last night’s ceremony was how well-orchestrated the whole event felt.

Veteran host Jimmy Kimmel emceed the evening’s ceremony with his usual blend of sarcastic panache, prankster ethos and late night monologuist swagger. He mocked celebrities as often as he fired jokes at politicians, or mentioned the Time’s Up or Never Again movements.

“We will always remember this year as the year men screwed up so badly, women started dating fish,” Kimmel said, referencing The Shape of WaterSpeaking about how only two of the best picture nominees had made over $100 million, he quipped, “we don’t make films like Call Me by Your Name for money. We make them to upset Mike Pence.”

The rest of his monologue was dedicated to poking fun at various actors’ ages and trying to convince winners to keep their speeches short by offering the winner with the shortest speech a jet ski.

Later, in classic Kimmel fashion, he took a troupe of celebrities across the street to a theater full of moviegoers to toss out candy and hot dogs to thank them for their ticket purchase. (It’s no coincidence that the theater Kimmel invaded was playing A Wrinkle in Time, the latest film from Disney, which owns the network that the Academy Awards are broadcast.)

In the wake of the Harvey Weinstein scandal and the subsequent #MeToo movement, the Academy made room in the night’s schedule to slot in social messaging. One particularly powerful moment was when Ashley Judd, Salma Hayek and Annabella Sciorra took the stage together to introduce a video promoting equality. All three women have accused Harvey Weinstein of crimes ranging from assault to rape, and Sciorra fought back tears while praising the slow progress Hollywood has begun to make.

Frances McDormand, in her acceptance speech for best actress, invited all of the other women nominees to stand up before issuing the call for “inclusion riders,” a phrase that instantly began trending. McDormand was referencing a clause that can be included in big-name actors’ contracts that would mandate some level of diversity in the production.

As for the awards themselves, the big winner was Guillermo del Toro. His fable cum monster movie, The Shape of Water, won four awards including best director and picture. Del Toro’s best director award marks the fourth time in five years that the statue has gone to a Mexican filmmaker.

Three Billboards, which was shut out of other categories, was awarded twice for acting (best actress and supporting actor). Meanwhile, the spectacles of Dunkirk and Blade Runner 2049 dominated the technical categories, including the first win for cinematographer Roger Deakins, who was a perennial nominee for over twenty years.

In a couple of firsts for the evening, Jordan Peele became the first black writer to win the award for best original screenplay and Daniela Vega was the first openly transgender person to present at the Oscars. But these milestones were overshadowed by the tide of awards for white actors and actresses, including a best actor statue for Gary Oldman, whose performance as Winston Churchill seemed as tailor-made for awards season as DiCaprio’s turn as a woodsman.

The Academy Awards reflect Hollywood in all its glory and decay. Seeing legendary actresses Eva Marie Saint and Rita Moreno take the same stage as Judd, Hayek and Sciorra and talented men like Peele and del Toro showed that, in a town with so much history, change may come slowly, but it is coming.


Photo: Pasha C | Flickr

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