05 Mar The good, the bad, and the ugly of the 90th Academy Awards
The most insane and exhausting awards season of recent times is finally at an end. Strangely enough, things mostly went according to plan. Well, not exactly my plan, but that Get Out prediction for Best Picture was always a long shot. Overall, there really were zero huge shocks, and, thankfully, there were no mistakes this year. All in all, it was a mostly fantastic ceremony, and there’s very little to moan about this year. However, we’ve can’t have this article without something to pick on, so let’s get down to it.
The Shape of Water winning Best Picture. I’m well aware I picked the wrong film for the fourth (!) year in-a-row, but it was such a treat to see a beautiful, quirky, and decidedly different film win the big one. A sci-fi fantasy winning Best Picture is unheard of. It’s never happened. Fantasy, yes. But nothing as genuinely “out there” as this one. It broke the SAG stat and became the first film since Braveheart to win without that once-key nomination. Strangely enough, it’s also the first film Best Picture winner without acting, writing, or editing wins since Braveheart. It’s the first female-led Best Picture winner in 15 years, and that is a piece of history we should all be proud of. And it gave us the most adorable moment of the night when Guillermo del Toro double-checked the envelope in Warren Beatty’s hand, and waved it to the audience, with a huge smile on his face.
Guillermo del Toro wins Best Director. We all knew it was coming, but what a moment to see such a visionary and masterful director win an Academy Award. He became the fourth Mexican director to win in the last five years, and joined his Three Amigos buddies, Alejandro G. Iñárritu and Alfonso Cuarón, in the winner’s circle. It’s often we see such unique and daring directors ignored by the Academy. Thankfully, del Toro is not one of them.
Jordan Peele wins Best Original Screenplay. I must apologise to my neighbours and my poor cat because, when Get Out was announced the winner, I downright lost my mind. Screaming, clapping, jumping. I officially lost it. Easily the moment of the night. Part of my joy was how it made its mission for Best Picture seem somewhat possible, but mostly because it damn well deserved to win. Peele’s screenplay is a masterpiece, and thank god the Academy felt the same.
Roger Deakins wins Best Cinematography. After 13 losses, Deakins is FINALLY an Academy Award winner. Most of us who admire his work never thought this day would come. Some didn’t even think it possible this year, due to such strong competition. No matter what you thought of the overall film, no one could deny how utterly visually spectacular Blade Runner 2049 was, and Deakins was the right choice. Now let’s all turn our attention to getting five-time loser Amy Adams an Oscar next.
James Ivory wins Best Adapted Screenplay. At 89-years-old, Ivory became the oldest Academy Award winner in history. After decades of brilliant work, you could call this a “career tribute” victory, but that would take away from the beautiful screenplay he crafted for Call Me by Your Name. Yes, it was a rather light category, but he deserved this. Bonus points for Ivory wearing a shirt with Timothée Chalamet’s face on it. Brilliant.
Frances McDormand wins Best Actress. Again, we knew this would happen, and we all suspected McDormand would turn her speech into an Oscar moment. Queen Frances did not disappoint. She called for all the female nominees in every category to stand up, which was met with thunderous applause from the audience for these talented and amazing women. McDormand then spoke of women also having stories to tell and projects they needed help in financing. She invited the men in the room to work with women in bringing them to life, which, again, was met with huge applause. It was the moment of the night.
The intro montages. Given it was the 90th anniversary, the Academy cleared wanted to acknowledge their deep history. Before the acting categories, highlights from previous Oscar-winning performances were shown, which was such a great touch. There was another package highlighting the #MeToo and Times Up movements, and the changing role of women in the industry, which was hugely powerful. But the finest moment was a “90 Years of” montage which simply delivered dozens of moments from the last 90 years of cinema. Classic movies. Recent releases. Films from every possible genre. Films which won Academy Awards. Films which didn’t. Everything was covered. Whoever created it deserves some sort of award. It stood as one singular package which perfectly encapsulates why so many of us are such devoted film fans.
Inviting Faye Dunaway and Warren Beatty back to present Best Picture. After the disaster last year, these two legends deserved a do-over. It was so damn classy of the Academy to give them that chance. And it all went smoothly, thank god.
Tiffany Haddish and Maya Rudolph as presenters. If Jimmy doesn’t wanna host it again next year, you’ve found two perfect replacements. Their chemistry and their comedy were pitch perfect. They could be the new Tina and Amy. Oh, the Golden Globes are going to steal them, aren’t they?
Kumail Nanjiani. Just a shout-out to one of the funniest men in the industry. He was another of the presenter highlights, and he showed up again later in a video montage, which he completely owned as well. Maybe pencil him down as another possible host for next year too.
Jimmy Kimmel as host. If he comes back for a third time in-a-row, no one should be complaining. Kimmel was great, once again. He was present without being overbearing. He delivered a stellar monologue, which avoided being a total “let’s blast Donald Trump”-palooza. He touched on the Weinstein and #MeToo scandals, without causing offence or ridicule. He did a cute bit with his “9-year-old self.” And he kept the show moving along at a good pace, even if it ultimately ran overtime. All in all, a solid piece of Oscars hosting.
The jet ski bit. At the start of the show, Kimmel announced the Oscar winner with the shortest speech would win a brand new jet ski, in a Price is Right-style skit. The jet ski was revealed and presented by none other than Helen Mirren, who equally hammed it up for the camera. It provided a sublime bit which Kimmel, the presenters, and winners could all refer to, throughout the rest of the evening. And the pay off was worth it. At the end of the ceremony, Mirren and Phantom Thread costume designer Mark Bridges were wheeled back on-stage, riding the jet ski. Absolute gold.
Christopher Nolan’s loss for Best Director. We all knew it was going to happen. And it was enormously gratifying to see Nolan finally receive an Oscar nomination for Best Director. But to see a filmmaker craft something like Dunkirk and not walk away with the trophy is soul-crushing. What does this man have to do to win an Oscar? Not to take anything at all away from del Toro’s much-deserved win. That was great, and del Toro certainly should have won. But if there was ever a year to demand a Best Director tie, this was it. Maybe next time, Mr. Nolan.
The music cues. They did this last year, and it came back again this year. Each presenter is played on or off stage by a piece of music which never seems to make any sense whatsoever. It started with the very first award, when the luminous Viola Davis was embarrassingly made to walk to the microphone to “Soul Bossa Nova” from Austin Powers. Yep. That happened. You could tell Davis had no idea how to walk gracefully to such a silly piece of music. Please, please, please try to fix this next year. Just pick a nice instrumental piece from a film with a little more grace and dignity than Austin bloody Powers.
The cinema stunt. Clearly, Kimmel didn’t learn from his equally-disappointing tour bus stunt last year. Grabbing a bunch of A-list stars from the audience and taking them to surprise people in a nearby cinema (who clearly don’t give two sh*ts about the Oscars, if they’re currently watching a movie instead of the awards) was as useless and pointless as it sounds. I’ll admit it was a cute gag when they gave them candy and hot dogs, especially the bizarre sight of seeing Armie Hammer with a hot dog launching gun. But it ate up so much time, and really added nothing to the show at all. Cutting short acceptence speeches (including those for Best Picture), but devoting so much time to a silly skit makes no sense whatsoever.
The presentation of the Sound categories. For some inexplicable reason, Ansel Elgort and Eiza González were the two presenters of both Best Sound Editing and Best Sound Mixing. Why is this such an odd decision? Because they both happen to star in Baby Driver, which just so happened to be nominated for both awards, and just so happened to lose both categories to Dunkirk. Now I know this seems picky, but asking two actors to announce the two victories of a film which just beat a film they both starred in seems a little unfair and cruel. González didn’t seem too thrilled by it either. Why, oh, why could they not have presented literally any other category? It made for such an awkward and unnecessary moment.
War for the Planet of the Apes loses Best Visual Effects. The Apes trilogy delivered some of the most stunning and masterful visual effects work the screen has ever seen. The fact that all three films have now failed to win an Academy Award is downright disgraceful. Yes, I predicted the eventual-winner Blade Runner 2049, but I genuinely hoped to be wrong. Just look at the photo-realistic work they continually created in these films, and try to tell me they weren’t worthy of recognition.
Great films went home empty-handed. It happens practically every year, but it’s no less painful to endure. Sublime films like Lady Bird, The Florida Project, Baby Driver, The Big Sick, and Mudbound all went home with nothing. Alright, two of those films only had one nomination each, which they were never going to win, but still. It’s always tough to witness such glorious work fail to receive a single Academy Award. The total snub of Lady Bird is particularly tough to accept, but it’ll always be a winner to me.
No 90th anniversary class photo. To acknowledge and celebrate past major anniversaries, the Academy has often gathered dozens of previous acting winners on stage, for a once-in-a-lifetime class photo. It’s always a sensational moment, and a chance to honour the epic history of the awards. Given this was the 90th anniversary, many assumed we’d see the same this year. Nope. This opportunity went sailing by, and instead, we were given a bunch of attendees throwing candy and hot dogs to strangers inside a cinema. Right then.
So, there it is. The culmination of one of the strangest and most confusing awards season in living memory. With such a strong line-up of contenders, it’s hard to say if the most “deserving” film won Best Picture. Or even if the acting winners were the right choices. Or the craft categories. Who knows how this year will look in hindsight. But, for now, we can say the Academy did good.
Always remember this fact – if your favourite film or performance or technical work didn’t win this year, that doesn’t mean a damn thing. If it’s the best in your eyes, failing to win a prize like an Academy Award can never change that. This is all just a big game, and these were the lucky ones who came out on top.
Until next year…