It was one of the most socially-charged ceremonies ever, and most of the frontrunners were ushered into their expected places in the winners’ circle, but the 90th Academy Awards were full of surprises and remarkable moments that never seemed angry or forced.
Other than best picture, the major awards went to just about everyone they were expected to: best actress (Frances McDormand) and supporting actor (Same Rockwell) for Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri; best actor (Gary Oldman) for Darkest Hour; best supporting actress (Allison Janney) for I, Tonya; best screenplays (adapted to James Ivory’s Call Me By Your Name, original to Get Out‘s Jordan Peele). But along the way left us with precious memorable moments. Peele’s win for his first screenplay on a film that cost $5 and made close to half a billion worldwide gave artistic cred to the Black Lives Matter Movement as the first black winner in that category; Ivory, at 89, getting a standing O as the oldest-ever Oscar winner in history with his first-ever award; and they received the awards from women. No one went out the way to “point out” these historic moments, as if the wins were honorary or somehow not truly deserved. The same was true when the Daniela Vega, the star of A Fantastic Woman (which won the best foreign language film) because the first openly transgender actress to present at the Oscars; and when Roger Deakins broke his 13-in-a-row losing streak, finally winning the cinematography Oscar (for Blade Runner 2049).
After the disaster of last year’s flubbed best picture reveal, one of the most obvious changes was that the envelopes were clearly marked on the outside with the category so that even if the presenter didn’t notice, a billion watchers on TV would know. And in the classic d0-over, Faye Dunaway and Warren Beatty once again announced the winner, which was one of the few major surprises of the night: The Shape of Water, which has been the frontrunner in 2017 but started to drop in likelihood during the past two months, when Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri racked up so many awards.
The quirky gimmick of the night was host Jimmy Kimmel taking many stars next door to a preview movie screening and handing out snacks to the unexpecting audience, along with folks like Armie Hammer, Lupita Nyong’o and eventual best director winner Guillermo Del Toro, who became the fourth best director winner from Mexico in the past five years, meaning that not only do shithole countries bring pretty talented immigrants to our shores, but a wall probably wouldn’t work. (Last year Kimmel brought tourists into the Oscar ceremony.) Many winners in other categories were happy foreigners (German, Canadian, Chilean, Mexican) as were many presenters.
Indeed, it was a classy undertaking for the most part, with tons of women presenters, many who have gained additional prominence recently as part of the #MeToo Movement and most of whom held each others’ hands. And Greta Gerwig, the talented writer-director of Lady Bird, was always the first on her feet when she lost director and screenplay.
The biggest surprise of the night was probably Kobe Bryant winner for the animated short Dear Basketball, proving how many men really do vote in the shorts categories. For the record, that’s Dear Basketball, one Oscar; Lady Bird, none.
There was no runaway winner, though The Shape of Water‘s four wins makes it the highest number of win for a best picture since The Artist in 2011 (it won five) and tying with Birdman. Overall, 12 different feature films won Oscars, with multiple awards going to Dunkirk (3), Three Billboards, Coco and Blade Runner 2049 (2 apiece).
With race, sex, national original and orientation/gender identity treated not as “special” but as essential to the fabric of a healthy society, this felt like a true sea-change in inclusion and not mere lip-service. It’s a different world, folks. And it only took 90 years for the Academy to get it right.
All the winners:
Picture: The Shape of Water
Director: Guillermo Del Toro, The Shape of Water
Actress: Frances McDormand, Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri
Actor: Gary Oldman, Darkest Hour
Supporting Actress: Allison Janney, I, Tonya
Supporting Actor: Sam Rockwell, Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri
Original Screenplay: Jordan Peele, Get Out
Adapted Screenplay: James Ivory, Call Me By Your Name
Score: The Shape of Water
Song: “Remember Me” from Coco
Foreign Language Film: A Fantastic Woman
Documentary Feature: Icarus
Cinematography: Blade Runner 2049
Film Editing: Dunkirk
Production Design: The Shape of Water
Costume Design: Phantom Thread
Sound Editing and Sound Mixing: Dunkirk
Visual Effects: Blade Runner 2049
Makeup and Hairstyling: Darkest Hour
Shorts — Live Action: The Silent Child; Animated: Dear Basketball; Documentary: Heaven is a Traffic Jam on the 405.
— Arnold Wayne Jones