It’s telling that last year’s Best Picture blunder was such Earth-shaking news that this year’s ceremony was an improvement simply on the basis that a similar mix-up didn’t happen this year. But that doesn’t mean that there weren’t surprises and controversy. Here’s our talking points from last night.
The Ceremony Itself
I think Jimmy Kimmel has a pretty solid lock on being host of the ceremonies for as long as he wants it. He might not be as good as Billy Crystal was in his prime, but I can’t see an Anne Hathaway/James Franco type catastrophe in his future. He’s charming without overshadowing the other celebrities, funny with a little bit of bite, and can think fast on his feet. He could very well enter the pantheon of great Oscar host like Crystal, Johnny Carson and Bob Hope if he keeps this up.
Which is not to say that all his bits were gold. The bit where he took a gaggle of stars to surprise a theater full of fans viewing a preview screening of A Wrinkle in Time was just a rehash of letting a tour bus into the ceremony last year. What way will they have normal people interact with the stars next year? None, I hope.
But that was all redeemed by the JetSki bit. Offering a prize to the person who gave the shortest speech is good. Having Helen Mirren, the hippest 72-year-old on Earth, as a prize lady was great. Having the show end with the winner, Phantom Thread costume designer Mark Bridges, ride the JetSki on stage with Helen Mirren on board was pure genius. A great payoff to a recurring bit.
The #MeToo and #TimesUp movements made their presence known throughout the ceremony–from the presenters chosen to the acceptance speeches given. But as the night went on, several things happened that made all that talk about gender equality seem like just that–talk.
We knew there would be stumbling blocks going. Kimmel came to fame hosting a TV show with a calling card of buxom women bouncing up an down on trampolines. Then there was Best Actor front-runner Gary Oldman, who in 2001 was accused of beating his then wife, Donya Fiorentino, with a telephone receiver in their divorce filing. I thought that might have cost him the Best Actor trophy. But Kobe Bryant winning an Oscar for Best Animated Short Film earlier in the night proved that prior allegation wouldn’t be that big of a deal.
Some might forget that back in 2003, Bryant was arrested for allegedly raping a hotel employee in Eagle, Colorado while he was in town awaiting surgery. The court case against him fell apart when the victim refused to testify against Bryant. The basketball star settled a civil suit out of court with the victim and forced to issue an “apology” to her.
Oldman’s case might be written off as a case of he said/she said (Oldman denied the accusation). But Kobe Bryant had enough evidence against him that charges filed against him for doing the kind of stuff that Harvey Weinstein was only accused of. The fact that he is now a proud owner of an Academy Award means that the movement to stop sexual assault of women still has a long way to go.
A Historic Night
Let’s go back to more pleasant news. Jordan Peele became the first African-American screenwriter to win an Oscar in the event’s 90 year history. James Ivory, whose partnership with Ismail Merchant in the 1980s and 1990s garnered him three Oscar nominations, finally won his first Oscar last night–at age 89. That makes him the oldest Oscar winner in the history of the Academy Awards. And while Rachel Morrison, the first woman nominated in the Best Cinematography category, didn’t win the award, it instead went to Roger Deakins, a 15-time nominee who finally got his well deserved due for his work on Blade Runner 2049.
That wasn’t all the history that went down last night. The Shape of Water became a rare genre film to win the award for Best Picture. It is the first pure science-fiction film to win in Oscar history (second if you consider 1956’s Around the World in 80 Days to be sci-fi), and the first fantasy since The Lord of the Rings: Return of the King won in 2003.
The Academy treats genre films like the pariah of the motion picture industry. A genre film had to be especially special in order to get any nomination, especially Best Picture. Things got a little better after 2009,when the Academy raised the number of eligible films up to a possible ten nominees. Since then, sci-fi films such as District 9, Inception and Mad Max: Fury Road have received nominations, but even still, The Shape of Water winning it all is a nice surprise.
Hopefully this will lead to a sea change where the once ignored genre films will be recognized by the Academy more frequently. Perhaps The Shape of Water‘s win will lead to nominations for comic book films, space operas and dystopian future think pieces. Because that kind of recognition is long overdue.