by Sara Michelle Fetters -
SGN A&E Writer
Guillermo del Toro's fantastical romantic 1950's-set Cold War fairy tale The Shape of Water about a mute cleaning woman falling in love with an amphibian creature while plotting to free him from the very human monster who is keeping him captive was the big winner during the 90th annual Academy Awards broadcast. Taking Oscars for Best Picture, Best Director, Best Original Score and Best Production Design, and while there were no major snafus on the level of last year's La La Land / Moonlight shocker, del Toro's ambitious and unusual drama winning the top prize was still something of a slight surprise considering the Academy's well-known reticence to honor fantasy and horror efforts with similar marks of distinction in the past.
'I am an immigrant like Alfonso [Cuarón] and Alejandro [G. Iñárritu], my compadres,' said del Toro as he accepted his Best Director prize. 'Like Gael [García Bernal], like Salma [Hayek Pinault] and like many, many of you. And in the last 25 years, I've been living in a country all of our own. Part of it is here, part of it is in Europe, part of it is everywhere. Because I think that the greatest thing our art does and our industry does is to erase the lines in the sand. We should continue doing that when the world tells us to make them deeper.'
This was one of many statements made throughout the evening. In regards to immigrants. In regards to the #TimesUp movement. In regards to the Harvey Weinstein scandal, the shooting in Parkland, Florida and, to no surprise of likely anyone, the political hurricane swirling around President Donald Trump. But, in the end, the focus remained on the movies themselves, many of the winners choosing to try and take a broader, more expansive view of both the industry, their place in it and where they think, or hope, things might be going in the future as they delivered their acceptance speech.
No one epitomized that more than Three Billboards outside Ebbing, Missouri Best Actress winner Frances McDormand. Overflowing with genuine joy, McDormand initially kept things light. 'So I think this is what Chloe Kim must have felt like after doing back-to-back 1080s in the Olympic halfpipe,' she said with a joyful chuckle. 'Did you see that? Okay, that's what it feels like.' From there, she proceeded to thank many of the usual suspects, including delivering a particularly heartfelt and touching salute to her husband filmmaker Joel Coen and their son Pedro McDormand Coen, 'I know you are proud of me,' she proclaimed, 'and that fills me with everlasting joy.'
It's here where McDormand decided to drop the mic. 'And now I want to get some perspective,' she said. 'If I may be so honored to have all the female nominees in every category stand with me in this room tonight, the actors - Meryl, if you do it, everybody else will, c'mon - the filmmakers, the producers, the directors, the writers, the cinematographer, the composers, the songwriters, the designers. C'mon! Okay, look around everybody. Look around, ladies and gentlemen, because we all have stories to tell and projects we need financed. Don't talk to us about it at the parties tonight. Invite us into your office in a couple days, or you can come to ours, whatever suits you best, and we'll tell you all about them. I have two words to leave with you tonight, ladies and gentlemen: inclusion rider.'
Suddenly Twitter and Facebook issues all over the world were Googling the term, 'inclusion rider,' wondering what the heck it was McDormand was talking about. It's a clause in a contract that stipulates that the cast and/or the crew in a film reflect real demographics, including a proportionate number of women, minorities, LGBTQ individuals and people with disabilities. It was a call to action that reverberated throughout the room, and as she walked off stage to stunned, rapturous applause the now two-time Oscar winner (she won previously for Fargo) had made her point.
It was only one of many major events that occurred throughout the evening. Ashley Judd, Salma Hayek Pinault and Annabella Sciorra, three of the women at the center of the Harvey Weinstein scandal, took the stage to introduce a short video spotlighting female representation both behind and in front of the camera moving forward. Cherokee actor Wes Studi became the first Native American presenter in Academy history, introducing a montage of Academy Award-winning war films composed to celebrate the men and women of the U.S. Armed Forces. Director Sebastián Lelio's drama A Fantastic Woman took home the Oscar for Best Foreign Language film. Moments later, that picture's star, and the person Lelio credited for being its inspiration, Daniela Vega, took the stage to introduce recording artist Sufjan Stevens to perform his nominated song from Call Me by Your Name, in the process becoming the first Transgender actor to do so at the Academy Awards. That movie's screenwriter, the openly gay James Ivory, became the oldest winner in Oscar history when he picked up the Oscar for Best Adapted Screenplay, while 14-time nominee Roger Deakins finally went home with his hands full after winning Best Cinematography for his work on Blade Runner 2049.
Another big moment came when Jordan Peele won Best Original Screenplay for his box office hit Get Out, marking the first time a horror film had taken home a writing Oscar since The Silence of the Lambs was awarded the prize for Best Adapted Screenplay back in 1992. 'I stopped writing this movie about 20 times because I thought it was impossible,' said Peele. 'I thought it wasn't going to work. I thought no one would ever make this movie. But I kept coming back to it because I knew if someone let me make this movie, that people would hear it and people would see it. So I want to dedicate this to all the people who raised my voice and let me make this movie& Everybody who bought a ticket, who told somebody to buy a ticket, thank you. I love you for shouting out at the theater, for shouting out at the screen.'
The other acting prizes went as expected with Gary Oldman winning Best Actor for his performance in Darkest Hour, Sam Rockwell taking home the Best Supporting Actor prize for his turn alongside McDormand in Three Billboards outside Ebbing, Missouri and Allison Janney snagging the Oscar for Best Supporting Actress for I, Tanya. 'I would like to thank my mother who is older than the Oscar,' said a dumbstruck Oldman. 'She is 99 years young next birthday. And, she is watching this ceremony from the comfort of her sofa. I say to my mother, thank you for your love and support. Put the kettle on, I'm bringing Oscar home.'
Other big winners included Disney/Pixar's Coco picking up awards for Best Animated Feature and Best Original Song, the Russian athletic doping investigation Icarus winning for Best Documentary Feature and Christopher Nolan's WWII epic Dunkirk snagging Best Editing, Best Sound Editing and Best Sound Mixing. Blade Runner 2049 also won Best Visual Effects to go along with Deakins' cinematography victory while Phantom Thread walked away with Best Costume Design and Darkest Hour unsurprisingly grabbed the Oscar for Best Makeup and Hairstyling. Host Jimmy Kimmel returned for the second year in a row, his opening monologue one of the strongest in recent memory. All-in-all the 90th Oscar telecast, while as overlong as ever, still proved to be a night to remember, if only for McDormand putting the entire industry on notice that the status quo will, hopefully, no longer be tolerated.
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