As Jimmy Kimmel took to the stage last night at the Dolby Theatre in Los Angeles, audiences around the world held their breath and hoped for the best. Rounding off an exhausting awards season, the ceremony opened with a schticky old-timey voiceover, nodding to some of the famous faces in the audience and harking back to the Academy’s 90-year history. Maybe it was a little strange to throw back in this way given that Hollywood’s murky past has been so hotly discussed, but the bit managed to be short enough to avoid outstaying its welcome.
It’s easy to see why Kimmel was invited back for a second year as host — he’s charming and personable, and more than capable of marrying the light comedy of the Oscars with the more serious elements that it was entirely necessary to discuss on the night. His opening monologue namechecked many of the nominees, but arguably Helen Mirren stole the show when she turned up to model a jet ski, which Kimmel was offering up to award winners who managed to keep their speeches short and sweet. This was the recurring joke of the night, with Lakeith Stanfield reprising his Get Out role to really drive the point home.
If the aim was to stop the ceremony overrunning (as it almost always does) they didn’t quite pull it off. As jokes go, it was a pretty tired one, made even more so by the constant cutting to pre-recorded montage videos, celebrating the history of the awards, and…war films, for some reason. There was a nuanced tribute to #MeToo, which featured in a video that also celebrated the work of POCs, with contributions from Kumail Nanjiani, Mira Sorvino and Barry Jenkins.
In this year’s iteration of Ellen’s pizza order, Kimmel took a group of celeb pals including Armie Hammer, Lupita Nyong’o and Margot Robbie out of the building to surprise a group of cinema-goers across the street at Grauman’s Chinese Theatre and hand out some snacks. It was a cutesy skit, redeemed only by the sight of Guillermo del Toro carrying a six-foot sub and Hammer firing hot dogs from a hot dog cannon at members of the public. But we’ve come to expect these stock Oscar moments now, where the glitterati deign to allow members of the public into their little world for five minutes.
In fact, it was a fairly predictable night all round in terms of winners. Perhaps the biggest surprise of the night came in the Best Documentary category, where Netflix finally won their first Oscar (after four nominations) for Icarus, beating out Agnes Varda’s Faces Places. Fans of Lady Bird were left disappointed after the film failed to win any of its nominations, while Phantom Thread only received one award (and very deserved it was) for Best Costume Design.
Over in Cinematography, chronic nominee Roger Deakins finally won his golden statuette at the 14th attempt for Blade Runner: 2049. Jordan Peele was elated to receive Best Original Screenplay for Get Out, and James Ivory became the oldest Oscar winner ever, taking home Best Adapted Screenplay for Call Me by Your Name. Del Toro gave an impassioned speech for his Best Director nod and seemed completely dumbfounded when The Shape of Water was announced as Best Picture, making sure to check the envelope when he reached the stage.
The speeches of the night belonged to Rachel Shenton, who signed her acceptance for Best Live Short for The Silent Child, and Frances McDormand, receiving her second Best Actress Oscar. She implored men in Hollywood to start conversations with women and to help them finance projects, before saying, “I have two words for you: inclusion rider,” referring to a clause in an actor’s contract that requires the cast and crew be diverse in order to retain the actor on the project. Frances didn’t come to play.
Overall, it felt like the Oscars ceremony 2018 needed. Women were given a platform to talk that felt like more than just tokenism, and although it couldn’t possibly hope to top the drama of last year’s La La Land/Moonlight debacle, it was a decent showing that managed to address the issues of the day without coming across as tokenism. McDormand’s speech was a rallying cry to ensure equality isn’t just a buzzword (which, when they award Gary Oldman an Oscar for playing Winston Churchill, it did sort of seem).
If anything, this year’s Academy Awards have highlighted how far Hollywood still has to come. It’s a start, but after 90 years, progress isn’t just welcome, it’s a necessity.
Published 5 Mar 2018
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