Fishy Fairytale Wins Best Picture
By Leah Treidler | | March 9, 2018 @ 5:09 pm
Sunday marked the 90th Anniversary of the Academy Awards, a four-hour event hosted by Jimmy Kimmel featuring Ansel Elgort with a hot dog gun, Gal Gadot pretending that she doesn’t know what pot smells like, and very, very clearly marked envelopes. If you didn’t follow the annual awards show — maybe because you had too much homework, or because you believe art is not something which can or should be ranked, especially by an academy which is 72% male and 87% white — then here’s what you need to know:
The best picture nominees ranged from Lady Bird, a witty coming-of-age story written and directed by Greta Gerwig, the fifth woman ever to be nominated for best director, to Call Me By Your Name, a beautiful, subtle, utopian love story between two men with a questionable age gap, to Get Out, a horror movie and pointed critique of racism written and directed by Jordan Peele, to the winner, Shape of Water, a fairytale love story between a mute woman and a fish with a costume that’s eerily reminiscent of the creature from the black lagoon.
Perhaps Jimmy Kimmel described the mood best in his opening monologue as “the year men screwed up so badly, women started dating fish.”
Since its roots as an unselfconscious celebration of cinema, the Oscars have become a platform for stars to declare themselves socially aware in an increasingly politicized entertainment industry. The night teemed with thinly-veiled political stands, mostly in reference to the #MeToo movement, though never mentioning Weinstein by name. But, for all the powerful words, the facts reflected a mixed picture.
The night began with an awkward red carpet covered by Ryan Seacrest who has repeatedly denied sexual harassment allegations. Gary Oldman, accused of domestic abuse in 2001, won best actor for his role as a sugar-coated Winston Churchill in Darkest Hour. Kobe Bryant, accused of sexual assault in 2003, beat out Pixar for best animated short. And a white guy hosted the show, remarking in an awkward, almost unnoticeable aside at the very end of the ceremony, “I wish I were a woman, I really do.”
All-in-all, the night was mostly predictable, marked by a mix of simple, rambling, and political speeches, a select few of which were successful.
Guillermo del Toro, as widely predicted, won best director for The Shape of Water, the fourth time in five years that a Mexican director won the category. “I am an immigrant,” he began, remarking that art can “erase the lines in the sand.” Jordan Peele won Best Screenplay for his film Get Out. “I thought no one would ever make this movie,” he said in a quick speech for a film that speaks for itself, “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.”
Possibly the best summation of the stumbling, but earnest political atmosphere of the night was in the speech by the director of Pixar’s Coco, Lee Unkrich, when he thanked the entire country of Mexico. “Coco would not exist without your endlessly beautiful culture and traditions,” he said, exoticising Mexican culture in a sincere attempt at celebrating diversity.
The clear climax of the night was Frances McDormand’s acceptance speech for her role in Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri.
“If I fall over, pick me up because I’ve got things to say,” she began. After giving thanks, she asked every female nominee of the night to stand up. “Look around, ladies and gentlemen, because we all have stories to tell and projects we need financed,” she said, then used her final words to call specifically for inclusion riders, clauses that actors can insert into their contracts, obligating diversity on both sides of the camera.
McDormand’s speech captured a truth that nobody else would admit: The Academy Awards don’t matter. Whatever is said on that stage will be washed away in the next news cycle. What matters in Hollywood, and what has always mattered in Hollywood, is money. And if Hollywood wants to say its #woke, it has to back it up with cash.
Contact contributing writer Leah Treidler at firstname.lastname@example.org.