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Oscars: 'The Shape of Water' Wins Big at Politically Charged Ceremony

Oscars: 'The Shape of Water' Wins Big at Politically Charged Ceremony
Director Guillermo del Toro accepts Best Picture for "The Shape of Water" from actor Warren Beatty. (Kevin Winter/Getty Images)

Monday, 05 March 2018 12:04 AM

"The Shape of Water" was the big winner at the 90th Annual Academy Awards on Sunday the Guillermo del Toro, picking up a leading four Oscars. The off-beat fantasy about a mute cleaning lady who falls in love with a sea creature, won a best picture award and best director statue for Guillermo del Toro.

It was an evening of politics, one that overflowed with denunciations of Trumpism, and pledges of support for immigrants and minorities. But the connective tissue of the four hour telecast was a rising sense of outrage and activism among the women of the creative community -- a group that made it clear in speeches and demonstrations of solidarity that the era of the casting couch is over.

Del Toro is the fourth Mexican director to win a best filmmaking Oscar in the last five years, joining his friends, Alfonso Cuaron ("Gravity") and Alejandro G. Inarritu ("Birdman," "The Revenant") in the victor's circle. "I am an immigrant," del Toro said. "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."

In the lead actor category, Gary Oldman won for his chameleonic work as Winston Churchill in "Darkest Hour." "The movies, such is their power, captivated a young man from South London and gave him a dream," said Oldman. "Darkest Hour" also earned a makeup award, honoring the team that turned the slender Oldman into the portly prime minister.

Frances McDormand nabbed her second best actress Oscar, two decades after winning an award for "Fargo" two decades ago. McDormand was recognized for his work as a grieving, revenge-fixated mother in "Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri." The Oscar-winner turned her speech into a moment of feminist solidarity, beseeching all the evening's female nominees to stand up.

"We all have stories to tell and projects we need financed," said McDormand.

Sam Rockwell and Allison Janney picked up supporting actor and actress honors. Rockwell was recognized for his performance as a bigoted police officer in "Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri," while Janney was rewarded for her turn as the caustic parent of figure skater Tonya Harding in "I,Tonya."

"Phantom Thread" and "Darkest Hour" got on the board early, picking up costume design and makeup awards, respectively. "Dunkirk" picked up editing, sound editing, and sound mixing honors. "A Fantastic Woman," a Chilean drama about a trans woman, nabbed a best foreign language film statue. And "Icarus," a look at Russia's doping program, earned a best documentary statue, picking up a statue for Netflix, a streaming service that's viewed warily by more traditional movie studios.

"At least we know Putin didn't rig this competition," host Jimmy Kimmel joked in one of many Trump administration jabs.

Best Animated Feature winner "Coco" also spoke to the cultural divides roiling America and the world. While accepting her award, Darla K. Anderson, the film's producer, said, "'Coco' is proof that art can change and connect the world and this can only be done when we have a place for everyone and anyone who feels like an 'other' to be heard."

Records were toppled during the at-times yawning broadcast. At 89, James Ivory became the oldest competitive Oscar winner, picking up a best adapted screenplay Oscar for "Call Me By Your Name." Jordan Peele, a Comedy Central star, nabbed a best original screenplay honor for "Get Out," one of the rare horror films to earn Oscar attention. Of course, "Get Out" has more on its mind than just scares. Peele's film uses the genre to comment on race relations.

"I knew if someone let me make this movie that people would hear it and people would see it," said Peele.

Sometimes waiting plays off. Roger A. Deakins, finally won an Oscar for lensing "Blade Runner 2049" after 14 previous cinematography Oscars. The science-fiction epic also nabbed a visual effects Oscar. "Blade Runner 2049" may have scored with Oscar voters, but it failed to excite crowds, collapsing at the box office and resulting in an estimated $80 million in losses.

Backstage, Deakins said that he wasn't sure if wanted his name to be called. "I mean, a big part of me was saying, 'Please no,'" Deakins said. "I find it very hard," he said of having to get an acceptance speech on the Oscars stage. "I've worked with a lot of the same people for years. I think it's recognition for their work."

Despite unfolding from a stage encrusted with sparkling Swarovski crystals and flanked by glittering Roman columns, there is a shadow over this year's broadcast. The Oscars unfold at a time of dramatic social and economic change in the movie business. The fall of Harvey Weinstein -- arguably the person responsible for inventing modern awards season campaigning of marathon glad-handing and lavish receptions for voters -- has triggered an industry-wide conversation about sexual harassment and discrimination. In October, Weinstein was accused by dozens of women of sexual misconduct and assault. He denied all allegations of nonconsensual acts, but in the ensuing scandal he was drummed out of Hollywood, and fired from his perch at the Weinstein Company, which is now being sold after teetering on the verge of bankruptcy. The fallout didn't stop with Weinstein. Other major media figures, including Dustin Hoffman, Brett Ratner, Louis C.K., James Franco, and Kevin Spacey have been engulfed in their own scandals related to allegations of sexual misdeeds.

In the days before the Oscars, Ryan Seacrest, whose genial soft-ball questions are a staple of awards show red carpets, was accused by his former stylist, Suzie Hardy, of harassment and assault. Seacrest has hit back hard, claiming that Hardy extorted him and noting that an independent investigation commissioned by his employer E! could not find "sufficient evidence" that he behaved inappropriately. Seacrest took his spot on red carpet despite the fact that some publicists privately said they would steer their clients clear of the E! host. He did manage to corral some stars, with the likes of Allison Janney, Christopher Plummer, and Taraji P. Henson stopping to talk to Seacrest, and also avoided any embarrassing on-air confrontations. Kimmel managed to find a way to make light of the litany of alleged abusers, quipping in his opening monologue that the golden Oscar statue is an ideal Hollywood man.

"He keeps his hands where you can see them," said Kimmel. "Never says a rude word. And most importantly no penis at all. He is literally a statue of limitations."

There were many more somber moments. Ashley Judd, Salma Hayek, and Annabella Sciorra, three of Weinstein's accusers, took the stage to introduce a series of interviews about the Time's Up movement and the push for more diversity on screen.

"This year many spoke their truth and the journey ahead is long, but slowly a new path has emerged," said Sciorra. That was the hopeful part. But Sciorra, once one of the industry's rising stars with films like "The Hand That Rocks the Cradle," also noted the professional consequences for women who turned down powerful predators.

"It's nice to see you all again," she said, a seeming reference to a career derailed by men like Weinstein. "It's been awhile."

Despite the theme of the evening, a celebration of women's empowerment, Kobe Bryant, the former NBA star who was accused of sexual assault in 2003, won an Oscar for best animated short film for his work co-creating "Dear Basketball." The charges against Bryant were dropped and the case was settled out of court.

The telecast wasn't just about activism and advocacy. There was still plenty of old school glamor. As the Oscars inches towards its centenary, the show was in a nostalgic frame of mind, inviting back past winners from its nine-decade history such as Eva Marie Saint, Christopher Walken and Rita Moreno (who wore the same dress she sported when picking up her Academy Award in 1962).

In addition to an industry-wide reckoning about systemic abuse, there are also corporate concerns that are upending Hollywood. The business is undergoing a period of intense consolidation. AT&T is trying to get government approval for its purchase of Time Warner, Disney is snapping up the bulk of Fox's film and television assets, and Viacom is flirting with joining forces with CBS. Fox and Fox Searchlight has a leading 27 nominations, but it's unclear if the company will continue making awards-bait fare after it is folded into Disney, which prefers to be in the tentpole business.

All these mega-mergers are taking place while the kinds of films that the Oscars tend to celebrate, smaller, more human-scale dramas are being eclipsed by comic book movies and special effects-driven fantasies. The gap between popular tastes and those of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences, the group that hands out the Oscars, seems to be widening. This year's crop of best picture nominees are the lowest-grossing since 2011, with only two films, "Get Out" and "Dunkirk," topping $100 million at the domestic box office. At the same time, fewer people are tuning in for awards show. Last year's edition was the third-least-watched of the 21st century.

Despite the sagging ratings, ABC has brought back Kimmel as host. This year's broadcast will try to avoid recreating an eleventh hour snafu that made Kimmel's first stint as emcee so memorable -- an envelop mixup that saw presenters Warren Beatty and Faye Dunaway mistakenly proclaim "La La Land" the best picture victor. The real winner, "Moonlight," was later announced in a moment of sheer pandemonium that will join Cher's Bob Mackie dress and David Niven's streaker in Oscars infamy.

Kimmel made light of the mistake seen round the world in his opening monologue."This year when you hear your name called don't get up right away," he quipped. "Just give us a minute."

There was also an opportunity for a do-over. Beatty and Dunaway were invited back for the 90th ceremony and given a second chance to name the correct best picture winner. This time they got it right.

"As they say, presenting is lovelier the second time around," joked Dunaway.

© 2018 Thomson/Reuters. All rights reserved.

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It was an evening of politics, one that overflowed with denunciations of Trumpism, and pledges of support for immigrants and minorities.
oscars, politics, shape of water
Monday, 05 March 2018 12:04 AM
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