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Hollywood Talks The Talk But Can’t Quite Walk The Walk At 90th Oscars

This is the way the awards season ends, this is the way the awards season ends, not with a bang…but with a whimper.

The Oscars have ended and it was…certainly four hours of something. Sadly, by the time the awards season winds down most of the results are on lock. Most of the “horse race” is all ended and all that remains is the glitz, glamor, and spectacle of the movies. Sadly, the celebration of film fell flat as the Academy tried as hard as it could to both ignore and acknowledge all the built-up problems that have plagued this awards season.

A Few Surprises

Like I said, the big awards are almost all locked down by the time the Academy Awards roll around. Thanks to the built up wins at shows like the SAG’s and the Golden Globes, wins by Gary Oldman (Best Actor), Frances McDormand (Best Actress), Sam Rockwell (Supporting Actor), and Allison Janney (Supporting Actress) were all expected well ahead of time. Even categories like Best Animated Film (which went to Coco) and Best Director (Guillermo del Toro) were pretty easy to see coming. In the Fandomentals Oscar Primer, I went 8 for 8 on my predictions and Kori with 6 for 8. But that doesn’t mean there weren’t pleasant surprises.

Deakins Finally Wins

Image via Warner Bros.

Blade Runner:2049 was a bit of a dark horse this season. While it’s beloved by many critics online and off, it’s come out empty handed most times. So when it beat big favorites like Dunkirk and Star Wars: The Last Jedi for Cinematography and Visual Effects, respectively, it was a shock. The win in Cinematography was well deserved, though, as 14-time nominee for the award Roger Deakins finally got a reward for his work. After working on legendary films like The Shawshank Redemption, A Beautiful Mind, Skyfall, and No Country For Old Men, Deakins winning was perhaps the best “feel good” moment of the night.

Ladybird Gets the Cold Shoulder

Image via A24

Greta Gerwig seemed to just be filling a women’s diversity quota this year, as the work she did on Ladybird went the entire show without getting any awards. Even easy bones to toss them like Best Supporting Actress for Laurie Metcalf went to other films. But it didn’t really seem like Hollywood understood the film, as it was the only dramatic film that got outright laughs during most of its clips. While the show and presenters like Emma Stone were happy to push Gerwig and her film’s importance, the Oscars itself didn’t have anything for either. But when I, TonyaDunkirk, and Phantom Thread can get tossed token awards, there’s no reason Ladybird should have left empty-handed.

Get Out Gets Love

Image via Universal Pictures

While Get Out was both Kori and I’s picks for the film that SHOULD have won Best Picture, which we will get to, it did get plenty of shout-outs throughout the night. Though it lost most of its nominations, it did pick up an extremely well earned Best Original Screenplay award for Jordan Peele. While the world went wild, it was also surprising to see a genre movie so rooted in the black experience get rewarded by a very snooty and very white Academy. Even Peele was a little shocked.

The Shape Of Winning

shape of water featured

Image via Fox Searchlight

The Shape of Water was the most surprising contender this season, and when it got the most nominations this year (13) we all were waiting with bated breath to see how many awards it would actually win. Sadly, it didn’t pull off a Return of the King sweep, but it did win four. And of those four, one of those was the big enchilada: Best Picture. Del Toro’s win for Best Director was pretty foreshadowed, and the wins for Desplat (Best Score) and Paul D. Austerberry (Best Production Design) were well deserved, but picking up Best Picture was an exciting moment for most Oscar viewers. Seeing Del Toro get rewarded for years of amazing filmmaking, and for one of THE weirdest films to make Oscar contention, was incredibly satisfying. And his speech, upping fantasy, film, and his own immigrant story, was icing on the cake.

The Set Dressing

The stuff happening around the awards are really the only thing people watch the Oscars for, and sadly the 90th awards were a letdown in that department. While there were some highlights, an anemic performance by Jimmy Kimmel, half-hearted self-depreciation, and some confusing politics meant the whole show underwhelmed the audience so badly that ratings went down 16% from 2017’s telecast.

An Oscar-Worthy Set

Image via ABC

If there was one thing that the Oscars 100% nailed this year, it was the set. Ringed with 220,000 Swarovski crystals, the backdrop fell back to reveal a set that looked like it came from an even better live-action Beauty & The Beast that we never got to see, one that probably had better singing. The set changed and shimmered in multiple light displays, getting lighter and darker (much darker for Sandra Bullock) and changing color as the night went on. The whole set up made the presenters seem as fantastic and glamorous as Hollywood wants us to think they are.

Hot Dog Guns Almost Saved The Day

Image via ABC

Blowing Ellen’s pizza and selfies out of the water, the Oscars actually made a show of pretending they care about us plebs as Jimmy Kimmel rounded up a cavalcade of  A-listers to take theater snacks, goodies, and a pair of hot dog guns to the next door Chinese Theater and a showing of A Wrinkle in Time. Images like Gal Gadot tossing out Red Vines, Armie Hammer shooting hot dogs, and Guillermo del Toro marching side by side with Guillermo the Usher lent a surreal and genuinely fun air to a ceremony that desperately needed it.

Kimmel’s Chill More Sedative Than Pick-Me-Up

Image via ABC

Jimmy Kimmel can be a very funny man, and his chill delivery and slightly stoned frat bro schtick works better on the Late Night circuit than it does on a big, Broadway-esque stage. While he made some great jokes referencing “Oscar” and his lack of genitals, the fall of Weinstein, and the length of Oscar speeches, it never really felt like enough. Kimmel was essentially a small comedy club set to a big auditorium audience.

It also didn’t help that the ceremony kept trotting him out after each set of commercials, and each time he seemed to vacillate between joking buddy and lecturing dad. It was an unfair position to put Kimmel in, and sadly he couldn’t do the job.

We’re Fixing Our Problems. Also, What Problems?

Image via ABC

And now we must come to the elephant in the room: the politics of the evening. This whole awards season, issues of sexual harassment, equal pay, and minority and queer representation have been at the forefront of the discourse. Some awards shows have handled it better than others. And sadly, the Oscars weren’t one of those shows. The whole telecast, the program couldn’t decide whether it wanted to treat #OscarsSoWhite and #MeToo with respect, as a source of self-deprecating humor, or just problems to be ignored. Whether it was giving awards to adulterer and possible rapist Kobe Bryant and abusive anti-semite Gary Oldman, or tone-deaf statements like Emma Stone’s white feminist dismissal of Guillermo Del Toro and Jordan Peele, the Academy just seemed to be tripping over its own ego as it pretended to have fixed things with vignettes about Black Panther and Wonder Woman. And, as always, the twin specters of Woody Allen and Roman Polanski loomed large over the proceedings.

Can They Fix It?

Image via ABC

Of course, no awards show it perfect. But the Oscars need a real shot in the arm if they’re going to keep their spot as top dog. Ignoring genre films, pushing boring art films, and rewarding creeps is going to lead to people tuning out more and more each year. Might not be long before the Golden Globes are the big awards show and the Academy is down fighting for relevance with the SAG’s and Razzies. And The Fandomentals, and I, will be here every step of the way.


Image courtesy of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences

Author

  • Dan Arndt

    Fiction writer, board game fanatic, DM. Has an MFA and isn't quite sure what to do now. If you have a dog, I'd very much like to pet it. Operating out of Indianapolis.

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