Tuesday 11 December 2018

Movements dominate #OscarsToo

Jimmy Kimmel lightened the mood of a politically charged Oscars, where Harvey Weinstein was a conspicuous absence

Centre stage: Ashley Judd, Annabella Sciorra and Salma Hayek deliver a speech. Photo: Getty Images
Centre stage: Ashley Judd, Annabella Sciorra and Salma Hayek deliver a speech. Photo: Getty Images
Paul Whitington

Paul Whitington

Host Jimmy Kimmel summed up the mood of the 90th Academy Awards perfectly. "We'll always remember this," he told his star-studded audience, "as the year when men screwed up so badly, women started dating fish".

He was referring to The Shape Of Water, which won Best Picture and Best Director, but also to the elephant not in the room, Harvey Weinstein, who'd presided over the Oscars for decades like some latter day Venetian doge before being banished from the Academy after a long stream of abuse allegations surfaced.

Golden boy: Jimmy Kimmel makes a joke about Oscar
Golden boy: Jimmy Kimmel makes a joke about Oscar

Much of the speculation in advance of the event revolved around whether or not Kimmel would refer to Weinstein by name. He didn't, but came pretty close when he pointed to the giant gold statue onstage and said: "Oscar is the most loved and respected man in Hollywood, and there's a good reason why: just look at him - he keeps his hands where you can see them, never says a rude word and, most importantly, no penis at all."

The continuing fallout from Weinstein-gate and the rise of the #MeToo movement totally dominated an evening that was fairly predictable when it came to the awards themselves as The Shape Of Water, and actors Gary Oldman, Allison Janney, Sam Rockwell and Frances McDormand won the top awards as expected. McDormand, who'd been widely tipped to pip the likes of Saoirse Ronan, Margot Robbie and Meryl Streep to the Best Actress Oscar, delivered the evening's most electrifying speech when she asked all the female nominees in LA's Dolby Theatre to stand up, then said "look around ladies and gentlemen - we all have stories to tell, and we need financing".

The spectre of Harvey Weinstein was raised most poignantly when Salma Hayek, Ashley Judd and Annabella Sciorra appeared together to present a montage evoking the #MeToo and Time's Up movements. All three actresses had gone public with allegations against Weinstein, and Sciorra maintains she was blacklisted by him. "It's nice to see you all again," she said, "it's been a while."

Though the dress code was more relaxed than at previous awards like the Baftas and Golden Globes, when most female attendees had worn black and white in solidarity, female glamour was notably muted this year. Dresses were, for the most part, pared back, and some women abandoned high-heels altogether: actress Tiffany Haddish presented an award wearing fluffy slippers. Even the fabled Oscar gift bags were #MeToo-themed, containing pepper spray and a 'phobia relief' therapy session as well as the usual luxury trinkets.

Inclusive theme: Guillermo del Toro
Inclusive theme: Guillermo del Toro

When last year's Best Actress winner Emma Stone was announcing the Best Director award she referred to "these four men and Greta Gerwig", but sadly Gerwig's clever and winning coming-of-age comedy Lady Bird went away empty-handed, as did Steven Spielberg's impressive period drama The Post.

It was a disappointing night for the Irish as well: Saoirse Ronan will hardly have been shocked to see Frances McDormand win rather than herself, and Cartoon Saloon's The Breadwinner was always going to be a long shot for Best Animated Feature when up against the like of Pixar's Coco. But London-Irish writer/director Martin McDonagh might have had high hopes for Best Picture and Best Original Screenplay with Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri after his success at the Golden Globes and Baftas. At least his film won two acting awards - for McDormand and Sam Rockwell, who won Best Supporting Actor.

Irish costume designer Consolata Boyle lost out to Mark Bridges, and The Phantom Thread.

Inclusivity was a running theme. When Mexican filmmaker Guillermo del Toro won Best Picture, he said: "I am an immigrant," a clear reference to Donald Trump's rabble-rousing stance on borders and immigration. And Lee Unkrich, who directed Coco, which is inspired by the Latino Day of the Dead festival, earned loud and sustained cheers when he shouted "Viva Mexico!" from the stage. If Trump had turned up, cheers might have turned to boos.

Best in show: Frances McDormand with her Oscar alongside Jodie Foster and Jennifer Lawrence. Photo: Getty Images
Best in show: Frances McDormand with her Oscar alongside Jodie Foster and Jennifer Lawrence. Photo: Getty Images

Presenting the Best Documentary Short award with fellow African-American actress Tiffany Haddish, Maya Rudolph joked about diversity. "Don't worry," she reassured the well-heeled crowd, "there are so many more white people to come". And Jordan Peele got a thoroughly well-deserved standing ovation when he won Best Original Screenplay for his biting race satire, Get Out.

There was care in the community for the aged as well, as Warren Beatty and Faye Dunaway were given another chance to successfully present the Best Picture Award with the help of Oscar envelopes bearing the winner's name in type so big it could be read through the TV cameras. Last year, chaos ensued after Dunaway announced La La Land as Best Picture winner instead of Moonlight. "This year when you hear your name called," Jimmy Kimmel had warned, "don't get up right away."

But the 2018 Oscars were all about sexual politics, which even spilled over on to the red carpet, where veteran E! Channel host Ryan Seacrest appeared to be shunned by top stars like Margot Robbie, Jennifer Lawrence, Gal Gadot and Emma Stone, who pointedly didn't stop to talk to him. Seacrest has been accused of sexual harassment by his former personal assistant, Suzie Hardy.

It was disappointing to see films as good as Dunkirk and The Phantom Thread receiving the consolation prize of a few technical awards, but as we all know, the awards season is all about zeitgeist momentum, and neither film had any. But at least the peerless cinematographer Roger Deakins won an Oscar at the 14th attempt for his sublime work on Blade Runner 2049.Kimmel did a good job overall hosting a politically charged Oscars thick with potential banana skins. He once hosted a Comedy Central series called The Man Show which featured scantily clad females jumping up and down on trampolines, and was perhaps atoning for past sins when he added that "if we can work together to end sexual harassment in Hollywood, then women will only have to deal with harassment everywhere else they go".

Irish Independent

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