E: So that wasn’t so bad after all. I’m pleasantly surprised at last night’s outcome. Jimmy Kimmel managed perfectly well, the broadcast managed to be political and classy at the same time, and the musical performances hit me right in the feels. A little outrage, a little disappointment, and a bit of triumph to close it all out.
Which is to say, 5 out of 6 ain’t bad, especially when I was rooting to lose the 6th one.
The four acting nominees all went as I expected. Their speeches went pretty much as expected, too – Sam Rockwell sincere and awkward, Allison Janney witty and bright (“I did it all myself!”), Gary Oldman largely cool and concise. As I hoped, fierce oddball Frances McDormand took the night with her rousing call for stars to lift all boats with them. She’s got two words for you, Hollywood – and those words, inclusion rider, became the hot search topics of the evening. You have to love life in the internet age! I think this is a fine idea, as is the idea of stars tying their salaries to an uplift for those with less bargaining power. At least as good was the moment she asked all the female nominees to stand and charged the men in the room to work with them. (Of course, Kobe Bryant won for best animated short even with his very complicated history with consent, and Ryan Seacrest interviewed out on the red carpet without any repercussions from the horrifying accusations against him from multiple employees. Change or no change?) Directing went entirely as expected, as well – besides the fact that Del Toro’s win this time more analogous to Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu’s for Birdman than for The Revenant. He was sweetly, clearly moved, and I loved his speech about being a citizen of the world (and Fox Searchlight).
Which brings us to my big loss, Best Picture. I am still going to insist that The Shape of Water was a less likely frontrunner than Three Billboards, based on the Golden Globe, Screen Actor’s Guild and British Academy wins. This marks four years in a row, however, that BAFTA has failed to match up with AMPAS, so I think I’m going to stop relying on their close membership overlap as an Oscar predictor! BAFTA was spang on from 2008 through 2013, but since they just haven’t matched up, and it’s starting to feel like less of a fluke than a schism. Not to self for next year: don’t trust the Brits! One has to wonder about the effect of the preferential ballot on this particular decision, since Three Billboards has been plagued by conflicting views and controversies all season. I wouldn’t say that Boyhood and La La Land were less controversial than the films that beat them to the Oscar, so that’s not it exclusively, but it might bear some of the burden with Three Billboards and The Revenant. Maybe Hollywood has a thing about frontrunners these days. Everybody loves a winner – except when everybody hates a winner and loves an underdog.
For me, that was an incredibly pleasant surprise, one presaged by another lovely surprise when Jordan Peele’s screenplay for Get Out bested Three Billboards. This year AMPAS spread the wealth among many wonderful, deserving films. Winner The Shape of Water came away with four out of thirteen possible nods, a fairly small total for the Best Picture champ. Technically masterful Dunkirk came in next with 3 statuettes, Three Billboards, Coco and Darkest Hour with two, and a host of fantastic movies with one apiece: Blade Runner 2049, Call Me By Your Name, Get Out, I, Tonya, and the strange, thought-provoking Phantom Thread. Normally many of my favorite films lose out, and this year was no exception – Baby Driver, Lady Bird and The Post all went home empty handed – but 2018 still spread the wealth more than it didn’t.
This brings me to my most upsetting loss of the night. The Oscar telecast is often shaped around the best song nominees; the likely winner, and most up lifting anthem, usually plays right before the statuette is awards, while the audience is still on a high from the performance. This year that performance belonged to the magnificent Keala Settle from The Greatest Showman. And so it felt like a real let down when “Remember Me” took the prize away from “This is Me.”
Now, okay. “Remember Me” has a lot over many Oscar winning songs; unlikely the rousing “Mighty River” and “Stand Up For Something,” it was the very center of Coco‘s plot. Not merely a statement of its theme, the entire film revolves around the existence and authorship and lyrics of “Remember Me.” There was some razzle-dazzle in the performance, but I just wish it was a better tune.
The silver lining is that Robert and Kristin Anderson-Lopez are awesome – and that Robert has become the first ever double EGOT winner. So yay them!
I’ll be back tomorrow with some thoughts on the ceremony itself, but for now I’ll still say on the dull side, but more good than bad.