The 90th Academy Awards came in like a snail and left a slimy trail beyond Sunday in what could best be described as a highly guarded do-over by ABC. Last year, after “Moonlight” was robbed of its best picture moment due to an envelope mix-up, the wheels to revamp the ceremony to not repeat itself were spinning. Unfortunately, instead of a new show, the movie-loving audience watching at home was treated to a four-hour snoozefest that not only lacked originality but was full of fake Hollywood magic. When “The Shape of Water” won for best picture in what Hollywood insiders called the closest race ever, the torturous telecast was over in a whimper. For a film celebrating cinema and giving the voiceless a voice, it deserved so much better.
Here are some of the winners and losers of Oscar Night, in case you went to sleep at a normal time:
Guillermo del Toro completed the “Three Amigos” Oscar run, joining friends Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu and Alfonso Cuaron by winning best director. In the last five years, four best directing winners have been Mexican. The trio have been and continue to make their own stories and have more on the horizon. Mexico is also celebrating as its culture is front and center in the the Disney Pixar movie “Coco,” winning best animated feature and original song for ‘Remember Me.” The song’s musical moment in the telecast was as colorful as it is in the film.
Winner: Great Britain
One of the largest and most influential groups in the Academy, the British usually fare well, and this year was no different. Gary Oldman won best actor for “Darkest Hour,” as expected, and “Dunkirk” won a slew of craft awards.
Winner: LGBTQIA community
In 2016, singer-songwriter Anohni became the first openly transgender performer nominated for an Oscar for her song “Manta Ray” for the documentary “Racing Extinction.” Anohni was not given a performance slot and wrote a powerful essay about protesting the ceremony and how it felt to be excluded. Two years later, “A Fantastic Woman,” a Chilean film written and starring Daniela Vega, a transgender woman, won best foreign language film, and Vega was a presenter. She introduced best original song nominee Sufjan Stevens from “Call Me By Your Name,” and accompanying Stevens was singer and LGBT icon St. Vincent. Dee Rees and Rachel Morrison, the director/writer and cinematographer, respectively, of “Mudbound,” were featured in several commercials during the telecast, and many openly gay craft workers received awards and thanked their supportive spouses.
Push: #MeToo, #OscarsSoWhite and Time’s Up
When the nominations were announced in January, there was a wave hitting Hollywood following the uprising of the #MeToo and Time’s Up movements. Seeing Morrison, Rees, Frances McDormand, Jordan Peele and Greta Gerwig receive kudos was a change, and segments in the telecast were signs that the Academy was open to finally showing what the rest of the country was like. However, only McDormand and Peele lucked out. A painful-to-watch segment that was meant to celebrate activism and diversity showed several award-worthy performances that were not nominated. Self-correcting moves, like reading “women and men” off a Teleprompter and changing a gag in order to have women in the front, left forced. Thank goodness for Tiffany Haddish and Maya Rudolph for reminding us that #OscarsSoWhite is still happening, with many Latino, Asian and disabled performers are still in the margins when it comes to the Oscars. And Kobe Bryant, the retired Los Angeles Laker who was accused of sexual assault and later settled a related civil lawsuit out of court, won an Oscar for best animated short for the self-serving and boring “Dear Basketball.” I was waiting for Catherine Keener to pop up while stirring a cup of tea because there were so many “sunken place” vibes throughout the night.
This was one of the very few times in which all nine best picture nominees were screened in at least one Northeast Pennsylvania theater outside of Oscars Week, but as it has been since “Titanic,” movies that the average Joe sees are not in the field. And for those who watch almost every film in the cinema, you were treated to the longest four hours of your life, followed by Monday (everyone hates Mondays, right?).
Loser: Jimmy Kimmel
I didn’t like Kimmel’s hosting duties during last year’s telecast, and he only became more boring and less original this time around. While trying to make his opening monologue relevant, his jokes would have been just as useful as in 2017. To keep the ceremony on track, Kimmel offered a Jet Ski for whoever gave the shortest speech. The gag, with Helen Mirren taking the role as a Baker Beauty a la “The Price is Right,” gave more ammunition for the ceremony to become painfully longer as winners kept saying how it looked like they wouldn’t be winning that watercraft. Plus, the audience surprise of people watching a movie across from the Oscars on Oscars Night is suspicious, particularly when it’s “A Wrinkle in Time,” produced by ABC’s parent company Disney.
Loser: The ceremony
The sets were memorizing in their art deco notes, and the musical performances were nice, but did we have to go through Warren Beatty and Faye Dunaway give the best picture Oscar again? Yes, the envelope switch was not their fault, however, the reason for them to present it last year was in celebration of the 50th anniversary of “Bonnie and Clyde.” In 2018, there was an anniversary that the Academy should have honored. In 1968, “In The Heat of the Night” earned five Oscars, including best picture, two days after the assassination of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. With actor Sidney Poitier, director Norman Jewison and composer Quincy Jones still alive and active, that reunion would have been more memorable than a do-over.
Winner: Anyone older than 40
For many years, the Oscars have been dubbed the old folks prom as only seniors cared about the pageantry behind the Hollywood event. But the city of stars had mostly favored youth over age. This year, the oldest Oscar winner ever was 89-year-old James Ivory for best adapted screenplay. Presenters include 93-year-old Eve Maria Saint, 74-year-old Christopher Walken and 84-year-old Rita Moreno, who sported the same dress she wore when she won an Oscar for “West Side Story” in 1962. Christopher Plummer, 88, was nominated for best supporting actor, but lost to Sam Rockwell, 49. Kimmel capitalized on Plummer’s age, drafting the respected thespian into the role of punchline victim previously occupied by Matt Damon. In fact, Rockwell was the youngest in the acting bunch this year.
Loser: The winners
This was the most predictable Oscars in recent memory. Many of the winning choices are predicted weeks ago through the Golden Globes and smaller awards. As for me, I got 19 out of 24 correct – including 12 in a row.
For 2019, the telecast producers really need to rethink how to execute a ceremony so that people want to watch – something fresher, shorter and approachable. First, get a new host, and second, ditch the Disney infomercial feel.