And the Oscar goes to…

The 90th Academy Awards ceremony always promised to be a challenge. Since the last Academy Awards ceremony, the Harvey Weinstein scandal and the birth of the #metoo movement rocked Hollywood, alienating many film fans from the institute that previously represented quality and respectability in film.

Jimmy Kimmel returned to host the event after a debut hosting the 89th Academy Awards, and he made sure to address the room’s many elephants right from the start. Yet it quickly became obvious that his greatest ideas for the show had been used up for the previous ceremony, with many spectacles like celebrities visiting a nearby film theatre to surprise an audience being suspiciously similar to events from last year.

The technical awards were distributed fairly evenly. Blade Runner 2049 won Best Visual Effects, the category usually used to celebrate blockbusters, but the film fell short of replicating Mad Max’s monopoly on technical awards from 2015. Instead most technical awards went to Best Picture nominees, notably Dunkirk for Best Film Editing, Best Sound Editing and Best Sound Mixing.

Best Foreign Language Film was awarded to A Fantastic Woman from Chile, directed by Sebastian Lelio. Star of the film Daniela Vega, who later introduced one of the musical acts, became the first transgender presenter in Academy Awards history.

One of the most uncomfortable moments of the night was when Mark Hamill, Oscar Isaac, Kelly Marie Tran and a robotic BB8, all stars of Star Wars: The Last Jedi, presented the awards for Best Animated Short & Feature Films. The presentation was awkward and obviously scripted, lacking the charm that other presenters had.

The actual awards they presented were unsurprising. Best Animated Short Film went to Dear Basketball, about player Kobe Bryant’s resignation from the sport, and Best Animated Feature Film went to Coco, Pixar’s latest. Whilst a Pixar film winning Best Animated Feature may seem unsurprising, there were last-minute rumours that Boss Baby might cause an awards upset and win. It didn’t.

The Documentary awards were rushed through, which is a shame as they highlight ed some important political issues. Heaven Is a Traffic Jam on the 405, winner of the Best Documentary – Short Subject award, took an in-depth look at mental health, and Icarus winner of the Best Documentary Feature award, explored the recent sports doping scandal, with reference to cycling. The latter is available on Netflix currently.

The most eagerly anticipated awards were those for screenplays. This is usually one of the first awards in which the Best Picture nominees duke it out, and can serve as foreshadowing for the final award. Best Original Screenplay went to Jordan Peele for Get Out. In his acceptance speech he documented the trials he went through to get the film made, so the various nominations and the fact he is the first black screenwriter to win the Best Original Screenplay award testifies to the success of his drive. Best Adapted Screenplay went to Call Me By Your Name’s James Ivory, who became the oldest person to win a competitive Academy Award. To collect his award he wore a shirt with the film’s star Timothee Chalamet on it.

Best Original Score went to Alexandre Desplat’s work on The Shape of Water and Best Original Song went to Remember Me from Coco. Through the show the various nominees for the latter category were performed, with a particular noteworthy performance by Surfjan Stevens for Mystery of Love from Call Me by Your Name.

The acting awards went to the expected winners – Allison Janney in I, Tonya and Sam Rockwell in Three Billboards received the supporting awards, and leading awards went to Gary Oldman in Darkest Hour and Frances McDormand in Three Billboards. Likewise, Best Director went to Guillermo del Toro, a result that surprised no-one.

Del Toro’s Shape of Water crowned the event by winning Best Picture, a rather divisive victory with some expecting Three Billboards to win. Many other nominees for this category were forgotten in the ceremony, with neither Lady Bird nor The Post winning a single award.

Compared to previous ceremonies this one was forgettable, which was a particular feat given Hollywood’s turbulent nature currently. Running for over four hours, and including few award upsets or interesting speeches, the awards ceremony had the lowest U.S. viewership in Oscar history. The ceremony faced no particular backlash for awards choices, presenting style, or production decisions, and with the current political climate it had the potential to champion current events in the industry and the world. It’s a shame then that it fell so short expectations


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September 2021
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