‘Shape of Water’ triumphs at Oscars awash in change

The Associated Press
Jake Coyle

LOS ANGELES–Against all odds, love won out at the 90th Academy Awards last night.
Guillermo del Toro’s lavish, full-hearted monster romance, “The Shape of Water,” swam away with best picture at an Oscar ceremony flooded by a sense of a change for a movie business confronting the post-Harvey Weinstein era.
The ceremony, held at the Dolby Theatre in Los Angeles, exorcised some demons–like last year’s envelope fiasco–and wrestled with other, deeper problems in Hollywood like gender equality and diversity.
“The Shape of Water,” which came in with 13 nods, took a leading four awards, including best production design, best score, and best director for del Toro.
The Cold War-set movie, about a mute woman and a captive fish-man, is del Toro’s Technicolor ode to outsiders of all kinds–and species.
“The greatest thing that art does, and that our industry does, is erase the lines in the sand,” said del Toro, accepting the best director award.
Del Toro became the third Mexican-born filmmaker to win the award, joining his friends and countrymen Alejandro Inarritu and Alfonso Cuaron, who once were dubbed “the Three Amigos.”
He dedicated the best picture award to young filmmakers–“the youth who are showing us how things are done.”
The night’s final award was handed out again by Warren Beatty and Faye Dunaway, a year after the infamous “Moonlight”–“La La Land” error.
“It’s so nice seeing you again,” Beatty said with a grin.
The ceremony was the crescendo of one of Hollywood’s most turbulent awards seasons ever–one that saw cascading allegations of sexual harassment topple movie moguls, upended Oscar campaigns, and new movements sparked like Time’s Up.
Much of Sunday’s broadcast, hosted for the second-straight year by Jimmy Kimmel, seemed to point a way forward for the industry.
“It’s a new day in Hollywood,” said presenter Jennifer Lawrence, who, with Jodie Foster, subbed for last year’s best-actor winner, Casey Affleck, in presenting the best-actress award.
The award went to Frances McDormand for “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri,” a movie about a furious woman out for justice.
McDormand asked all the attending female nominees to stand up in the theatre.
There weren’t nearly as many as men–despite the historic nominations for Greta Gerwig (the fifth woman nominated for best director) and Rachel Morrison (“Mudbound”), the first woman nominated for best cinematography.
Jordan Peele won for his script to his horror sensation, “Get Out,” becoming the first African-American to win for best original screenplay.
Peele said he stopped writing it “20 times,” skeptical that it would ever get made.
“But I kept coming back to it because I knew if someone would let me make this movie, that people would hear it and people would see it,” said Peele.
Things went expected in the acting categories, where three widely-admired veteran actors won their first Oscars.
Gary Oldman won for his Winston Churchill in “Darkest Hour,” Allison Janney (“I, Tonya”) took best supporting actress, and Sam Rockwell (“Three Billboards”) won best supporting actor.
Oldman thanked his nearly 99-year-old mother. “Put the kettle on,” he told her. “I’m bringing Oscar home.”
But many of the show’s most powerful moments came in between the awards.
Ashley Judd, Anabella Sciorra, and Salma Hayek–who all made allegations of sexual misconduct against Weinstein–assembled for a mid-show segment dedicated to the #MeToo movement that has followed the downfall of Weinstein, long an Oscar heavyweight.
They were met by a standing ovation.
Kimmel opened with a monologue that mixed Weinstein punchlines with earnest comments about reforming gender equality in Hollywood.
And of course, Kimmel–returning to the scene of the flub–dove straight into material about last year’s infamous best-picture mix-up.
“I do want to mention, this year, when you hear your name called, don’t get up right away,” said Kimmel. “Give us a minute.”
But while Kimmel spent a few moments on the fiasco known as Envelopegate, he expended far more minutes frankly and soberly discussing the parade of sexual harassment allegations in the wake of the revelations regarding Weinstein.
Kimmel cited the industry’s poor record for female directors and equal pay.
“We can’t let bad behaviour slide anymore,” said Kimmel. “The world is watching us.”
Gesturing to a giant statue on the stage, he praised Oscar for keeping “his hands where you can see them” and for having “no penis at all.”
But Kimmel introduced the broadcast as “a night for positivity,” and cited, among other things, the box-office success of “Black Panther” and “Wonder Woman.”
“I remember a time when the major studios didn’t believe a woman or a minority could open a superhero movie–and the reason I remember that time is because it was March of last year,” said Kimmel.