The 90th Academy Awards aired Sunday night, 12 months after Warren Beatty and Faye Dunaway incorrectly attempted to give “La La Land” the prize for Best Picture. The show opened with a fake-out intro, claiming to be preempting “Street Fights with Mario Lopez” (What did he do?), and taking very light-hearted jabs at a few of the nominees from the evening.
Second-time host Jimmy Kimmel began the show with a soft-chuckle joke about the Best Picture guffaw from the previous year’s ceremony, and mentioned Harvey Weinstein, #MeToo, #TimesUp, and #NeverAgain within the first four minutes. Promising a new jet ski to the winner with the shortest speech, Kimmel acknowledged the potential the show had to drag on with long-winded celebrities. With the reassurance that awards would be handed to the intended winners, and hot topic politics already named, the tone was set early for a tame, albeit boring broadcast.
The show hummed along for a good long while as we waded through the technical, design, and sound awards, with no major disturbance. There were some highlights along the way, including an emotional Kazuhiro Tsuji, who thanked his cats when he won the award for Best Makeup and Hairstyling. A group of couture and diamond donning celebrities interrupted an early screening of “A Wrinkle in Time” to hand out candy and shoot hotdogs out of a cannon. After reading some early reviews of “Wrinkle,” I’m betting they weren’t disappointed to miss the second half.
There were a few moments that tugged at the heartstrings of movie lovers, including appearances by living legends Eva Marie Saint and Rita Moreno, who was wearing the same dress she wore to the 1962 awards, when she won best supporting actress. In celebration of the 90th anniversary, the Academy created a montage of many iconic moments in film history, as a “thank you” to fans for supporting movies throughout the years. The length of the montage has already sparked a bit of online grumbling, but it was magnificent. If you missed the show, I urge you to find the clip online.
Among the award winners, there were very few upsets of early predictions. The “Shape of Water,” and its curious tale of a woman who loves a fish-man won Best Picture — not the right choice, but I knew it would happen. There were also a few delightful moments. Sam Rockwell is certainly a recognizable actor, but for many, his name was unknown until this year. His performance in “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri” was excellent, and he truly deserved his win. It was great to see him take the prize. However much you did or did not like “Get Out,” Jordan Peele achieved a lot by getting his movie made, and as a “MadTV” alum, getting an Oscar for Best Original Screenplay is pretty impressive. It was a lot of fun to watch the comedy world explode with joy on social media. While I was sure he would take the Oscar, I was still thrilled to see Gary Oldman win for his stunning performance in “The Darkest Hour.”
On the more political side of things, Weinstein Accusers Ashley Judd, Salma Hayek, and Annabella Sciorra introduced a video featuring other accusers, calling for inclusion and change. Common and Andra Day performed with 10 activists onstage behind them, calling for everyone to take a stand for their choice of causes (there are a lot of hashtags to choose from!). Best Actress Winner, Frances McDormand, had the most energetic moment, when a vibrating version of herself asked every female nominee to stand with her, and for the entertainment community to treat them like equals and peers. There were no surprises, and nothing especially cutting or meaningful from anyone. In a room full of people who all agree with each other about pretty much everything, there wasn’t much of a chance for dissent.
The funny jokes were few and far between. Kimmel has a real “I’m one of them” approach to hosting. An entertaining emcee at the Oscars should have at least a little bit of an axe to grind with the Hollywood machine. I’d love to see the pre-woke Kimmel that held “Girls Jumping on Trampoline” contests from his “The Man Show” days. Now that would be an interesting show.