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Thanking The Academy

by Camila Basora-Oliveira

Photography courtesy of The Star

This year marked the 90th anniversary of the annual Academy Awards, held Sunday, March 4th at the Dolby Theater in Los Angeles, CA. The celebration of cinema’s history and continued progress was hosted by Jimmy Kimmel for a second time.

Although Kimmel and the ceremony received considerable criticism the following morning– ratings hit an all-time low– the night succeeded in presenting and celebrating cinema’s greatest achievements. The #Times Up and #Me Too movements, in addition to other references to female and minority rights, were mentioned throughout the ceremony.

Despite the airtime to these issues, no singular topic outshone the night’s clear focus of commemorating the last 90 years of cinema. 45 million Swarovski crystals framed the Dolby Theater stage, and brilliant montages of clips from history’s most iconic films preceded the announcement of each major award category.

In the same vein as the night’s themes of inclusion and diversity, history was made with the Oscar winners and presenters. British actor Gary Oldman received his first Oscar win (Best Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role) for his portrayal of Winston Churchill in The Darkest Hour. Greta Gerwig was the favorite to win Best Achievement in Directing for Lady Bird, since she was the first female director in eight years to be nominated for that category. However, the award instead went to renowned Mexican director Guillermo del Toro for The Shape of Water, marking his surprising first Oscar win.

After 13 Oscar nominations throughout his career, Roger Deakins at long last received a much deserved Oscar for Best Achievement in Cinematography for Blade Runner 2049. Lastly, Chilean actress Daniela Vega from A Fantastic Woman became the first openly transgender presenter in the Academy Awards when she introduced Sufjan Steven for his performance of “Mystery of Love” from Call Me By Your Name.

Allison Janney opened up her acceptance speech for the award for Best Performance by an Actress in a Supporting Role (I, Tonya) with “I did it all by myself,” comically referencing Kimmel’s prize of a jet ski to which ever winner delivered the shortest speech. Ultimately, the winner of the jet ski at the end of the night was costume designer Mark Bridges, who won the Oscar for Best Achievement in Costume Design for his work on Phantom Thread. His acceptance speech was a short 36 seconds. The ceremony broadcast ended with Bridges leaving the stage on his new jet ski, Helen Mirren sitting beside him waving to the audience.

However, perhaps the most powerful moment of the night was Frances McDormand’s acceptance speech for Best Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role for her part in Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri. She asked every female nominee for every category to stand up while she and the audience applauded them.

“Look around, because we [women] all have stories to tell,” she said during her speech. “And we all have projects we need financed,” a clear indicator to the need of more women acknowledged in the industry.

She concluded her speech with two words, “inclusion rider,” advocating the proposal of making diversity a legal provision of Hollywood contracts.

Other winners included Jordan Peele for Best Original Screenplay for his film Get Out, which became an international sensation. It grossed over $252 million worldwide, making it the most profitable film of 2017.

Additionally, Call Me By Your Name won for Best Adapted Screenplay, Dunkirk for all editing and sound categories, Coco for Best Animated Feature Film, and The Shape of Water for Best Picture of the Year.

The Greatest Showman and The Disaster Artist were major snubs of this year’s ceremony, with the former receiving only one nomination and the latter receiving none. Golden Globe awards tend to be predictive of Oscar nominees, and both films were nominated for Best Movie and Best Actor categories in the Golden Globes. Neither received nominations for those categories in the Academy Awards.

Although it was the lowest-rated Oscar ceremony ever recorded, this year’s Academy Awards represented the progress Hollywood and cinema has made not only in its craft but also in its inclusion of people of all backgrounds. Kimmel made a strong effort to make the ceremony run smoothly after last year’s Best Picture mix-up, but by doing so he came off as dry, strained and not fluid. Kimmel’s presence as the host was so insignificant, one would forget he was even there. Judging by his reviews, Kimmel will most likely not be asked to return next year as host. However, the seeming absence of an entertaining host allowed the nominated films and winners to take center stage. The life of the show was driven by the winners and presenters’ words promoting inclusion, support and community within Hollywood.

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