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The 90th Academy Awards: Who Won and Why?

Filed in Arts, NEWS HEADLINES by on March 5, 2018 0 Comments • views: 508

So the Oscars came and went, and for the most part, it went smoother than last year. Sure, nobody was expecting another major mishap at the 11th hour, but there was something more relaxed and positive about the whole four hours. Partly because this time around, it acted more like a roast of the old dead relics than a self-congratulatory awards show, helped on by Jimmy Kimmel’s fine opening monologue (Chris Rock did it better, though). Then again, there were some moments of awkwardness, and there’ll be people on Twitter taking bets on when Ryan Seacrest gets thrown under the bus (you know, for reasons other than being the face for reality TV’s blight on human culture).

With all of that said, the actual awards were rather predictable for anyone who watched the betting markets. But this only brings up the question that hovers over it all: Why did they win so decisively? What is going on the minds of the voters, especially since a few years back they gave American Sniper six nominations (instead of burning Clint Eastwood in effigy)? The short answer is jet skis and hot dog guns, but you already knew that. The long answer, meanwhile, will have to be analyzed by category, with the preview published last week kept in mind.


  • Who won? Jordan Peele for Get Out
  • Why? Get Out is overtly targeted towards ripping apart the mindset powering the older set of Oscar voters, and the newest members of the Academy relished it. And when an upstate New York suburb is the perfect setting for a Southern Gothic horror film, it’s either a condemnation of American society or a product of some profoundly good writing. In the case of Peele, he was able to have it both ways. One thing is for certain: working on sketches like “Black Republicans”, “Suburban Zombies” and “Negrotown” have paid off in Oscar gold.


  • Who won? James Ivory for Call Me By Your Name
  • Why? A movie like Call Me By Your Name lives and dies on two things: the acting and the screenplay. Without those key elements, the film just sinks into being just an insufferable slog. With that in mind, Ivory made the most of the choicest cuts from André Aciman’s novel and then became the oldest Oscar winner ever. (Yeah! Eat it, Driving Miss Daisy!)


  • Who won? Coco
  • Why? Because it’s the best Pixar film since Inside Out, that’s why.


  • Who won? Allison Janney for I, Tonya
  • Why? If Bradley Whitford in Get Out shows us anything, it is that casting alumni from The West Wing in villain roles raises eyebrows nowadays. Normally that would simply be enough by old Oscar standards, but that simply doesn’t cut it under the new order of the ages. For the younger voters (especially those who don’t remember Tonya Harding or only recognize her from afternoons of channel skimming), they have experienced characters like Janney’s in real life so often, that they can swear it to be pure truth in art.


  • Who won? Frances McDormand for Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri
  • Why? Because for some reason, Oscar voters feel they need to acknowledge the “salt of the earth” (read: talk radio listeners out in the middle of nowhere) in awards form. At least she gave us a fine speech and one that had Facebook users everywhere looking up contract legalese. Then again, it may have been a double-edged sword, as she encouraged to stand up at least two people who deserved the award more than she did.


  • Who won? Sam Rockwell for Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri
  • Why? This is not the time to talk about the toxic influence of repugnant ideologies on people who should know better. Nor is this the time to establish the guidelines for what qualifies as a moral redemption arc. Nor is the time where we consider if Hollywood needs to take off the kiddie gloves when it comes to presenting the avatars of what is wrong with certain societal institutions. Nor is it the time to wonder if a filmmaker like Sean Baker (no relation) will always be kneecapped by the older bloc of voters, especially those who handed Rockwell this award because he’s apparently so nice to be around.  


  • Who won? Gary Oldman for Darkest Hour
  • Why? Because Darkest Hour is a Dad Movie, plain and simple. Dry, soul-crushingly tedious, usually revolving around grumpy old men in wartime. The usual emotional apparatus of a Dad Movie is to deliver a power fantasy for your least favorite uncle, to provide the image of someone long dead with a similar mind and body being the Great Man who swoops in out of nowhere and saves everyone, including those who adamantly felt that someone like him with authority is unfiltered Nightmare Fuel™. Well, at least Oldman has had a storied career and made people forget the Dad Movie thing while they were watching it. 


  • Who won? Guillermo del Toro for The Shape of Water
  • Why? For those of you who write certain letters to the Cape Cod Times, this is not because of the Mexican thing. Rather, it is because del Toro is an accomplished filmmaker who made a fairytale romance of what is essentially 50s monster movie material. In doing so, he made his film one of the safer movies in the eyes of the voters, which is weirdly invigorating somehow.


  • Who won? The Shape of Water
  • Why? Because we are dealing with preferential voting, it is like Moonlight in how it probably got the winning tally in the second round. However, unlike Moonlight, there were enough voters who ranked it as their first choice, but not enough for a first-round majority. This is likely what La La Land dealt with last year; however, that dealt with a cultural backlash and a perception of overrated-ness that sank it in the later rounds while Moonlight floated with cinematic finesse. The Shape of Water had to handle a plagiarism charge, yes, but that one didn’t stick. Did it earn its right to be Best Picture? Maybe. Is it a classic? Likely.



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