‘Shape Of Water’ Wins Best Picture In Ho-Hum Academy Awards Night : Monkey See : NPR
Kevin Winter/Getty Images
It only stands to reason that the most surprising Oscars might be followed by the least surprising Oscars.
Last year’s awards closed with the biggest Oscars screw-up of all time, in which Faye Dunaway and Warren Beatty announced the wrong best picture winner (La La Land) and then the embarrassed producers took it back and gave it to the film that actually won (Moonlight). So it was hard not to wonder on Sunday night what the Oscars would look like a year later — especially given that these were the awards for the year in which a very unconventional president took office. A year in which the Academy expelled Harvey Weinstein, one of its most powerful mega-producers. A year in which one of the best supporting actor nominees (Christopher Plummer in All the Money in the World) stepped in to take over and reshoot scenes after the original actor (Kevin Spacey) was accused of sexual misconduct and pulled from the film — not figuratively, but actually, shot by shot.
Would this be a chance to reward fresh voices like Jordan Peele (Get Out) or Greta Gerwig (Lady Bird)? Opportunities for firsts were there, as they often are. For instance, the Academy had the chance to give a woman the award for best cinematography for the first time ever — Rachel Morrison for Mudbound. (Morrison, as it happens, also recently shot Black Panther, so Sunday night notwithstanding, she’s doing fine.)
But for the most part, it turned out to be a predictable evening, with nothing that qualified as much of a surprise. The best picture winner was The Shape of Water, Guillermo del Toro’s gorgeously composed adventure romance about a woman and a fish-man and the forces trying to keep them apart. It also won best director for del Toro. The film isn’t for everyone, but it’s not as polarizing as Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri or as daring as Get Out or as weird as Phantom Thread. It’s lovely and packed with good performances and beautiful shots — precisely the kind of film that often wins Oscars.
The acting categories went entirely as expected, too. Frances McDormand won for her role in Three Billboards; Gary Oldman won for playing Winston Churchill in Darkest Hour; Allison Janney won for playing Tonya Harding’s mother in I, Tonya; and Sam Rockwell also won for Three Billboards. It went on: Phantom Thread was about beautiful clothes, and it won for best costume design. Darkest Hour featured classic Hollywood aging makeup, so it won best makeup and hair.
And Rachel Morrison lost to Roger Deakins, a revered cinematographer who won for the first time on his 14th nomination, for Blade Runner 2049.
There were technical awards, and there were feature winners in other categories: Icarus, which is about Russian doping, won best documentary feature. Best foreign language film went to A Fantastic Woman, from Chile. Coco won best animated feature.
But the closest thing to a surprise in a major category might have been Jordan Peele’s win for best original screenplay for his social critique and horror movie Get Out. Even he wasn’t a particularly long shot there, particularly since it’s not uncommon for screenplay awards to be consolation prizes for films that don’t win for picture or director. Even people who don’t love the film often acknowledge its freshness and the crackle and uniqueness of Peele’s authorial voice, so if that’s your upset, it’s a little one.
The broadcast itself seemed as tame as the winners’ list. The we-love-movies montages were thick on the ground — one that came about an hour into the broadcast seemed to be trying the patience of a significant chunk of the tweeting audience, which is a highly unscientific measure of absolutely anything. One, introduced by Cherokee actor and military veteran Wes Studi (currently appearing in Hostiles with Christian Bale), saluted films about the military and thanked members of the service and their families. The five perfectly good nominated songs brought out an assortment of fine performers, including Mary J. Blige, Sufjan Stevens, Common, Andra Day, Miguel and even a warbling Gael Garcia Bernal.