The 90th Academy Awards was one of the most politically-charged in the history of the Oscars, the stars aligning to address everything from sexual abuse and representation to gun control and immigration.
Attendees refrained from wearing uniform black – as they had at the Golden Globes to protest sexual harassment and exploitation – but did sport Time’s Up pins and orange badges opposing gun ownership in solidarity with the student survivors of the Marjory Stoneman Douglas high school shooting in Parkland, Florida, who lost 17 classmates when teenage gunman Nikolas Cruz opened fire on 14 February.
Last night’s ceremony was the first since the Harvey Weinstein scandal broke last autumn and host Jimmy Kimmel was quick to set the tone for the evening with his opening monologue.
Kimmel joked that the Oscar statuette was now, “the most respected man in Hollywood [because] he keeps his hands where you can see them, never says a rude word and, most importantly, [has] no penis at all.”
He went on to say that the film industry was, “so clueless about women, we made a movie called What Women Want and it starred Mel Gibson.”
Stressing this was “a night for positivity”, Kimmel expressed his hope that Hollywood could eradicate the problem of inappropriate sexual behaviour in the workplace so that “women will only have to deal with harassment all the time at every other place they go.”
Alluding to the eventual Best Picture winner The Shape of Water, Kimmel defined the last 12 months as, “The year men screwed up so badly women started dating fish.”
Applauding the recent box office success of Wonder Woman and Black Panther, the host joked: “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.”
Kimmel also used his 10-minute skit to mock the gender pay controversy between Mark Wahlberg and Michelle Williams over the reshooting of scenes for Ridley Scott’s All The Money in the World following the Kevin Spacey harassment scandal. The former was paid $1.5m for his time, the latter just $1,000. “If we can’t trust agents…” the comedian remarked with an exasperated shrug.
President Donald Trump was ridiculed for enjoying “the first three-quarters” of Jordan Peele’s satirical black comedy Get Out, while gay romance Call Me By Your Name was “made to upset Mike Pence”, according to Kimmel.
When the prize-giving got underway, Best Actress winner Frances McDormand – rewarded for her fearsome turn as the aggrieved Mildred Hayes in Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri – had all the women in the auditorium stand up and called for an “inclusion rider”, a clause stipulating the number of women involved in any given production.
Fellow nominees Margot Robbie, Saoirse Ronan, Meryl Streep and Sally Hawkins took a moment to share an emotional embrace.
Actresses Salma Hayek, Ashley Judd and Anabella Sciorra took to the stage on behalf of the Time’s Up movement to hail the “unstoppable spirits who kicked ass and broke through the biased perceptions against their race, their gender and ethnicity to tell their stories”, praising such breakthrough creatives as Ava DuVernay, Barry Jenkins, Yance Ford and Kumail Nanjiani.
Last year’s Best Actress recipient Emma Stone, handing out the Best Director statuette, described the nominees as “four men and Greta Gerwig”.
Racial issues were also to the fore throughout. Awards for Get Out and Coco, Pixar’s Mexico-set cartoon feature winning Best Animated Film, were signifiers of a more progressive mindset than the Academy has previously demonstrated.
Mexican actor Eugenio Derbez, introducing a performance of the song ‘Remember Me’ from Coco, used a description of the film’s supernatural plot to attack President Trump, reminding audiences: “In the afterlife, there are no walls.”
Coco’s director Lee Unkrich, accepting his award, said: “Marginalised people deserve to feel like they belong. Representation matters.”
Fellow countryman Guillermo del Toro, winner of the Best Director award, stressed his status as an immigrant on stage and described his film The Shape of Water as a “fairytale for troubled times” and a work expressing “empathy for the outsider”, a less overt attack on the US President’s attitude to the “bad hombres” in his homeland across the border.
Actors Lupita Nyong’o and the aforementioned Nanjiani, originating from Kenya and Pakistan respectively, used their moment in the spotlight to express solidarity with the Dreamers, those hoping to stay in the US despite the Trump administration’s scrapping of the Deferred Action of Childhood Arrivals (DACA) immigration programme.
Rapper Common also alluded to the Dreamers and the atrocity at Parkland in his spoken word performance and said: “Tell the NRA, they’re in God’s way.”
In a final historic moment for the Oscars, Chilean actress Daniela Vega became the first trans performer to present on stage, introducing Sufjan Stevens’ performance of ‘Mystery of Love’ from Call Me Be Your Name.
Vega’s film A Fantastic Woman took home the Best Foreign Language feature prize.