The 90th Annual Academy Awards aired on Sunday night. Truth be told, I’m not really a fan of award shows for the most part. I think they tend to be self-indulgent and way too long. There are exceptions, and there are usually a couple of moments in the shows that are worth watching. But generally, they’re not my bag.
The “too long” criticism definitely applied this year. The ceremony began at 8 p.m. EST and ended around 11:45, even after host Jimmy Kimmel opened the show with a monologue that humorously urged brevity at the microphone. But beyond the length, the ceremony was really just all around… dull? There were thankfully no massive gaffs like the Best Picture presentation of 2017. And there were no bizarre flubs like John Travolta’s bizarre pronunciation of Idina Menzel’s name in 2014. But aside from a few brief moments of levity and wit — mostly from Kimmel — the show was pretty dry and a bit of a bore.
Kimmel, I thought, did a nice job overall. He offered a pleasant balance of social awareness and self-awareness. Throughout the show, other participants made speeches and statements relevant to the atmosphere and recent landslides in the industry. There was plenty of hat-tipping and lip service done to #TimesUp and #MeToo, and several musical performances that mirrored the efforts toward stamping out prejudice that Hollywood has sworn to take on.
I’m afraid I am a bit cynical about Hollywood displays of enlightenment at this point. I very much want to be proven wrong in my cynicism, but 2017 did nothing to quell my concerns that Hollywood progressivism has limits, and has always been more aesthetic than fully realized or prioritized. (For the record, my cynicism predates the Weinstein revelations.) Still, the messages are good ones, and I hope we see some follow-through.
A good addition to the show that I don’t remember seeing in ceremonies from previous years were the montages. It’s possible I’ve forgotten other montages or that I’m not aware that they’re a staple of the show because I’m not a loyal viewer, but I found these especially effective, and I’m a sucker for a great movie montage anyway. There were montages for increasing inclusivity and the range of perspectives from which films and stories originate, and montages showing appreciation for movies about war and wartime struggles. But without question the most impressive montage was one celebrating the greatest of the motion pictures themselves for the 90th anniversary of the Oscars ceremony.
Give me a rousing score and clips from the cream of the cinematic crop and I am ready to go!
By far the most genuinely entertaining segment was when a group of attendees and nominees accompanied Kimmel across the street to surprise an unsuspecting audience of an early Wrinkle in Time screening. Gal Gadot, Lupita Nyong’o, Guillermo del Toro, and other stars brought snacks and their own awesomeness to the movie theater, and the shock of the crowd was pretty great to watch. I enjoy seeing Hollywood just be Hollywood — just famous people whom fans and regular folks are excited to see and meet. It was a nice interlude in a night laced with well-meaning but anticipated (and therefore fairly hollow) soap-boxing.
The rest of the show was pretty run-of-the-mill. I didn’t have too many quarrels with the winners (for the sake of full disclosure, this is partly because I have not seen the work of all the nominees). The most satisfying wins to me were Jordan Peele’s Best Original Screenplay victory for Get Out, and Roger Deakins’s long overdue snag of Best Achievement in Cinematography for Blade Runner 2049. Peele’s acceptance speech was lovely, and he encouraged aspiring writers and filmmakers by noting that he’d given up on Get Out time and time again, only to muddle through and claim the gold statue. Deakins’s victory was gratifying, as he has a whopping 12 Oscar nominations under his belt. Some of his other stellar work include The Secret Garden, O’ Brother, Where Art Thou, The Reader, No Country for Old Men, True Grit, and Skyfall.
A full run-down of the winners and goings-on of the ceremony can be found here, and the show (and most award shows, I think) is best digested in summations from other people who bothered to sit through it. Overall, it was about the best I’ve come to hope for from the Oscars. Somewhat pretentious and self-congratulatory, but non-offensive and only slightly cringe-y. For someone like me who has complicated feelings about the Academy and Hollywood itself, while still harboring a deep and enduring love for the movies, it was fine. Just fine.