Guillermo del Toro’s The Shape of Water won Best Picture at the 90th Academy Awards on Sunday night, becoming the first sci-fi movie to win the top prize.
For months, awards experts (myself included) worked themselves into a tizzy, debating all the Best Picture possibilities — possibly because we sensed that the other awards would be fairly predictable, which they were. Acting winners Gary Oldman, Frances McDormand, Sam Rockwell and Allison Janney, plus director Guillermo del Toro, all felt preordained, so the press took it upon itself to create some Oscar drama. But in the end, when everything was said and done, the right movie probably won Best Picture.
The Shape of Water truly represents the best of Hollywood, from its flawless direction and stunning production design to its sumptuous score and rich performances, three of which (Sally Hawkins, Richard Jenkins and Octavia Spencer) earned Oscar nominations. It was a timeless story about a group of outsiders banding together in the name of interspecies love.
The Shape of Water is a weird movie. Beautiful, yes, but weird as hell, and it’s refreshing to see the Academy go for this kind of film, especially in such a competitive year. Despite the last paragraph, I would not have been shocked to hear Warren Beatty and Faye Dunaway announce Get Out or Dunkirk or Three Billboards or even Lady Bird as the big winner. Yet the fact that they collectively went for this sexy sci-fi movie indicates that yes, the Academy’s tastes are changing.
Fortunately, the Academy was able to spread the love a bit this year. Sure, Greta Gerwig and Lady Bird went home empty-handed, but Dunkirk won three Oscars (editing and both sound awards) and Blade Runner 2049 won two (cinematography and visual effects), as did Three Billboards (lead actress, supporting actor), Darkest Hour (lead actor, makeup and hairstyling) and Coco (animated feature, original song). Meanwhile, deserving films like Get Out, Call Me by Your Name and Phantom Thread also won Oscars, for original screenplay, adapted screenplay and costume design, respectively.
It was particularly exciting to see Roger Deakins win an Oscar on his 14th try. Blade Runner 2049 may not have made a lot of sense to me, but it looked gorgeous, and it was Deakins’ turn to win after coming up short the past 13 times, despite some very deserving work. Get Out filmmaker Jordan Peele was also among the noteworthy winners, becoming the first African-American to win the Oscar for original screenplay.
Likewise, Gary Oldman and Allison Janney are seasoned stars who finally got their chance to shine on Sunday night. I’m sure it’s been a long awards season for both of them, just as it was for the Three Billboards stars, Frances McDormand and Sam Rockwell, but I’m sure the destination was worth the journey.
Oldman’s past legal troubles didn’t come back to haunt him in the end, and the short documentary Dear Basketball wasn’t affected by past allegations against its star Kobe Bryant, who received a rapturous reception backstage. Only in Lakertown…
Elsewhere, Chile’s A Fantastic Woman and its transgender lead Danielle Vega triumphed in the foreign language category over more traditional nominees such as The Insult and Loveless.
After the ceremony, the Tracking Board partied with the Fox Searchlight team, which had every reason to celebrate between The Shape of Water and Three Billboards. We saw Three Billboards star Caleb Landry Jones (who also starred in Get Out) chatting with fellow up-and-comer Barry Keoghan from Dunkirk and The Killing of a Sacred Deer. The Tao bash was packed with Fox talent, from War for the Planet of the Apes star Andy Serkis to The Greatest Showman‘s Keala Settle, hot off her show-stopping rendition of “This Is Me” during the ceremony. Three Billboards filmmaker Martin McDonagh was there, while newly-crowned Oscar winner Guillermo del Toro arrived after midnight, though he was still full of energy. The Shape of Water Oscar winners Alexandre Desplat (original score) and Paul D. Austerberry (production design) showed off their little gold men, and just as we were leaving, Tommy Wiseau walked in to thunderous applause. Guests dined on sushi, tacos, mini-grilled cheese sandwiches, gold-flaked donuts and lots and lots of champagne. Until next year, folks!
Jeff Sneider | Editor in Chief