In the history of the Academy Awards, there have been several contentious decisions, and several which have left viewers in complete shock. In the last two decades alone, landmark films such as Shawshank Redemption, Invictus, Rush and The Truman Show have been snubbed. There have been winners who were genuinely appreciated that year, but miraculously nearly forgotten after that, such as the eight-Oscar winner The English Patient. Then there are those who missed out on the top gongs because the votes for a certain genre got split, or so they say about Goodfellas and Godfather III. And then there have also been ‘consolation wins’, given to actors or filmmakers, when the academy rectified a past ‘mistake’as was the case with Martin Scorsese winning his long-awaited Oscar for The Departed or Al Pacino getting the plaudits for Scent of a Woman.
Possibly the most contentious decision of the night, this was a major surprise. All the more, The Shape of Water had not fared particularly well at any of the pre-Oscar awards functions, often considered the key indicators such as BAFTA or Golden Globe, winning mainly technical awards. Three Billboards outside Ebbing Missouri was every analyst’s prediction prior to the actual announcement.
This was the most predictable category of the year, as Gary Oldman was everyone’s favourite. His unsympathetic, yet eerily accurate portrayal of Winston Churchill had all viewers in awe. Oldman put on weight for this film, while the costume designers consulted the actual tailors of Churchill’s clothes, such was the attention-to-detail that was paid in The Darkest Hour. James Franco who collected an acting award for Musical or Comedy in the Golden Globes, surprisingly could not even find a nomination here. A few thoughts go to legendary actor Daniel Day Lewis, appearing in cinema for the last time in Phantom Thread.
Another of the most hotly contested award categories, though the final winner was somewhat predictable. Frances McDormand won her second Oscar, coming more than 2 decades after her win with Fargo. She beat off stiff competition from Golden Globe winner Saoirse Ronan and the evergreen Meryl Streep. For Ronan, it was a second nomination, this time for her role in the coming-of-age drama Lady Bird. Had it been anybody else, Meryl Streep’s performance in The Post would surely have garnered her even more praise, but by now, this is the minimum we expect of her. In the year of #MeToo and #TimesUp, her role was truly befitting. In the movie, she was initially dominated by her late husband’s shadow, and male advisors, but later on rose to play a key role in uncovering the Watergatescandal.
Guillermo del Toro had previously won the Directors Guild Award, so would have arrived with high hopes here, before actually winning it. At a time when several spoke out about the need for greater diversity and inclusion in mainstream cinema, the Mexican’s victory is surely more than just a personal victory for him. For many it banishes the ghosts of #OscarsSoWhite.