Monday, March 05, 2018

The Last Word by Diane Clehane

Oscars 2018

Producer J. Miles Dale, director Guillermo del Toro at microphone and cast crew accept Best Picture for 'The Shape of Water' onstage. - Click images for full size views

Some things were exactly the same. Jimmy Kimmel returned as host. Warren Beatty and Faye Dunaway presented the Best Picture Oscar (to the right movie, this time). But some things were very different. At last night's Oscars, the question was not if award shows were the appropriate venue for social activism, but rather which of a myriad of causes would garner a lion's share of the stars’ attention.

The Time's Up movement was always meant to live beyond award season and judging by the speeches, they’ve only just begun. Though attendees of the Golden Globes and BAFTA Awards were encouraged and chose to wear black to show solidarity with the initiative to fight sexual harassment, Time's Up organizers didn’t encourage a particular dress code for the Oscars because the mere presence of actresses like Ashley Judd and Salma Hayek spoke volumes.

The movement was certainly a topic of conversation on Sunday night, with prominent supporters and organizers not only attending, but also presenting. Jennifer Lawrence and Jodie Foster were wisely tapped as replacements for Casey Affleck to present this year’s Best Actress award. Plenty of men who took to the stage did so wearing Time’s Up pins.

Other stars spoke out on behalf of the dreamers and there was an overall message of support for inclusion, diversity and empathy, a word that was used by many winners who took home statuettes.

Returning host Jimmy Kimmel had the unenviable job of trying to duplicate his well-received hosting stint last year at time of enormous change. He chose to play it safe for the most part but landed some truly funny zingers about men’s bad behavior (driving women to date fish). The bit with the jet-ski was funny; the surprise visit to the fans next door was not. It seemed a wan comparison to last year’s bit where he invited fans into the auditorium to meet the stars.

The producers were striving for an upbeat broadcast and mostly succeeded with sporadically memorable moments largely due to thoughtful and well-delivered speeches. Never were clip packages more successful than they were tonight in saluting not only an astounding ninety years of movies, but the faithful fans who have flocked to the theaters to see them all these years. Like every other business worried about fading into irrelevance, Hollywood was doing its damnedest to hold on to its shrinking pool of consumers willing to stick with them. Fans were thanked twice during the evening in two different clip packages. You’re welcome.

It was all very earnest and dare I say wholesome. Hollywood came off pretty well tonight with awards spread out over a number of nominated films (although it’s a shame the very noteworthy Lady Bird and its writer-director Greta Gerwig didn’t get to take home a statuette).

Nicole Kidman royal blue iridescent Armani Prive with sculptural oversized bow, accessorized with Harry Winston jewels

The pre-show was pretty much a no-show with a large number of stars avoiding the carpet entirely or deciding not to stop to talk. ABC’s ‘Opening Ceremony’ was largely a bore and E!’s show did its best to avoid the elephant in the room (Sexual harassment allegations against Ryan Seacrest made by his former stylist, in case you’ve been living on the moon) and as a result, had little of interest to offer viewers. The whole pre-show thing is tired and should be re-thought or perhaps even abandoned entirely.

Allison Janney in Reem Acra 

It has become passé to ask actresses who designed their dress which poses a problem for PR hungry designers. Without hearing a star utter their name on camera before millions of people, is all the pre-Oscar hysteria still worth it? This will, no doubt, be subject of debate after this groundbreaking awards season.

Jane Fonda in Balmain

The fashion was largely safe and therefore pleasant enough with no real disasters and everyone looking pretty good. Pristine white dresses looked elegant on Jane Fonda (Balmain), Laura Dern (Calvin Klein By Appointment) and especially on Margot Robbie (Chanel Haute Couture), regal red suited Allison Janney (Reem Acra) and Meryl Streep (Dior). Pink and blush were also red carpet favorites and Saoirse Ronan in Calvin Klein wore it best.

Jennifer Garner in Atelier Versace

I especially loved the blue dresses on Nicole Kidman (the evening’s best dressed in Armani Prive), Jennifer Garner (It looked like Versace to me) and Helen Mirren (those jewels!). There were plenty of metallic dresses that pretty much all looked good – and looked like each other. I have no idea what Frances McDormand was wearing which is perfectly fine because she couldn’t care less. The accessory of choice: eyeglasses.

Margot Robbie in Chanel Haute Couture

With its quiet red carpet, well-behaved stars and well-meaning speeches, Hollywood was on its best behavior which may have been the most outrageous thing it's done in a long time.

Here’s a minute-by-minute breakdown of the evening:

6:30 PM: Good Morning America’s Michael Strahan leads off the broadcast with “Happy Oscar Sunday!” Get Out’s Allison Williams, in a blush beaded Armani Prive gown and wisely back to brunette, is the first actor to be in interviewed on the carpet at ABC’s Opening Ceremony. “The Oscars are basically a religious experience. I wanted to do this since I was three years old.” You and everyone else there tonight.

6:32: Strahan is joined by Vanity Fair’s Krista Smith, Dave Karger from IMDB and two ringers from ABC shows – Wendy McLendon-Covey from The Goldbergs (who did an admirable job interviewing other actors) and Sara Haines from The View. It’s a rather mixed bag of talking heads with Smith and McLendon-Covey seeming pretty comfortable chatting with the stars. I like Michael Strahan, but this is not his métier. Zzzzzz.

6:41: Strahan attempts to interview Salma Hayek, who is wearing a very unfortunate Gucci dress. He is out of his depth talking to Hayek, whose stunning editorial in The New York Times about her personal experience with sexual harassment, was among the most shocking disclosures about Harvey Weinstein. Paging Robin Roberts!

7:04: Tiffany Haddish explains her choice of her unusual and elaborate gown to Strahan. She is wearing it in honor of her late father from the northeast African country, Eritrea. “He said one day I would end up here and if I ever ended up at the Oscars to honor my people, so I’m honoring my fellow Eritreans.”

7:12: “Fear does not exist in my universe” says Taraji P. Henson who is apparently not afraid of revealing pretty much everything she’s got in her Vera Wang dress.

7:13: Fellow Harvard grads Ashley Judd, looking great in custom Badgley Mischka, and Mira Sorvino talk movingly to Smith about the Time’s Up movement. “I want people to know this movement isn’t stopping until we achieve safe and equitable workplace,” said Sorvino. Judd smiles and adds, “I chose my date well.” Indeed.

7:22: Margot Robbie, who looks so young and fresh in white in Chanel Haute Couture, brought her very attractive mother tonight as her date.

7:24: Jennifer Garner looks gorgeous. “Why can’t everyone do their hair like that?” asks Madeline, my daughter and copilot for the evening’s festivities. The women seem to have it together this year.

7:33: Best Actor Timothée Chalamet in an all-white tuxedo by Berluti, is absolutely charming and is positively overcome when he’s shown a video of well-wishers from his alma mater, LaGuardia High School of Music & Art wishing him well. “I wouldn’t be an actor without public arts funding,” he says with his proud mother beaming at his side.

7:34: Best Actress nominee Saoirse Ronan looks elegant in a rosebud pink strapless dress in Calvin Klein By Appointment.

7:45: Fifteen minutes until the awards. Thank goodness, because this red carpet is pretty much a snoozer. Where’s the fun in everyone looking perfectly fine? Where are all the big stars?

7:54: Oh, wait a minute. Sandra Bullock, what have you done to your face? Why oh why did you overdose on fillers?

7:55: Five minutes left on the carpet and finally someone who I really want to see appears. “Oh Nic, we’re so glad to see you!” says interviewer Smith as Nicole Kidman who crashes Bullock’s interview. As usual, her dress, an exquisite Armani Prive, is to die for. Where does she keep all these dresses? I doubt she has to send them back.

8:00: Jimmy Kimmel opens the awards with a tepid old Hollywood style black and white newsreel with some very tame material. Uh-oh.

8:03: “This year, when you hear your name called, don’t get up right away.” Kimmel then explains why Oscar is Hollywood’s idea man. “He keeps his hands where you can see them. Most importantly, no penis at all … That’s the kind of man we need more of in this town.” I think he’s got a really tough job this year and I’m rooting for him.

8:05: Kimmel’s first and only Harvey Weinstein mention. “The academy, as you are no doubt aware, took action last year to expel Harvey Weinstein from their ranks. There were a lot of great nominees, but Harvey deserved it the most. “You know the only other person to be expelled from the academy, ever, was a character actor named Carmine Caridi — in 2004, he was kicked out for sharing screeners. Carmine Caridi got the same punishment as Harvey Weinstein for giving his neighbor a copy of ‘Seabiscuit’ on VHS.” Smart – but safe.

8:08: “If you are a nominee who isn’t making history, shame on you.”

8:11: Kimmel’s best line of the night: “We will always remember this year as the year men screwed up so badly, women started dating fish.” A close second is his shot at Trump: “Wow, the stunning Lupita Nyong’o — she was born in Mexico and raised in Kenya. Let the tweetstorm from the president’s toilet begin.”

8:13: Kimmel announces the winner of tonight’s shortest acceptance speech will get a jet-ski. Helen Mirren not included.

8:14: A montage of previous Best Supporting Actor nominees is first of several packages that remind the audience of the wealth of great performances in the history of the respective categories. By setting it to the music from Love Actually, the producers seem to be going for the tears ducts early.

8:15: Evidently, the Oscars are being held at Caesar’s Palace.

8:18: As expected, Sam Rockwell wins Best Supporting Actor for Three Billboards Outside Ebbing Missouri. “We’re at the convention Frances!” It’s the first appearance of many Time’s Up pins that make it to the microphone.

8:28: Eva Marie Saint gets a standing ovation. She touchingly tells the crowd she appreciates the love since she lost her husband last year. The star of the iconic films including On the Waterfront and North by Northwest, talks about working with costume designer Edith Head and then presents the Oscar for Best Costume Design to Mark Bridge for his work on Phantom Thread.

8:40: Icarus wins Best Documentary Feature. A producer dedicates the film’s whistle blower Dr. Rodchenkov who, he says, “now lives in great danger.” Afterwards, Kimmel lightens the mood by saying, “Now at least we know Putin didn’t rig this competition.”

8:43: Mary J. Blige, the first person in the history of the Academy ever to be nominated for an acting and music award, gives a stirring performance of the nominated song she co-wrote, Mighty River from Mudbound.

8:50:That’s what I call a great commercial. Kudos Twitter. #HereWeAre

9:07: “We are the two actors you keep hearing about but whose names you have trouble pronouncing,” says Lupita Nyong’o with Kumail Nanjiani to present the award for Best Production Design. Before they give it to the team from The Shape of Water, Lupita says, “To all the dreamers out there, we stand with you.”

9:21: Kimmel says a trip to Lake Havasu is added to “sweeten the pot” for the winner of the shortest acceptance speech. From the way things are going, I don’t think anyone is playing.

9:29: Allison Janney wins Best Supporting Actress and gets a big laugh when jokingly she says, “I did it all by myself.”

9:39: Kobe Bryant wins the Oscar for Best Animated Short Film for his film, Dear Basketball. The former NBA star’s win strikes an odd note in this Time’s Up year. Perhaps you don’t remember: Bryant was charged with sexually assaulting a 19-year-old woman in Colorado in 2003. Prosecutors dropped the charges a year later because the woman did not want to go ahead with a trial. Bryant said the sex was consensual. Sound familiar?

9:54: They are finally starting to play people off.

9:59: Kimmel enlists Margot Robbie, Gal Gadot, Mark Hamill, Emily Blunt, Lupita Nyong’o, Lin Manuel Miranda, his sidekick Guillermo Rodriguez and a host of other stars to bring candy and snacks to people across the street in the theater watching A Wrinkle in Time. Well-intentioned, but it just doesn’t work.

10:10: Tiffany Haddish and Maya Rudolph reassure the audience there are plenty more white people to come tonight. That’s what I’m afraid of.

10:12: “Hi Meryl. I want you to be my momma one day.” Haddish is really having a moment – and she’s milking it for all it’s worth.

10:15: A charming couple win Best Live Action Short for their film, Silent Child. She is sweet, smart and gorgeous. He is wearing a man bun.

10:19: Common and Andra Day perform their Oscar nominated song, Stand Up For Something surrounded by a group of social activists. A valiant effort, but it would have been better had the audience been made aware of who these people were. Surely if people like Nicole Hockley (Sandy Hook Promise), Janet Mock of (#GirlsLikeUs), Tarana Burke (Me Too) were important enough to be there, some kind of introduction should have been included.

10:25: Annabella Sciorra, Ashley Judd and Salma Hayek provide the evening’s emotional high point by taking the stage together. The women introduce a stunning video about the transformative past few months (has it really only been a few months?) in Hollywood. Judd speaks eloquently about “the changes we are witnessing” and “the powerful sound of people who are finally saying Time’s Up.” I hope Harvey Weinstein is sitting home -- alone --- in his bathrobe watching these brave women reclaim the spotlight.

10:35: Nicole Kidman looks divine. She presents the Oscar for Best Original Screenplay for Get Out to Jordan Peele who gives a heartfelt and rousing speech.

10:58: Christopher Walken (!) gets a standing ovation before he presents the Oscar for Best Original Score to Alexandre Desplat for The Shape of Water. I think that picture is going to win the big one …

11:01: I love Emily Blunt. I can’t wait to see her as Mary Poppins.

11:04: Jennifer Garner introduces the ‘In Memoriam’ package. Eddie Vetter performs Tom Petty’s “Room at the Top.” It always amazes me how many greats we lose every year.

11:13: Emma Stone (in pants!) introduces “these four men and Greta Gerwig” as Best Director nominees. An emotional Guillermo del Toro wins for The Shape of Water. “I am an immigrant like many of you. The greatest thing our industry does is erase lines in the sand when the world tells us to make them deeper.”

11:16: Jane Fonda (stunning in white Balmain) and Helen Mirren (dripping in diamonds and sapphires) walk center stage holding hands. They present Gary Oldman with his Best Actor Oscar. He concludes his speech by saying, “I would like to thank my mother who is 99 years young her next birthday. Put the kettle on, I’m bringing Oscar home.”

11: 29: Jodie Foster, on crutches, (“Streep, she I Tonya’d me”) and Jennifer Lawrence (“She’s always so nice at the luncheon.”) are there to present the Best Actress Award. I love this. “It’s a new day in Hollywood,” says Lawrence. “But none of us will ever forget those who came before us.” In a category of women who were all deserving of this award, Frances McDormand wins the statuette. When she gets to the stage, she puts it on the floor and asks all the women nominees – of every category -- to stand. She brought the house down. “I have two words to leave you with tonight, ‘Inclusion rider.’”

11: 40: Kimmel introduces Warren Beatty and Faye Dunaway to do Best Picture Oscar 2.0. “Nice to see you again,” says Beatty. There’s no mistake this time. The Shape of Water wins the top prize. Kimmel awards Costume Designer Mark Bridges with the Jet-ski – with Helen Mirren along for the ride.

Grades: Fashion: B+ Jimmy Kimmel: B Awards: B




- Diane Clehane

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