If you sat down in front of your home screen on Sunday night expecting that the Oscars would result in lots of wins for the bookmakers’ odds-on favorite, The Shape of Water, and lots of comments about the revolutions of the #MeToo and #TimesUp movements, then the Oscars went down exactly as you expected. Host Jimmy Kimmel’s opening monologue set a mannerly, rather timid tone. No way was a white male host going to do any slash-and-burn jokes about any subject on this night — even Kimmel’s Harvey Weinstein comments were more dutiful condemnation than ripping attacks. Kimmel’s best joke all night was a near-throwaway about Barbra Streisand cloning her dog. A month ago, I said that the best thing Kimmel could have done was announce he was stepping aside to let a woman host this year’s Oscars. He chose not to do that, and ended up much like the statue of the Oscar he made fun of for having no reproductive organ: It was a eunuch’s performance.
This 90th Oscar ceremony was the first since the explosive reporting on Weinstein broke the dam on a cascade of sexual harassment. In that brief time, it’s been, as Oscar presenter Jennifer Lawrence said from the stage this night, “a new day in Hollywood.” Again and again, woman after woman took the stage to both celebrate Oscar wins and remind their colleagues that women will no longer accept ill treatment by men in this industry. You will have your favorite example of this, and I’ll have mine; we’ll agree to differ on this. (OK, mine was when Emma Stone announced the nominees for best director as “these four men and Greta Gerwig.” The crowd went appropriately nuts. And oh Lordy, I wish Lady Bird, my favorite movie of the year, had won a big prize!)
It is the nature of awards shows that, while each individual has spent a lot of time crafting what she will say about the new revolution, the content ends up going over the same ground. Repetition is inevitable, and, if one is honest, it becomes tedious. By the end, Frances McDormand taking the stage after winning the Best Actress prize and announcing, “I’ve got some things to say” must have elicited at least as many groans from viewers at home as it did cheers from Oscar attendees in the theater.
The show also worked against its own best interests. Kimmel began the night trying to keep things concise by offering the prize of a jet ski to whoever gave the shortest acceptance speech, but the joke was so slight, it was forgotten until the very end. (For those of you who went to bed early, it was won by costume design winner Mark Bridges.) Kimmel himself contributed to the tedium by doing one of those stunts that awards shows ought to avoid like the plague: a “Celebrities Are Good Sports” stunt. This one involved a bunch of big names (including Mark Hamill, Margot Robbie, and Gal Gadot) traipsing across the street to a movie theater that was playing a sneak peek of A Wrinkle in Time. Kimmel and the gang crashed the screening with free food and their glowing celebrity. Who, exactly, was this supposed to please? In descending order, the screening audience (who probably welcomed the interruption), the Oscar audience (which got to wave hellos to what we used to call “the little people”), and us at home — bored out of our skulls.
Stray observations: Kobe Bryant’s win for the animated short Dear Basketball let an accused rapist take the stage on this most inappropriate night for that to happen, and undercut his own sharp jab at Fox News’ Laura Ingraham. On a far better note, Jordan Peele’s well-deserved win for his Get Out screenplay reminded me how much I miss seeing him on any screen. And the night’s obvious stand-out moment was the presenting team of Tiffany Haddish and Maya Rudolph. Simultaneously hilarious and cutting, fierce on every level, they came out twirling high heels in their hands and laid the audience out with fast, sharp remarks. These were the women Kimmel should have ceded his hosting chores to. To the Oscar organizers: Make this happen next year, please.
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