Gary Oldman should have won the Oscar for Best Actor in 1992 for “Bram Stoker’s Dracula” (directed by Francis Ford Coppola). Or for that matter in 2011, for “Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy” (directed by Tomas Alfredson).
Guillermo Del Toro should have won the Oscar for Best Director in 2006 for “Pan’s Labyrinth”. Roger Deakins should have won the Best Cinematographer Award in 2007 (for “The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford”, directed by Andrew Dominic) or in 2012 (for “Skyfall”, directed by Sam Mendes) or in 2015 (for “Sicario”, directed by Denis Villeneuve).
At first glance, the 90th Academy Awards, hosted at the Dolby Theatre, Los Angeles, California, on March 4, 2018, may feel like a patch-up job to rectify the Academy’s past mistakes. But the fact remains that they did not goof up this year’s ceremony and awarded it to the most deserving nominees and the best of 2017 Hollywood cinema.
Historically, The Academy Awards (or The Oscars, as they are more popularly known), are given by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences (AMPAS) annually, to recognise excellence in cinematic achievements as assessed by the Academy’s voting membership. The awards were first presented in 1929 at the Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel. The awards ceremony was first broadcast on radio in 1930 and televised for the first time in 1953. It is now seen live in more than 200 countries. The sculpture of the award was created by George Stanley.
This year marked the 90th edition of the Oscars. Host Jimmy Kimmel, who returned for the second time, following last year’s fiasco (where “La La Land” was announced as the Best Picture accidentally instead of “Moonlight”), joked, “This year when you hear your name called, don’t get up right away. Just give us a minute. We don’t want another thing.” On a serious note, he added, “What happened last year was unfortunate.”
Taking a jab at disgraced film mogul Harvey Weinstein whose sexual harassment cases led to the worldwide #MeToo campaign, he said, “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.”
A string of artists, veterans and contemporaries including Emily Blunt, Sandra Bullock, Dave Chappelle, Viola Davis, Eugenio Derbez, Laura Dern, Ansel Elgort, Jane Fonda, Jodie Foster were among the many who presented the awards. Daniela Vega, the star of the Oscar-winning film “A Fantastic Woman,” made Oscar history, becoming the first openly transgender person to present at the big ceremony.
The highlights of the winners remain Guillermo Del Toro, Gary Oldman, Jordan Peele, Sam Rockwell and Frances McDormand. Jordan Peele became the first African-American writer ever to win an Academy Award for his indie-horror film, “Get Out”.
One of the sharpest films to come out last year, “Get Out” told the story of a weekend getaway of a black man and his white girlfriend to the girl’s family. The family’s overly accommodating behaviour towards Chris can be read as a nervous attempt to deal with their daughter’s interracial relationship. This is juxtaposed with a series of increasingly-disturbing discoveries that lead him to the truth. One of the best films to come out about contemporary racism, it deservedly won Peele the Oscar for Best Screenwriting. Remembering his mother, he said, “She taught me to love even in the face of hate.”
Frances McDormand nabbed her second Oscar after her fantastic turn in “Fargo” (1996) for the excellent “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri”. Gary Oldman, who won the Oscar for the Best Actor for his stellar, methodical portrayal of Winston Churchill in Joe Wright’s “Darkest Hour”, is one of the most versatile actors of all time.
Prior to this, he had been nominated only once before for “Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy”. He has given a string of critically acclaimed performances in “Sid and Nancy” (1986), “JFK” (1991), “True Romance” (1993), “The Fifth Element” (1997), “Air Force One” (1997), “The Harry Potter” series (2001-2011), “The Dark Knight Trilogy” (2005-2012) and most famously in “Bram Stoker’s Dracula” (1992) for which he won a Saturn Award for Best Actor.
His late recognition within the industry had raised several questions about blatantly ignoring his excellent contributions to cinema. Upon winning, he gently remembered his mother and said that she is older than the Academy, ’99 years younger’ and requested her to keep the kettle warm as he had just won an Oscar.
Speaking of “The Dark Knight Trilogy”, Christopher Nolan’s World War-II epic “Dunkirk” managed to secure him his first nomination for Best Director (shocking, considering the quality of films which he has made including “The Dark Knight” and “Inception”). Although he did not win it, the film lapped up the technical awards for Best Film Editing, Best Sound Mixing and Best Sound Editing.
This trajectory of the Academy ignoring Nolan’s contributions has left me wondering if he’ll end up like his icon Alfred Hitchcock, who never won an Oscar despite being nominated for it several times. I seriously hope, for the Academy’s sake and for cinema as a whole, that such a travesty does not happen.
Cinematography legend Roger Deakins finally won for his stunning work on Denis Villeneuve’s “Blade Runner 2049” after a record 14 previous nominations. Upon accepting the award he just humbly said, “One of the reasons I really love it (my job) is because of the people I work with in front of and behind the camera.”
But for me, the cherry on the cake was Guillermo Del Toro joining his other Amigos, Alfonso Cuarón and Alejandro Gonzales Iñárritu in winning Best Picture and Best Director. In a touching acceptance speech for Best Director, he said, “I am an immigrant like Alfonso and Alejandro my compadres, like Salma (Hayek) and like many, many of you. I think the greatest thing that art does and our industry does is to erase the lines in the sand, and we should continue doing that even when the world tells us to make them deeper.”
I truly hope that Hollywood continues to shine its artistic light on such talent in the future. For it is a true celebration of multiculturalism in these dark times.
Viva La Cinema!