LOS ANGELES (AP) – A sense of change was palpable at the 90th Academy Awards as Hollywood sought to confront the post-Harvey Weinstein era and pivot to a new vision of a more inclusive movie business.
The ceremony Sunday at the Dolby Theatre in Los Angeles was punctuated by political speeches and impassioned arguments for diversity. Jordan Peele won best screenplay for the script to his horror sensation “Get Out,” becoming the first African-American to win for best original screenplay.
“I stopped writing this movie about 20 times,” said Peele. “I thought it was impossible, I thought it wouldn’t work, I thought no one would make this movie.
Christopher Nolan’s World War II epic “Dunkirk” led all nominees with three awards for its technical craft: editing, sound editing and sound design. But the early awards were spread around widely in a year lacking a clear front-runner.
And many of the show’s most powerful moments came in between the awards. Ashley Judd, Anabella Sciorra and Salma Hayek – who all made allegations of sexual misconduct against Weinstein – together assembled for a mid-show segment dedicated to the #MeToo movement that has followed the downfall of Weinstein, long an Oscar regular. They were met by a standing ovation.
“We work together to make sure the next 90 years empower these limitless possibilities of equality, diversity, inclusion and intersectionality,” said Judd. “That’s what this year has promised us.”
Host Jimmy Kimmel opened with a monologue that mixed Weinstein punchlines with earnest comments about reforming gender equality in Hollywood. And of course, Kimmel – returning to the scene of the flub – dove straight into material about last year’s infamous best-picture mix-up.
“I do want to mention, this year, when you hear your name called, don’t get up right away,” said Kimmel. “Give us a minute.”
But while Kimmel spent a few moments on the fiasco known as Envelopegate, he expended far more minutes frankly and soberly discussing the parade of sexual harassment allegations in the wake of the revelations regarding Weinstein. Kimimel cited the industry’s poor record for female directors and equal pay.
“We can’t let bad behavior slide anymore,” said Kimmel. “The world is watching us.”
Gesturing to a giant statue on the stage, he praised Oscar, himself for keeping “his hands where you can see them” and for having “no penis at all.” But Kimmel introduced the broadcast as “a night for positivity,” and cited, among other things, the box-office sensation of “Black Panther.”
“I remember a time when the major studios didn’t believe a woman or a minority could open a super hero movie – and the reason I remember that time is because it was March of last year,” said Kimmel.
The night’s acting honors are considered fairly locked for nominees, and things began as expected. Two widely admired veterans won their first Oscars: Allison Janney (“I, Tonya”) took best supporting actress and Sam Rockwell (“Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri”) won best supporting actor.
“I did it all by myself,” deadpanned Janney, who added after a pause: “Nothing could be further from the truth.”
Rockwell dedicated his award to his late friend and fellow New York actor Philip Seymour Hoffman, who died in 2014. “For my buddy, Phil Hoffman,” said Rockwell, raising his Oscar.
Early wins went to makeup that adorned Gary Oldman’s Winston Churchill in “Darkest Hour” and the period costume design of “Phantom Thread.” Guillermo del Toro’s monster fable “The Shape of Water,” which came in with a leading 13 nods, took best production design.
Pakistan-born comedian Kumail Nanjiani joined Kenyan-born Lupita Nyong’o to salute the so-called Dreamers – immigrants brought to the U.S. illegally as children and here without permanent protection from deportation. “Dreams are the foundation of Hollywood and dreams are the foundation of America. And, so, to all the Dreamers out there, we stand with you,” Nanjiani said.
Later, Pixar’s colorful ode to Mexican culture “Coco” won best animated film. Best foreign language film went to Chile’s “A Fantastic Woman,” Sebastian Lelio’s drama starring transgender actress Daniela Vega.
“The biggest thank you of all to the people of Mexico,” said director Lee Unkrich to loud applause. “Marginalized people deserve to feel like they belong. Representation matters.”
James Ivory, 89, won his first Oscar, becoming the oldest winner ever. His script to the coming-of-age drama “Call Me By Your Name” won best adapted screenplay.
Best documentary went to Netflix’s “Icarus,” Bryan Fogel’s investigation into doping in sports, aided by the assistance of Grigory Rodchenkov, the head of the Russian anti-doping laboratory who candidly discussed the doping scheme under Vladimir Putin. It’s the first feature film Oscar for Netflix. Fogel dedicated the award to Rodchenkov, “our fearless whistleblower who now lives in grave danger.”
“At least now we know Putin didn’t rig this election,” chimed Kimmel after the “Icarus” win.
The ceremony is the crescendo of one of Hollywood’s most turbulent awards seasons ever – one that saw cascading allegations of sexual harassment topple movie moguls, upended Oscar campaigns and new movements launched to improve gender equality throughout the industry.
No Golden Globes-style fashion protest was held by organizers of Time’s Up, the initiative begun by several hundred prominent women in entertainment to combat sexual harassment. Their goals go beyond red carpets, organizers said in the lead-up to the Oscars. “We did the dress code thing and now we’re doing the work,” said #MeToo founder Tarana Burke on the red carpet.
Yet the #MeToo movement is sure to have a prominent place in the awards. Greta Gerwig (“Lady Bird”) is just the fifth woman nominated for best director. Rachel Morrison “Mudbound” is the first woman nominated for best cinematography. Ashley Judd, the first big-name actress to go on the record with allegations of sexual misconduct against Weinstein, is among the scheduled presenters.
The parade of sexual harassment allegations has made the normal superficial red carpet a place of sometimes more serious discussion than attire. Scrutiny was falling Sunday on E! host Ryan Seacrest after his former stylist, Suzie Hardy, alleged sexual harassment against the red-carpet regular. Seacrest has denied it and E! has supported him. Best supporting actress Oscar nominee Mary J. Blige said Seacrest is “fighting for his life right now.”
It’s been an unusually lengthy – and often unpredictable – awards season, already an increasingly protracted horse race begun as most of the contenders bowed at film festivals last September. The Academy Awards were moved a week later this year because of the Olympics.
Twenty years ago, a “Titanic” sweep won record ratings for the Oscar broadcast. But ratings have recently been declining. Last year’s show drew 32.9 million viewers for ABC, a four percent drop from the prior year. Even more worrisome was a slide in the key demographic of adults aged 18-49, whose viewership was down 14 percent from 2016.
Movie attendance also hit a 24-year low in 2017. But this year is already off to a strong start, thanks largely to Ryan Coogler’s “Black Panther,” which many analysts believe will play a prominent role at next year’s Oscars. In three weeks, it has already grossed about $500 million domestically. The film’s star, Chadwick Boseman, was placed front-and-center, at the Dolby Theatre.
This year, the academy prohibited the PwC accountants who handle the envelopes from using cellphones or social media during the show. Neither of the PwC representatives involved in the mishap last year, Brian Cullinan or Martha Ruiz, will return to the show.
However, multiple reports say that Warren Beatty and Faye Dunaway will be returning to again present best picture, a year after they announced “La La Land” as the winner instead of “Moonlight,” because Cullinan handed them the wrong envelope. The “Bonnie and Clyde” duo will, 12 months later, get “take two.”
With just a few minutes before the show started, Kimmel and his team emerged from his dressing room chanting, “Let’s get it right this time!