What the Oscars Got Right and Wrong In 2018

Another year, another Oscars. With the recent prevalence of the #MeToo movement, particularly in Hollywood, and recurring conversations about representation in media, everyone’s eyes were on the (arguably) most influential award ceremony of the year last Sunday night. Though there were many firsts in terms of celebrating women and people of colour at the 90th Academy Awards, there are still a lot of ways that the Oscars can improve. Here is a brief look at what the 2018 Oscars ceremony got right, and what it got wrong.

 

Source: IMDb

 

Jimmy Kimmel hosted the 90th Academy Awards, redeeming himself from last year’s hot mess. This year, Kimmel refrained from making jokes about non-white actors’ names, instead taking a more serious, but cynically funny, route. Warren Beatty and Faye Dunaway got their redemption too, when they presented the Award for Best Motion Picture, this time to the right film. Kimmel’s opening monologue was culturally relevant and mostly respectful, though I will always wonder why, especially at this time in history, the Academy insists on choosing a white man to host. This year is shaping up to be a landmark year for representation in media, but, unfortunately not for the hosts of award shows.

 

Source: IMDb

 

Although the Academy missed a huge opportunity to show their support for a changing industry through their choice of host, they did make sure to showcase women and people of colour with their selection of presenters. This year, only 6 out of 29 presenters were men, meaning 60% of the presenters were women, as well as 51% were people of colour. Another particularly notable presenter was Daniela Vega, who became the first openly transgender Oscar presenter. A Fantastic Woman, the film that Vega stars in, also took home the Academy Award for Best Foreign Picture. This is particularly exciting because films with marginalized characters seldom use actors who are from said community (such as Sally Hawkins playing a mute character in The Shape of Water) and when they do, they are rarely recognized. And, after Casey Affleck thankfully decided not to present due to the sexual assault allegations against him, the Academy brought in some legendary women (and Jennifer Lawrence) to present the awards for Best Leading Actress and Actor instead.

 

Source: IMDb

 

Unfortunately, this means that Helen Mirren and Jane Fonda had to present Gary Oldman with the award for Best Actor in a Leading Role for his portrayal of Winston Churchill in Darkest Hour. Despite the Academy’s attempts to appear more feminist this year through its choice of presenters and a rather unforgettable #TimesUp montage, rewarding a man who has been accused of beating his ex-wife with a telephone in front of their two children proves that, whatever their intentions, the Academy’s words of support for the #TimesUp and #MeToo movements are seemingly empty.

 

Source: IMDb

 

Another issue at this year’s Oscars were the nominees themselves. Although there were a couple of record-breaking nominees, such as Jordan Peele, Greta Gerwig, Dee Rees and Rachel Morrison, the nominees were still predominantly white and male. In fact, a recent study found that there was only a 3% growth rate in women nominated for non-acting categories. People of colour were also underrepresented, which was particularly noticeable in the Lead Actress and Supporting Actor categories, where, like many others, every nominee was white. This could be because, despite its promise to diversify its members, the Academy is still 72% male and 87% white.

 

Source: IMDb

 

Despite this discouraging statistic, one of the best moments of the night was when Jordan Peele became the first African-American to win the Oscar for Best Original Screenplay. In my earlier article I said that, “[i]n an ideal world, Jordan Peele would win Best Original Screenplay for Get Out” not believing that a film that made fun of rich, old, white people (AKA most of the Academy members), and that some Oscar voters didn’t even watch, could win this award, and I have never been happier to be wrong. Unfortunately, the Academy still decided to go with the relatively safe choice of The Shape of Water for Best Picture, instead of the true Best Picture of 2018, Get Out.

 

Source: IMDb

 

I will end this article with one of my favourite moments of the night; Frances McDormand’s acceptance speech for Best Actress in a Leading Role. Throughout the award season, we have seen the things McDormand can do when given a microphone, and on Sunday night I was not disappointed. As soon as she got on stage, she let us know that she’s “got some things to say.” Not only did she get all of the female nominees to stand with her as she accepted her award, but she also left everyone with two words: “inclusion rider.” This idea comes from USC Professor Stacey Smith, in her TedTalk, “The Data Behind Hollywood’s Sexism.” This idea is basically a clause that an actor can put in their contract that the cast and crew of the film would have to represent a certain percent of marginalized groups. Some actors, such as Michael B. Jordan, have already started putting this into practice.

 

Source: IMDb

 

These are just a few of the noteworthy moments from the 90th Academy Awards, and though the ceremony had some nice surprises, all-in-all the Academy, and the entire industry, still has a long way to go in terms of equity for women and people of colour. Hopefully, though, these little moments signal a change in the tide.