Tuesday, March 6, 2018

At least it wasn't Three Billboards

As the Oscars grew closer and presumptive underdog favorites (there can be such a thing in this day and age) Lady Bird and Get Out seemed destined not to win, the smart money, and fivethirtyeight.com, was on a battle between my #57 movie of 2017 and my #74 movie of 2017.

At least #57 won.

As I said, it could have been worse. The Shape of Water actually represented the mid-point of my best picture nominees, with Darkest Hour (#12), The Post (#21) and Get Out (#22) above it and Call Me By Your Name (#62), Three Billboards Outside Yada Yada (#74) and Dunkirk (#101) below it. I saw Phantom Thread too late to rank it, and as you know, since I've written about it like four times, I have yet to see Lady Bird.

Yes, Darkest Hour was my favorite best picture nominee this year. I know, it was a weird year.

I might have taken the flip-flop between Water and Billboards if they'd given best picture to Billboards but best actress to Sally Hawkins. That was really the one of those 13 nominations for Water that I wanted to see come through. Then again, Frances McDormand's speech was pretty great, and I'm happy to have her general greatness recognized by the Academy twice.

Overall, it seemed like a pretty stripped-down version of the Oscars. Fewer extended gags and production numbers than usual, though the recurring jet ski bit and the street-crossing to thank the preview audience for A Wrinkle in Time were both plenty trend-worthy. (I was disappointed that no one really went for the speech that would win the jet ski. I had a fantasy of a lesser category winner getting on stage and just saying "Jet ski" and dropping the mic. Then again, a category is only "lesser" to a viewer, not to the person nominated in it.)

I kind of hoped they'd continue having characters from movies running out, as Get Out's Lakeith Stanfield did (in full croquet garb), but it was a one-and-done for that bit. Instead, an appearance by BB-8 (and three others from the Star Wars cast who never shared the screen together) fell completely flat. Oh well.

One thing I did this year that I don't usually do to assist me with this post was take notes. So, before I go to sleep on this Monday night, I'll send you off with a few scattered thoughts that have surely already been tweeted and re-tweeted and live-streamed by everyone else in the known cinematic universe:

- Jimmy Kimmel handled the sociopolitical stuff deftly all night. Never a false step. Well done.

- Paw Patrol got name-checked in his opening monologue. And here I am, thinking it was something that only my four-year-old knew about.

- When Kimmel said that Call Me by Your Name was here to upset someone, I thought the person he said was "my pets." I wondered what he was on about and figured I'd have to wait for the explanation of that joke. When I saw Timothee Chalamet nodding with that look on his face that says "Amen, brother," I figured I must have misheard, and pieced together that he said "Mike Pence" instead. Amen, brother.

- I didn't much care for Viola Davis' pulled-back hair look. I thought her scalp must have hurt.

- It was an evening of those Hollywood insider nicknames for people, like "Bobby DeNiro" or "Bob Zemeckis." Sam Rockwell dedicated his Oscar to "Phil Hoffman" while Eva Marie Saint (who was unimaginably spry and beautiful for age 93) made reference to "Fred Hitchcock." Incidentally, the most skin I had in the game was Willem Dafoe winning for The Florida Project, but Rockwell made sure that didn't happen. Oh well, I'll consider this overdue recognition for Moon.

- Did everyone universally agree that they would call the movie "Blade Runner Two Thousand Forty-Nine?" When the decade turned over to the 2010s, I was the guy who insisted on continuing to start years in this century with "two thousand." Since then I've done a complete 180, and call every year except 2010, 2011 and 2012 "twenty _____." I thought for sure most people called it "Blade Runner Twenty Forty-Nine," but in its five nominations it was not read that way once.

- Gael Garcia Bernal? Don't quit your day job.

- I couldn't help but notice that there was a presenter with some kind of Latin heritage nearly every time a movie of Latin heritage won an Oscar -- twice Coco and once A Fantastic Woman -- and each time they gave a special cheer for having a common heritage. I'm of course perfectly willing to accept this double standard, but just imagine if a white presenter said "Yes! The white guy won!"

- And speaking of white guys, did any appear on stage other than Armie Hammer and Warren Beatty?

- Kobe Bryant has an Oscar. I repeat, Kobe Bryant has an Oscar.

- I kind of dug the set. It was pretty daring. Daring things at the Oscars usually don't work. This did.

- The best presenters of the night were obviously Tiffany Haddish and Maya Rudolph. Obviously. No further discussion required.

- I am hard-pressed to remember it now, but Roger Deakins had the surprise best speech. After 13 previous nominations without a win, he amazingly somehow didn't botch it.

- It was interesting to note the many repercussions of Casey Affleck being disinvited to present best actress. Emma Stone had to be shifted from best actor to best director -- a bit of an upgrade, perhaps, despite the break from tradition -- and a pair of past best actress winners gave out both major acting awards. Hey, this year, I'll take it. I kind of wonder if they'll return to tradition next year, or if Mr. Affleck will cause a forever break in that tradition. That would be some repercussion.

And even though Affleck was in my favorite movie, A Ghost Story, that movie was never going to be nominated for anything, anyway.

Another Oscars are in the books. Now, on to the next thing.

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