Is Time Up for #timesup and #metoo? In two words, the Academy Awards were surprisingly disappointing.
Five minutes into the show, Jimmy Kimmel remarked, “We can’t let bad behaviors slide anymore. The world is watching us, [and] we need to set an example.”
The 90th Academy Awards show was predictably fueled with inclusivity. Amid its politically charged tension, host Jimmy Kimmel continually attacked right-wing politicians and policies, whereas presenters and winners took to the stage to share their beliefs. Notable moments included the Coco producers’ comments on racial representation in film, Three Billboards star Frances McDormand’s call for all nominated female attendees to stand up, and the major wins of movies like The Shape of Water, A Fantastic Woman, Get Out, Call Me by Your Name, and Coco.
Although the host emphasized a pressure on time, declaring that the shortest-acceptance-speech giver would receive the prize of a jet ski and a trip to Lake Havasu in Arizona, many winners took their chance to spread awareness about contemporary issues. Taking home an Oscar for Coco, director Lee Unkrich stated, “Coco would not exist without [Mexico’s] endlessly beautiful culture and tradition.” Co-director Adrian Molina, a Mexican-American, added, “we tried to take a step forward toward a world where all children can see characters in movies that look and talk and live like they do. Marginalized people deserve to feel like they belong. Representation matters.” In America’s current political climate, Coco’s Animated Feature win is definitely a shining victory for the inclusion of diversity in American cinema.
On another spectrum, Guillermo Del Toro’s The Shape of Water big win reinforces a concept relevant to our time with its storyline of a marginalized group of people fighting an authoritarian government for freedom. Whether or not it was a ‘safe’ choice for Best Picture, concerning the Academy’s disfavor of fantasy, it was perhaps a more acceptable win (compared to some other nominations) for the older Academy members.
Although the moment when Frances McDormand asked all of the nominated women to stand up felt very empowering and impactful, the event did not quite match all the standards for which it set itself up.
Statistics have shown that the 90th Academy Awards had the second lowest number of female winners—only 6—since 2012, when 4 came home with an award. The show seemed to have embraced the #timesup movement, also recognizing #metoo by shedding light on sexual harassment in the workplace and the case of producer, Harvey Weinstein of the Weinstein company. But Lady Bird, the only female-directed film nominated for Best Picture, did not receive any awards.
The show didn’t only fail to effectively represent both movements, but it also received some backlash for being hypocritical as it awarded and celebrated the achievement of Gary Oldman, Best Actor winner for The Darkest Hour, who has been accused of abuse by his third ex-wife, Donya Fiorentino. She claimed that Oldman has “put his hand on [her] neck and squeezed” and “grabbed the phone receiver from [her] hand and hit [her] in the face with the telephone receiver three or four times” as she picked up the phone to call the police. She also mentioned that her children have witnessed her being abused.
In addition to the public criticism of Oldman’s win, E! Oscar Pre-Show was also slammed for keeping host Ryan Seacrest on red-carpet coverage. Seacrest, E!’s carpet correspondent, has recently been accused of sexual aggression by a former personal stylist. Although he quickly denied these allegations, such claims are by no means aligned with the dual efforts made by #metoo and #timesup.
All the films this year have been incredible, with good writing, good action, and phenomenal inclusivity. At the award show, representation was there. We have witnessed and are witnessing a shift in storytelling, giving marginalized groups a voice to be heard in film and art as a whole. Movies which celebrate individuality, representation, and inclusivity should continue to be appreciated and loved. Although the event seemed relatively hopeful, its actuality is quite depressing, what with a very low number of female winners and the celebration of a few questionable sexual abusers.