The 2018 Oscars — the 90th ever presented — were a little all over the place.
The Best Picture winner (The Shape of Water) won only four awards (Picture, Directing, Original Score, and Production Design) but still won the most awards of any film. The runner-up was Dunkirk with three (Editing, Sound Mixing, and Sound Editing). And then a handful of films (Blade Runner 2049, Coco, Darkest Hour, and Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri) won two awards apiece.
Clearly, the wealth was spread around — which is a good thing for getting people to see interesting movies, but not so good when it comes to declaring winners and losers of the latest Oscar ceremony because there were so many different kinds of winners. So with that in mind, here are eight winners and just two losers from the 2018 Oscars.
Winner: The Shape of Water
The night’s most-nominated movie was also its big winner. The Shape of Water won four of its 13 nominations, including Best Director for Guillermo del Toro and Best Picture. A watery romance that’s a cross between a fable, a fairy tale, and a fantasy, The Shape of Water is both a tribute to old Hollywood and an allegory about those on the margins of society, set in 1960s Baltimore during the height of the Cold War.
The movie won accolades from critics and has performed well with audiences, and its big win tonight ensures its place in cinema history. But it had to fight its way through a field crowded with buzzy pictures, in a year when there was no consensus about which movie would win Best Picture, right up until the moment the award was announced.
But Sally Hawkins and her fish-man pulled it off. Long live true love.
Winners: Three Billboards, Dunkirk, and Get Out
All three of these films lost the night’s big award, but had Warren Beatty read the names of any of them when the time came, no one would have batted an eye, given they all had successful nights on the whole.
Dunkirk racked up the second most wins after Shape of Water, thanks to prizes in the Editing, Sound Mixing, and Sound Editing categories. And while neither of the sound prizes correlates with Best Picture all that often, the editing award quite often does.
Dunkirk director Christopher Nolan has had a bumpy road with the Academy, but with four prizes for Inception and three for Dunkirk, they’re slowly warming to what he does. There’s every chance his next film is his Oscar breakthrough.
Three Billboards seemed like it might be the frontrunner as recently as a couple of weeks ago, when it won handily at the British film academy, but the divisive reaction to it seemed to cool it a bit when it came to the Oscars. Still, it won awards for Best Actress (Frances McDormand) and Supporting Actor (Sam Rockwell), which is an impressive feat.
Finally, Get Out won but one award, but it was in one of the night’s most competitive categories, Best Original Screenplay (for writer-director Jordan Peele). And if you think that a movie can’t win Best Picture with only one other Oscar supporting it, look to but two years ago, when Spotlight won Best Picture and then just one other award — a heavily competitive Original Screenplay race. Get Out repeating that success wouldn’t have been strange at all, and Peele, like Nolan, will almost certainly be back for more Oscars.
Loser: Lady Bird
Greta Gerwig’s film about a teenage girl in Sacramento finishing her final year of high school was an unlikely Oscar candidate from the start. Movies about teenage girls aren’t usually Oscar bait, especially not if they’re comedies.
But Lady Bird has much going on beneath its surface, with a rich, layered screenplay and strong editing and directing. So it was exciting to see the film rack up five nominations: one apiece for stars Saoirse Ronan and Laurie Metcalf, two for Gerwig in the writing and directing categories, and the all-important Best Picture nomination. Gerwig was also the only woman nominated for Best Director this year, and only the fifth woman to be nominated in that category in the Oscars’ 90-year history.
Lady Bird left the ceremony empty-handed. Though it was rapturously reviewed by critics and beloved by audiences, and received a number of critics and guild awards, the subject matter probably sank the movie’s chances with the Academy — but not the sense that Gerwig has many years of great work ahead of her. After tonight’s loss, many are likely hoping that she’ll receive the accolades she deserves in the years ahead.
Winner: Hollywood’s oldest living legends
At 89 years old, James Ivory — who took home the Best Adapted Screenplay Oscar for Call Me by Your Name — became the Academy’s oldest winner in history. Ivory has been nominated for three Oscars before, all in the Best Director category, for The Remains of the Day in 1994, Howard’s End in 1993, and A Room With a View in 1987. All three of those films are also adaptations of novels, but Ivory directed them from adaptations by other screenwriters (all were nominated for Oscars, and the latter two won).
But he wasn’t the only legend at the Oscars. Agnès Varda, an instrumental figure in the development of the French New Wave, is nine days older than Ivory; she received an honorary Oscar for her life’s work from the Academy’s Board of Governors in November and was nominated for Best Documentary Feature. (She and co-director JR lost to Icarus.)
Christopher Plummer, who is 87, was nominated for Best Supporting Actor for his work in All the Money in the World, making him the oldest nominee for an acting award in the Oscars’ history. And two of the presenters — Rita Moreno, age 86, and Eva Marie Saint, age 93 — are among Hollywood’s oldest legends. In an industry that often idolizes youth, it was bracing to see octogenarians (and even older) being celebrated on the biggest night of the year.
Winner: the new kids on the block
A number of the night’s winners were on the Oscar stage for the first time. A host of technical awards went to first-time winners — including Roger Deakins, who was nominated 13 times without winning before finally winning this time, for Blade Runner 2049. But some of the night’s biggest winners were not just first-time winners but also first-time nominees.
One of those new nominees was Allison Janney, who won her first Oscar for her supporting role in I, Tonya, playing Tonya Harding’s hard-bitten, abusive mother LaVona.
Another was Get Out’s Jordan Peele, who became the first black director to be nominated for Best Original Screenplay, Best Director, and Best Picture in one year, and the first black director to have his debut film nominated in all three of those categories. Peele won Best Original Screenplay.
And Guillermo del Toro was one of four directors in the Best Director category to be nominated for the first time (the other three were Peele, Greta Gerwig, and Christopher Nolan, with Paul Thomas Anderson the only returning nominee). And he won the category for his work on The Shape of Water, the night’s eventual Best Picture winner.
Winners: Tiffany Haddish and Maya Rudolph
We know Maya Rudolph and Tiffany Haddish are funny people. We know that we enjoy watching them in movies. What we didn’t realize is quite how much fun they’d be at the Oscars, an event that has taken many a comedy superstar and made them dreadfully boring. Get these two a hosting gig immediately.
Winner: the set
To be sure, a lot of presenters and winners made fun of the evening’s set, a gigantic, swooping monstrosity that wouldn’t have felt out of place in one of the films of the evening’s big winner, Guillermo del Toro. From the elaborate crystal framing of the entire stage to the way the gigantic space of the Dolby Theater seemed to have been turned into a mansion straight out of a murder mystery dinner party, it was all a little ... much.
But — and hear us out here — that’s precisely what made it so great! How often do you remember the Oscars set? How often do the presenters even talk about it? By the time that Jane Fonda (presenting Best Actor alongside Helen Mirren) remarked that the set looked like “the Orgasmatron from Barbarella” (one of Fonda’s early roles), the set had become a part of the night as surely as anything else.
Well done, Oscar set designers. We can’t decide if it was good or bad, but it was definitely memorable.
Loser: the Academy, for diluting its Time’s Up message by voting for Kobe Bryant
On the one hand, it makes sense that Kobe Bryant won an Oscar for his animated short film Dear Basketball, which is an animated version of a poem Bryant wrote, ostensibly dedicated to his love for basketball but mostly dedicated to his love of how good he is at playing basketball.
He’s a celebrity competing in a category that rarely sees such a thing, and he had veteran animator Glen Keane and legendary composer John Williams backing him up. Plus, he played for the hometown Los Angeles Lakers. It would feel a bit weird if he didn’t win, even though the project isn’t that great.
And yet his win dilutes the evening’s supposed message of looking to help even the playing field for women in Hollywood and to find ways to protect everyone from serial abusers like Harvey Weinstein. Bryant, see, was accused of rape in 2003, and though the case was eventually settled out of court, the fact that it existed at all (and had such credible evidence backing it) probably should have given second thoughts to voters ostensibly interested in supporting Time’s Up and #MeToo.
This is the central issue with support for the Time’s Up movement — especially support from men — going forward. It’s all well and good to say, “Hey, I stand with women,” when it amounts to putting on a pin at an awards show. But when that can’t even extend to not voting for someone accused of rape for a minor award when he doesn’t even work regularly in your industry, the support seems pretty shallow indeed.
Winner: Jimmy Kimmel
Most Oscar hosts are better on their second go-round. They’ve relaxed into the job and have a better understanding of what it requires. And if nothing else, they can tell jokes about how disastrously everything went last time (because, after all, most first-time Oscar hosts are terrible).
Jimmy Kimmel, however, had even more to prove after the 2017 Oscars, which ended in a Best Picture mishap that had nothing to do with him but still occasionally felt like a comedy bit gone horribly wrong. The secret advantage here is that Kimmel was mostly fine last year — neither here nor there — but the ending of the show and his cool head amid chaos made the hosting gig more memorable than it probably would have been otherwise.
So Kimmel already had the advantage of having a better idea of how to host the Oscars after a year of experience, and the most important thing the Oscars had to do to improve (not give any prizes to the wrong winners) had almost nothing to do with him.
But Kimmel was stealthily pretty great. Yeah, in a year when the Oscars might have benefited from a woman host like Tiffany Haddish or Maya Rudolph (who tore it up when presenting awards to two of the short film winners), thanks to the prominence of #MeToo and Time’s Up, Kimmel felt a little like yesterday’s news.
But his monologue was strong, drawing on the political material he’s increasingly worked into his late-night show, and it contained some great jokes about how Hollywood has shunted women to the side and treated them horribly in the past. (Our favorite: “We made a movie called What Women Want, and it starred Mel Gibson,” which is just a beautifully constructed joke.)
And the looser feel of this particular Oscars, which ran pretty briskly until their final 45 minutes or so, let Kimmel pop up here and there for comedy bits that had a higher batting average than most Oscar comedy bits. He tried to buy pot from Steven Spielberg! He timed acceptance speeches with a stopwatch and promised the shortest speaker would get a Jetski and a trip to Lake Havasu, Arizona! (It was a much better runner than last year’s Matt Damon feud.) He goofed around with the nominees!
Even the stuff that didn’t work — like a visit from Kimmel and several stars to a nearby theater that descended into very mild chaos — was at least conceptually fun. And, hey, it gave us this.
Winner: Oscar prognosticators
On a very dry, technical level, Oscar prognosticators “won” because they mostly got the night right. From all four acting races to Best Directing to the vast majority of the technical prizes, Oscar predictors made the right calls almost every time. And though opinions differed on both Best Picture and Original Screenplay — the most competitive races of the night — a lot of them called the former for Shape of Water and the latter for Get Out, as ultimately happened.
Some of this is due to the endless awards season, which began all the way back in September and now features so many individual prizes that the vast majority of categories simply are no longer competitive come Oscar night. (Everybody likes to vote for a winner.) And some of it is due to just how much data we now have about what makes an Oscar winner and what doesn’t.
But a lot of it is thanks to the fact that Oscar reality more or less reasserted itself this year, after a couple of wild Oscar seasons that went right down to the wire and resulted in come-from-behind winners (Spotlight in 2016 and Moonlight in 2017).
The Shape of Water winning is weird, because it’s a movie with a fish-man in it, but it was also the most-nominated movie of the year, and it won awards at the Directors and Producers Guilds. All of that typically speaks to Oscar glory, but the wide-open nature of this year’s race kept most prognosticators from ever definitively declaring it “the frontrunner.”
And, to be sure, this was a crazy year, with lots and lots of possibilities and permutations of what could or might win, particularly once you started factoring in the preferential ballot. But The Shape of Water seemed like it would win narrowly, and it did, winning four Oscars to Dunkirk’s three and Three Billboards’ two. Maybe, just maybe, the slightly boring Oscars are back.