The Oscars ceremony was fairly unpredictable this year: Singer Mary J. Blige was nominated for best supporting actress, athlete Kobe Bryant won an Oscar for Best Documentary, actor Gael Garcia Bernal performed a song, and Jonny Greenwood from Radiohead was nominated as a composer. Most important, Eva-Marie Saint and Christopher Plummer are both alive. And single.
For North Texans, the biggest surprise may have come in spotting a glimpse of our own Wonder Woman, the irrepressibly badass Annie Clark, the Dallas-based singer known as St. Vincent, who played guitar for indie folk artist Sufjan Stevens’ subdued, acoustic performance of “Mystery of Love” from Call me by Your Name, a movie about a teenage boy who falls for an older man.
Clark and her feathery-subtle electric guitar were a sight for bored eyes. To begin with, she walked the ceremony’s red carpet in a slightly avant-garde black dress with one enormous puff of a right sleeve. Stevens’ other invited guests included singer Moses Sumney, and multi-instrumentalist Chris Thile from Nickel Creek, not to be confused with the band’s exact artistic opposite, Nickelback. While his unmissable pink jacket screamed “Look at me NOW,” Stevens’ face after losing the Best Song category appeared to say, “Good, I don’t want to give a speech. And besides, I already showed off my jacket.”
In recent years, the Academy Awards have been heavily criticized for their lack of diversity, being called out with the social media campaign #OscarsSoWhite. Unsurprisingly, after a yearlong climate that thundered with political, sexual and racial harassment, Sunday’s event seemed to be trying hard to earn the hashtag #OscarsSoWoke.
While host Jimmy Kimmel tried his best, for one by mocking the ostentatious Swarovski-encrusted stage (which showed all the taste of a Trump Tower washroom) and by throwing Harvey Weinstein under the billionth metaphorical bus, the segment that celebrated military servicemen through film seemed out of place, meant perhaps to appease the causes celebrated by Middle America. Wes Strudi, who’s the first Native American presenter and a Vietnam veteran, presented the homage to a palpably underwhelmed silent audience.
Daniela Vega, star of An Honest Woman, the first Chilean winner of the Foreign language film, was also the awards’ first transgender presenter. Three Weinstein accusers; Ashley Judd, Salma Hayek and Annabella Sciorra, presented together. This year, the audience’s sympathies were visibly preoccupied with the mistreatment of women and minorities.
In another historic Oscars moment, Jordan Peele was the first African-American to win an award for Best Original Screenplay, for his social commentary/horror film Get Out. Yet, as comediennes Tiffany Hadish and Maya Rudolph pointed out, there would be plenty of more white people to come.
While there were abundant mentions of women and minority-fronted action films like Wonder Woman and Black Panther, and various minority nominees and presenters, the majority of winners were still visibly white and male. Even Greta Gerwig, who was poised as a favorite with her film Lady Bird, left surprisingly empty-handed. The male half of the adorable couple who won Best Live Action Short Film tried to trick us by flaunting a man bun, and he’s not even a trendsetter — Jared Leto did it first.
Gary Oldman received a Best Actor award for The Darkest Hour. His uncomfortably uncanny transformation into Winston Churchill also brought on a well-deserved Best Makeup win. Oldman delivered the Britishest acceptance speech ever spoken at the Oscars: “Put the kettle on, I’m bringing Oscar,” he said to his 99-year-old mother watching from home. Or so Oldman thought; it was the middle of the night in England, and his mother is, again, 99 years old. It’s worth noting that until last night, we lived in a world where Cuba Gooding Jr. had an Oscar and Gary Oldman, whose versatility borders on schizophrenia, didn’t. To be fair, it’s the same world in which Ed Sheeran’s song “Shape of You” has won a Grammy.
The Oscars writers always seem to keep their most clever material for the host and sadly leave the presenters to deliver jokes written by your dad. Kimmel’s best line of the night was “We don’t make movies like Call Me By Your Name for money; we make them to piss off Mike Pence,” and one brilliant statement rather than joke, tragic in its accuracy: “If we can do that, and stop harassment in the workplace, women will only have to deal with harassment all the time, at every other place they go."
Kimmel, who’d mentioned pot a couple of times, incidentally summoned Dave Chappelle to introduce artists Andra Day and Common to perform “Stand Up for Something” from Marshall, as 10 activists stood behind them onstage, including Tarana Burke, founder of the #MeToo movement. Day gave the most tastefully passionate performance of the night. Contrarily, “This is Me,” from The Greatest Showman, was sung by Keala Settle and was over-the-top with showy enthusiasm. Every dancer was your tequila-drunk friend who needs to sit the fuck down. It got a standing ovation because it was over.
Eddie Vedder sang a song by the late Tom Petty during the in memoriam portion. While we lost some greats this past year, like Martin Landau and John Mahoney (who was incomprehensibly not honored through the segment) the real loss comes in the form of Hollywood powerhouses who are still with us but whose penises have too much perverted affluenza to keep from assaulting people on or off a movie set: Kevin Spacey, producer Weinstein, Geoffrey Rush, among dozens of others. Other Oscar-celebrated actors who faced accusations, like Casey Affleck and James Franco, had the foresight to skip the show, though they both quickly graced the screen through different montages. However, no image of Spacey, a two-time Oscar winner, was anywhere in sight. Bryant, while not convicted, has also been plagued with rape allegations for years, yet actually won the award, prompting much backlash on social media.
The most powerful moment came when Best Actress winner Frances McDormand asked every female nominee to stand up with her. One expected her to go full-blown Oprah, but she cut herself short, perhaps because one recurring theme of the night, other than #OscarsSoWoke and “A thousand references to the best picture announcement mix-up from last year” (It was a funny move, though, having Warren Beatty and Faye Dunaway back for a do-over) was the ongoing joke that the shortest speech would result in the winning of a jet ski.
Kimmel kept the Matt Damon jokes to a minimum (only two) and the last moments showed Best Costume Design (and shortest speech) winner Mark Bridges riding the promised jet ski away from the Oscars’ confused messages with the same glee at the end of Life is Beautiful when the kid leaves World War 2 behind by riding off on a tank.
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Eva Raggio is the Dallas Observer's music and arts editor, a job she took after several years of writing about local culture and music for the paper. Eva supports the arts by rarely asking to be put on "the list" and always replies to emails, unless the word "pimp" makes up part of the artist's name.