In what’s been the most politicised year in recent Hollywood history, it makes sense that Guillermo Del Toro’s Cold War-era monster movie fable The Shape of Water should have won the Oscar for best film and best director. Though the multi-nominated movie was never going to sweep the board, its heartfelt paean to outsiders living through an age of intense government scrutiny clearly struck a chord in the age of Trump, something the Mexican director alluded to in his speech.
It’s a subversive movie in many respects — inter-species sex not exactly a prominent feature in Oscar movies — but it also served up its diversity and tolerance messages with spoonfuls of cinematic sugar, paying tribute to the magic of movies with little homages to musicals, silent films and biblical epics of yore.
Hollywood demonstrably loves nothing better than nostalgic celebrations of its past and that might have given The Shape of Water the edge over the more abrasive Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri. Still, there was no denying the brilliance of Frances McDormand in that film. In the year of #MeToo, her win seemed like the most popular, especially when she insisted all the female nominees in the auditorium stand up in a show solidarity, something that — somewhat embarrassingly for the Oscars — reinforced how few female nominees there actually were.
Elsewhere it seemed like business as usual, with the showiest performances triumphing and younger, edgier filmmakers reduced to consolation prizes. Gary Oldman surprised no one by picking up the best actor Oscar for his caked-in-latex turn as Winston Churchill in Darkest Hour though the most disappointing result of the night was the facetious I, Tonya winning an Oscar while the more nuanced Lady Bird went away empty handed. Nothing against Allison Janney as an actor, but Laurie Metcalf was robbed. Indeed, had things really changed this year then both Lady Bird’s Greta Gerwig and Get Out’s Jordan Peele would have been serious contenders in the best director and best film categories as well; instead they had to compete with each other for best original screenplay. Peele won and deservedly so, capping off a remarkable year for his box-office conquering racial horror comedy. Get Out may not need the validation of an Oscar, but his win guarantees he’ll be able to write his own ticket for the foreseeable future, which can only be a good thing.