90th Academy Awards Review

Written by Amber Jackson

Inclusion Rider: History makers, History breakers, History takers

Last night saw the 90th Academy Awards and, if you didn’t stay up until the unearthly hours of the morning to watch, here are some of the highlights.

Television host Jimmy Kimmel presented the awards ceremony for the second year in a row and ultimately kicked of his opening speech with a gag about 2017s Best Picture award – because how can you not? Watching that back still makes us all cringe. As well as listing some fun facts and history-making moments – such as Timothee Chalamet (Call me by Your Name) being one of the youngest nominees ever, next to Christopher Plummer (All the Money in the World) being one of the oldest – he ended with the message that the winner who gave the shortest speech of the night would win a Jetski – Helen Mirren not included. Talk about motivational…!

But amongst his wisecracks, Kimmel’s overall message was that history is being made within the film industry and that ultimately Hollywood has a lot to celebrate this year. And this was certainly echoed throughout the night. There were many history-making and inspiring moments throughout the awards ceremony. Tradition was upended when Jodi Foster and Jennifer Lawrence replaced Casey Affleck in presenting the ‘Best Actress’ category. They highlighted that ‘it is a new day in Hollywood’ after the exposed harassment scandals of Harvey Weinstein and others within the industry, demonstrating that these changes could be faced by women coming together and supporting one another.

From this, the two women went on to announce Frances McDormand as the winner for Best Actress. McDormand, having already won a Golden Globe and a BAFTA for her role as Mildred Hayes in Three Billboards outside Ebbing, Missouri brought attention to the changing film industry, saying “if I fall over, pick me up because I’ve got some things to say.” In getting every single female nominee to stand, she encouraged gender equality within the film industry and for prominent writers, producers and directors to include more women in their film work. McDormand ended her speech with the incredibly prominent words “inclusion rider” – which is a contract clause that actors can insist be included, requiring cast and crew members in a film to meet a certain level of diversity.

Other winners included Gary Oldman for Best Actor (Darkest Hour), Guillermo del Toro for Best Director as well as Best Picture (The Shape of Water) and Sam Rockwell for Best Supporting Actor (Three Billboards), all from films that took away multiple awards. One win that was particularly memorable was Rachel Shenton, known for acting in Hollywood and now winning in Hollywood for best live action short film. She conducted her part of the acceptance speech, won alongside her fiancé Chris Overton, in sign language – a promise made to the six-year-old leading actress in their short film. Another inspiring moment was when Jordan Peele became the first African-American to win the best original screenplay Oscar for ‘Get Out.’ He spoke about stopping and starting his writing process for this film again and again, highlighting that perseverance and support got this film the reception it deserved.

As well as inspiring creators, there were many notable quotes and moments of hilarity throughout the show, which included:

  • “Meryl if you do it everyone else will” (Frances McDormand, on getting all female nominees to stand)
  • “I did it all by myself” (Allison Janney’s opening acceptance speech line – this was her first Oscar win and what a great start!)
  • “These four men and Greta Gertwig” (Emma Stone, on presenting Best Director)
  • “Got any pot?” (Jimmy Kimmel to Stephen Spielberg)
  • And of course! Queen Meryl Streep recreating her iconic “shouting to the stage” meme, along with being so visibly proud of her fellow actors. Not to mention she beat her own nomination record, reaching 21 nominations this year. Now, that’s commitment to talent.

But most importantly were those that brought attention to the fact that their narratives have been overlooked and often shunned in the film industry. Only 11% of Hollywood films have been directed by women and, despite the nominations, this year saw the lowest amount of female wins in the last six years! Actress and Producer Salma Hayek provided one of the most poignant moments within a montage, stating that “the industry has to become sincerely curious about the human essence that has become invisible behind stereotypes.” She and many other actors, writers, directors, etc. spoke on the necessity of claiming history and embracing the unstoppable force of change. Some of the best work comes from turmoil and there is now a chance to express what has always been happening, not just in Hollywood, but across the world for years. With references to movements such as #TimesUp, #MeToo and #NeverAgain, the emphasis was on the variety of voices that Hollywood includes, with the promise that this year will bring greater equality, inclusion and intersectionality.

It’s fair to say that this year’s Academy Awards contained the right balance of comedy and sentiment, in order to provide audiences around the world with a strong and deliberate message: we are not going anywhere – and that ultimately, originality is what the heart of human storytelling should be.