Life & Leisure

AWARDS: A whiff of change, of many kinds, at post-Weinstein Oscars

(AP) — “Look around, ladies and gentlemen,” Frances McDormand said Sunday during her best actress acceptance speech, “We all have stories to tell.” She was referring to the female Oscars nominees in the Dolby Theatre, all of whom she’d asked to stand in unison. But it felt like the best-actress winner was also addressing the evening’s broader vibe: Change, of many kinds, at the first post-Harvey Weinstein Academy Awards.
There were, of course, plenty of #MeToo moments, including an emotional appearance by three of Weinstein’s most prominent Hollywood accusers. But there were storylines, too, about different kinds of diversity: racial, geographic, and generational, for example.
“This is a door. Kick it open and come in,” said Mexican director Guillermo del Toro in the evening’s final speech, accepting the best picture award for his warm-hearted fantasy “The Shape of Water.” His remarks, too, could be seen in a broader context: Hollywood is ready for something new. At least, that’s what this Oscar evening felt like. Here are a few notable moments, both serious and lighthearted:

There had been some question as to whether Jimmy Kimmel would address the elephant in the room, and how soon. Well, he got right to it in his opening monologue, evoking the now-disgraced name of Weinstein, only months ago one of the Oscars’ biggest players, now banished from the academy. Kimmel also turned serious, addressing not only sexual misconduct but the gender pay gap. And he told the assembled Hollywood elite: “The world is watching us. We need to set a good example.”

At the Golden Globes, women wore black. At the Grammys, they carried white flowers. By the time Sunday’s Oscars rolled around, the dress code was finished, and talk was of moving ahead to a new phase of #MeToo and Time’s Up. “We did the dress code thing,” Tarana Burke, founder of the #MeToo movement, told The Associated Press, “and now we’re doing the work. The plan is to continue to do this work to give people resources.” She said that millions of people had used the famous hashtag, and they all had stories and needs that must be addressed.

In a humorous bit that began early and wore well, Kimmel promised a jet ski to the winner with the most concise speech. He even had Helen Mirren pose with the ski, a la “Let’s Make A Deal.” Then he let the winners riff on it all night. “Obviously I’m not going to win the ski,” quipped best-actor winner Gary Oldman (“Darkest Hour”) as he dug deeper into his list of thank-yous. The winner: “Phantom Thread” costume designer Mark Bridges, who rode onstage triumphantly in the vehicle at the end of the show — accompanied by Mirren, of course.

Although President Donald Trump was barely mentioned during the evening, his policies were referred to in various ways. Presenting an award, Pakistani-born comedian Kumail Nanjiani and Kenyan-born Lupita Nyong’o saluted the so-called Dreamers — immigrants brought to the U.S. illegally as children and here without permanent protection from deportation. “Like everyone in this room and everyone watching at home, we are dreamers,” Nyong’o said. “We grew up dreaming of one day working in the movies. Dreams are the foundation of Hollywood and dreams are the foundation of America.” Nanjiani added: “And, so, to all the Dreamers out there, we stand with you.”

It was the most emotional #MeToo moment of the evening: Three actresses who were instrumental in the breaking and unfolding of the Weinstein story, emerging to push for diversity of all kinds in filmmaking.
Ashley Judd, whose accusations appeared in the first New York Times article breaking the story last October, spoke of “the powerful sound of new voices, of different voices, of OUR voices, joining together in a mighty chorus that is finally saying, ‘Time’s Up!’” Annabella Sciorra, who told The New Yorker magazine in a searing interview that Weinstein had raped her, noted that “the journey ahead is long. But slowly a new path has emerged.” And Hayek, who wrote a first-person piece calling Weinstein “my monster too,” saluted “those unstoppable spirits who kicked ass and broke through the … biased perceptions against their gender, race and ethnicity to tell their stories.”

If you ever wanted inspiration to keep plugging away at something, listen to Jordan Peele, who made history by becoming the first African-American to win the award for best original screenplay, for his groundbreaking horror film, “Get Out.” (It was also his big-screen directorial debut.) Peele told the crowd: “I stopped writing this movie about 20 times because I thought it was impossible. I thought it wasn’t going to work. I thought no one is ever going to make this movie.” But he kept trying, he said, “because I knew if someone let me make this movie, that people would hear it and people would see it.”

Every Oscar ceremony has its poignant shoutouts to Mom. This year was no exception. Oldman saluted his almost “99-years-young” mother back at home with the words: “Put the kettle on, I’m bringing Oscar home.” And best director nominee Greta Gerwig, who created such an evocative mother-daughter relationship in “Lady Bird,” surely endeared herself even more to the world’s mothers when, asked on the carpet what she would say to her 17-year-old self, she said: “Be nicer to you mother.”

Meryl Streep always seems to be in the middle of the discussion at the Oscars, whether onstage or not. The actress, nominated yet again for “The Post,” didn’t win, but people referred to her constantly. Kimmel quipped in a speech that she didn’t get nominated for a stretch in the ‘90s, but “that’s only because she was in prison.” Tiffany Haddish curtsied to Streep on the red carpet, then gushed about her onstage. And Jodie Foster and Jennifer Lawrence practically did a comedy routine about the venerated actress. Foster explained that she was on crutches because Streep “I, Tonya’d me.” Lawrence commiserated that Streep had tripped her once.

She said she had something to say, and she did: Frances McDormand enthusiastically exhorted all the women nominees in the room to stand with her, “the actors, the filmmakers, the producers, the director, the writers, the cinematographer, the composers, the songwriters, the designers….” After urging Hollywood to tell the stories of these women, she ended with a two-word message to her fellow women in Hollywood: “Inclusion rider” — referring to a star’s ability to demand in their contract a level of diversity in the staffing of a film, both in front of and behind the camera.

Some Oscar winners can’t help it: They thank everyone in the phone book. Allison Janney took a different tack. The supporting actress winner (“I, Tonya”) took the stage and declared: “I did it all by myself.” After a sweet smile, she explained that “nothing is farther from the truth” — and gave her thank-yous.