Oscars 2018 failed to walk the talk on inclusiveness by choosing The Shape of Water over Three Billboards, Get Out

Anshu Lal

Mar,05 2018 12:44:37 IST

"We are a bunch of hooligans and anarchists but we do clean up nice."

Very rarely are lines as powerful as this one heard at award ceremonies. But Frances McDormand — the winner of the Award for Best Actress in a Leading Role at the 90th Academy Awards — moved everyone attending or watching the Oscars when she made that remark.

McDormand's acceptance speech was undoubtedly the best and most powerful moment at the 90th Oscars. The impact of the #MeToo and Time's Up movements against sexual harassment obviously dominated the entire ceremony.

For example, actor Ashley Judd earlier said, "I started telling the story of how Harvey Weinstein harassed me back in 1997. But we're finally being heard now." Mira Sorvino said, "We're going forward unless we have a safe world for women. We want to take our activism and power into action and change things for women everywhere."

Both Judd and Sorvino were among the earliest to come out with stories of sexual assault by Harvey Weinstein.

And Jimmy Kimmel, the adorable and hilarious host, showed that he is great as a host (despite the gaffe at the 89th Oscars last year which ultimately did not matter) because he does not shy away from talking about the crucial issues when he quipped: "Oscar is the most important man in Hollywood. He keeps his hands to himself, and he has no penis. We need more men like Oscar in hollywood."

Frances McDormand asks women in the audience to stand as she accepts the Oscar for Best Actress. Reuters

Frances McDormand asks women in the audience to stand as she accepts the Oscar for Best Actress. Reuters

During another moment, Kimmel hilariously remarked: "Men started doing so badly in Hollywood this year that women started dating fish", referring to the plot of The Shape of Water.

All these remarks and moments are special. But it was something truly magical when McDormand asked every female nominee present at the ceremony to stand with her in solidarity.

And that was because Frances McDormand actually won.

A woman, who gave cinema one of the strongest anti-heroines by playing the role of a woman fighting tooth and nail to nab the culprits of her raped and murdered daughter, won the Best Actress Award at a time when countless accounts of sexual assault, harassment and misconduct have shocked and angered both men and women.

Sadly though, for all the importance given to women empowerment diversity at the Oscars, not enough awards were given to the right people for their groundbreaking achievements.

And the biggest example of the failure of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences to recognise these achievements was when the Best Picture Award was given to The Shape of Water.

Now, The Shape of Water is a good film and certainly deserved a nomination. But did it really deserve the Best Picture Award?

Essentially, The Shape of Water is just a modified version of Beauty and the Beast, something which even director Guillermo del Toro admitted when he said the movie was "a story of the beauty and the beast in which the beast does not transform". In the end, The Shape of Water is just another love story.

Compare this to Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri, which is based on a plot so original one has trouble believing it is completely fictional. Apart from the strongly feminist ideals in the film and the depiction of a badass anti-heroine (who is rarely seen in cinema), the film also explores some riveting and disturbing questions about justice and morality.

In terms of originality, Get Out is also a revolutionary film. It not only redefines horror but also satires the history of slavery in America and the mentality behind it in a way which has never, ever been seen in cinema before.

Yet, Three Billboards won just two awards. Get Out won just one. The Shape of Water won four.

The fact that the Academy decided to ignore the unique and refreshing achievements of these brand new movies and decided to shower awards on a typical love story based on an old, traditional and cliched fairy tale shows that when it comes to inclusiveness and diversity, the Academy failed to walk the talk.

Another one of the most frustrating examples was that Lady Bird did not win any awards.

In what world does a nuanced film like Lady Bird deserve absolutely no Academy award?

It should have been the easiest decision for the Academy to give the Best Director Award to Greta Gerwig for directing a story about an extremely complex mother-daughter relationship.

Lady Bird highlights the often ignored fact that the people whom one is the closest to are often those with whom one can bicker with comfortably and with no holds barred. Both Saoirse Ronan and Laurie Metcalf play flawed women trying to survive by telling the world: "What if this is the best version (of me)?"

"A female protagonist, who is strong but also flawed in many ways, is an accurate way of describing women on screen," Margot Robbie very aptly said at the Red Carpet today.

A film needs to be recognised keeping in mind the times it is made in. Moonlight winning Best Picture last year becomes more important, keeping in mind the 89th Oscars was the first one after a racist man like Donald Trump became US president.

Perhaps the Academy needs to realise that women still represent just 28 percent of its membership. And its minority representation rose from 11 percent to just 13 percent in the last year.

Unless women and members of minority communities actually win the most coveted Academy awards which they so clearly deserve, all this idealistic talk about diversity and inclusion is hollow.

Updated Date: Mar 05, 2018 12:44 PM