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The 2018 Oscars had important things it wanted to say, but it didn’t always know the way to say it. For a year that made important strides in diversity and gender parity, there wasn’t a whole lot of talk of such efforts, except for a few timely jokes from host Jimmy Kimmel and some pointed jabs from socially minded presenters who used the most of their few seconds in the spotlight. That is, until Frances McDormand ascended to the stage and claimed her Oscar and with an important call to action: “inclusion rider.”
But even for a night of mixed messages, history was made and lessons were learned. Without further ado, let’s take a look at some of the most defining moments of the 90th Academy Awards:
One of the best moments of the night was a blink-and-you’ll-miss it hugbetween Mexican actor Gael García Bernal and Guatemalan-American actor Oscar Isaac. Coco had just won the Academy Award for Best Animated Feature, in which Isaac had proudly exclaimed, “¡Viva Latin America!” — and the two shared a warm embrace on the Oscars stage as Pixar producer Darla K. Anderson took the mic. For an animated film like Coco, a film that celebrates the beauty of Mexican culture, to win the Oscar at a time when Trump’s first border wall construction is underway speaks volumes to the night’s overall themes of diversity and inclusion. After all, just an hour earlier the Oscars had been transformed into Santa Cecilia, as colorful neon lights and traditional Mexican dancers flooded the stage for a rousing performance of “Remember Me,” the Oscar-winning song from the Pixar film.
Films like Coco, which was co-directed by Mexican-American animator Adrián Molina, and Chile’s A Fantastic Woman, from Argentinian director Sebastián Leilo and starring Chilean trans singer-actress Daniela Vega, broke through barriers with their Oscar wins. (Vega even became the first openly transgender presenter at the Academy Awards.) And Mexican director Guillermo del Toro took home the night’s two biggest awards — Best Director and Best Picture — for his fantastical romance, A Shape of Water, a film that he had originally conceived of when he was just a boy obsessed with monsters and fairy tales growing up in Guadalajara.
Though, del Toro isn’t alone atop the apex; Mexican directors have won four out of the last five Best Director Oscars, including del Toro’s friends and contemporaries Alfonso Cuarón (Gravity) and Alejandro González Iñárritu (Birdman, The Revenant).
Move over Timothée Chalamet, the real breakout star of this awards season is… Kumail Nanjiani? If you only know Nanjiani from his character work on HBO’s Silicon Valley, then chances are you formerly met the Pakistani-American actor on Oscars night and realized, “Hey, this guy’s pretty charming.” Nanjiani and his wife, Emily V. Gordon, may have lost the Academy Award for Best Original Screenplay to Jordan Peele, but he made the most of his moment, taking part in one of the more memorable montages of the night — sharing his endearing observations about diversity in film — and standing in solidarity with the Dreamers alongside Lupita Nyong’o while playfully shading Chris Pine.
And his social media followers were treated to delightful highlights from inside the Dolby Theatre, like this photo of Gordon answering Best Actress winner Frances McDormand’s call for all the female Oscar nominees to stand with her toward the end of the night.
Despite its five nominations, Greta Gerwig’s solo directorial debut Lady Bird didn’t win any Oscars — but you wouldn’t know that looking at Gerwig throughout the night. She wore her love for movies, and the process of filmmaking, on her face in every cutaway shot. She looked like she was genuinely having a good time, rooting on her friends and celebrating cinema. Case in point: In the midst of del Toro’s heartfelt acceptance speech for Best Picture, Gerwig — whose own film had just lost — clutched her heart and mouthed, “I love him.” If everyone could be as exuberant as Gerwig after a four-hour ceremony, the world would probably be a happier place. It’s a good thing that Lady Bird is just the beginning of her filmmaking career.
FREDERIC J. BROWN/AFP/Getty Images
It’s the year 2018, and Peele just became the first black writer to win the Oscar for Best Original Screenplay. (For what it’s worth, he also became the fifth black filmmaker nominated for Best Director.) Backstage, he called his work and the exemplary work of his contemporaries — Ava DuVernay, Ryan Coogler, Barry Jenkins, Dee Rees, to name a few — the beginning of a creative renaissance.
“I’m so proud to be a part of a time of the beginning of a movement where I feel like the best films in every genre are being brought to me by my fellow black directors.”
It’s also telling that Coogler’s Black Panther was a major topic of conversation at the top of the ceremony. As Kimmel joked, “Our plan is to shine a light on a group of outstanding and inspiring films, each and every one of which got crushed by Black Panther this weekend.” Meanwhile, the stars of the record-breaking Marvel film — Chadwick Boseman, Danai Gurira, Nyong’o, Winston Duke, and Best Actor nominee Daniel Kaluuya — just smiled and nodded knowingly from their seats. Wakanda forever, indeed.
Last year, Kimmel brought normal people to the Oscars; this year, Kimmel brought the famous people to them in a movie theater-crashing stunt that seemed good in theory but failed in its execution. The idea of celebrating moviegoers, the people who spend their hard-earned cash on movie tickets that increase in price every year, is a noble one. But do you know what would be a better way to celebrate the average movie-going audience? By nominating movies they actually see! Remember: This year’s nine Best Picture nominees earned less than Star Wars: The Last Jedi‘s total domestic gross at the box office combined.
There’s a reason those people were watching A Wrinkle in Time and notthe Oscars. And having Wonder Woman herself, Gal Gadot, exclaim, “This is better than the Oscars,” while chucking free Sour Patch Kids to eager moviegoers is probably not the kind of message the Academy Awards want to be sending at a time when viewership is hitting all-time lows. Though, Armie Hammer firing a hot dog gun was a nice touch, Kimmel.
Director Paul Thomas Anderson has already mentioned that he’d like to see a comedy starring his wife, Maya Rudolph, and Girls Trip breakout Tiffany Haddish, but after their comedy bit at the Oscars, here’s hoping a studio is fast-tracking that idea immediately. The Academy smartly asked the comedians to present two awards, and while I can’t remember who won, I can remember every second of Rudolph and Haddish’s time on stage, from the moment they walked out, shoes in hand, to the moment they promised that there were “so many more white people to come.” They were truly a breath of fresh air during an otherwise predictable, overstuffed show.
Haddish even gave perennial nominee Meryl Streep a shout-out, solidifying Streep’s transformation into front-and-center Jack Nicholson at these Hollywood award shows. “Hi Meryl, I want you to be my mama one day,” she said. “Let’s get this money, girl!” Honestly? Streep seemed pretty down with the idea, so can we make this happen, PTA? And while we’re at it, can Haddish and Rudolph host next year’s Golden Globes? They could give Tina Fey and Amy Poehler a run for their money.
It should also be said that all of the female presenting pairs were delightful, from Laura Dern and Gerwig’s giddiness to the honestly touching moment between Jennifer Lawrence and Jodie Foster, in which J-Law thanked Foster for giving her one of her first acting gigs. And I don’t think anyone will forget the moment Ashley Judd, Salma Hayek, and Annabella Sciorra — three of Harvey Weinstein’s accusers — joined forces onstage to present a video montage on equality and representation in Hollywood.
Upon accepting her Oscar, and after asking all of the female nominees to stand, McDormand said she had “two words” to leave us with: “inclusion rider.” Unless you work in the industry, the declaration probably sent you down a rabbit hole on Google. But it’s actually pretty simple. An inclusion rider is a stipulation in an actor’s contract that mandates the cast and crew of a film reflect a proportionate number of women and people of color. This means that A-list actors who have a lot of pull in negotiations — like Meryl Streep, Jennifer Lawrence, Leonardo DiCaprio, and McDormand — can demand more diversity not only on set but also in the casting of their movie. So let’s start holding them accountable to do it.