Unpacking the hits and the misses of the 90th Academy Awards
On March 4, 2018, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences held their 90th annual Academy Awards. With so much momentum from the #metoo and Time’s Up movements from earlier awards shows of this year, many were eager to see whether The Oscars would carry on this progressive trend. Ultimately, there were some definite hits, but also a few obvious blunders, leaving viewers to wonder, is Hollywood really changing?
First and foremost, the successes of the evening. Host Jimmy Kimmel opened the show with many comments about post-Weinstein Hollywood. He commendably decried that Hollywood cannot “let bad behavior slide anymore,” calling for an end to sexual harassment in the work place. Kimmel also made a poignant joke about Hollywood’s lack of belief in minorities and women in leading roles by stating, “I remember a time when studios didn’t believe that a woman or a minority could front a superhero film… And I remember that time because it was March of last year.” He also noticeably shined a light on those women who were shattering glass ceilings in their area of work, such as the first ever woman to be nominated for cinematography, and the first female to be nominated for best director in eight years.
As the award show carried on, many other females also took a stand to uphold women’s rights. Ashley Judd and Mira Sorvino, two women who spearheaded the #metoo movement, came forward about their experiences with Harvey Weinstein. They had made their triumphant return to Hollywood after being blackballed by the Hollywood mogul. Best Actress winner, Frances McDormand, asked every female nominee to stand up during her acceptance speech. She then called upon the audience to fund women’s projects and films, seeing as only 11% of movies are created by females. While Sandra Bullock announced nominees for the best cinematography award, she described “the four men and one trailblazing woman” nominated to draw attention to the lack of diversity. Similarly, Emma stone read the names for nominees of best director as “these four men and Greta Gerwig," which is another category underrepresenting women.
And now for the misses. Prior to the Oscar red carpet, famed host Ryan Seacrest faced a sexual harassment claim from a former stylist. E! News, which houses Seacrest, investigated the instance rather quickly, and stated the claim had no grounds. Therefore, Seacrest was permitted to work the carpet as usual. Except, it wasn’t business as usual for the previously celebrated host. Tensions ran high and many female stars chose to avoid Seacrest on the Red Carpet. Those who opted not to talk to the presenter included Viola Davis, Margot Robbie, Nicole Kidman, Sandra Bullock, Jenifer Lawrence, Emma Stone, Greta Gerwig, and Jennifer Garner. For a company that is already in hot water over the massive pay gap between co-hosts Catt Sadler and Jason Kennedy, this was not a sign of progression. However, the biggest blunder of the evening goes to Kobe Bryan’s win for his short film, Dear Basketball. Bryan was charged with sexual assault in 2003. The charges were later dropped by prosecutors, but the civil side of the suit was settled for an undisclosed amount outside of court. Bryan himself even publically confirmed that he retrospectively understood the woman in this case did not view their sexual encounter as consensual. In Hollywood’s bravest year to address and challenge sexual misconduct, giving an Oscar to an accused perpetrator himself was a slap in the face to all victims.
In short, there were strides made at this year’s Oscars. Sexual assault was addressed for the first time in an opening monologue, women broke barriers in both nominations and awards, as well as women publically pointing out the lack of diversity in nominees. However, with decisions to put Seacrest on the carpet so soon after the accusation, and granting accused rapist Bryan an award during a time where sexual assault victims finally feel safe coming forward, it is evident that there is much, much further to go. If the highest body in film still does not honour men as equally as women and does not support victims by refusing to honour perpetrators, how will the lower bodies, the directors, agents, and fellow actors, ever realize that the time is truly up on sexual misconduct?