Oscars sparkled a little less

by Shane Dillon
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NOW that the Oscars are done and dusted, the glittering gowns have gone back to the designers, and Frances McDormand has been reunited with her missing Best Actress Oscar – more on that, below – let’s delve a little deeper into some aspects of this year’s Oscars.

A number of shadows were cast over the 2018 awards, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences’ 90th, which – shockingly – saw US Prez and man with seemingly absolutely nothing else to do Donald Trump actually getting something absolutely correct in a Tweet, typing: “Lowest rated Oscars in HISTORY.”

In this, the orange one was dead right: just 26.5 million US TV viewers tuned in, down a whopping 16% from last year’s figure, and marking a nadir for the august academy awards.

While TV viewers now only represent some of the metrics, as I bet huge numbers watched the Oscars online, watching the conventional viewership spiralling downwards must have given TV and Hollywood execs food for thought.

Despite revamping some criteria years ago to try and give the Oscars better reach, which arguably favours US-centric blockbusters at the expense of other films, the prodding and poking just doesn’t seem to have reinvigorated the ceremony or the buzz.

In commercial terms alone – not that I’d be so crass to say that the Oscars should just honour whichever films made the most wheelbarrows of money – the past year’s box office juggernauts were noticeably absent, even from the more technical awards.

For all of the hype over one such absolute money-making machine – Wonder Woman – and the intense international critical and academic focus on that film’s cultural significance, the Oscars rolled right on past.

Not only that – despite the current buzz over the #MeToo and #TimesUp campaigns, and their (quite right) attempts to crush sexism and exploitation within the industry, that anger and high-profile focus didn’t translate into anything much during the ceremony itself.

By and large there were some ripples of frisson rather than waves of rebellion running through affairs, with things pretty much running smoothly under its blandly popular host, Jimmy Kimmell, who, lacking the edginess of some of his peers, kept matters mostly efficient and safe.

It’s a sign of how conventional matters were that more people seemed to be talking about the late, dulcet-toned Batman and pop icon Adam West being inexplicably absent from the In Memoriam listing rather than any did-you-see moment from the ceremony itself.

I won’t run through the winners here, which we’ve all read over the past few days absolutely everywhere, and it’s hard not to agree with the generally excellent winners, and shortlisted names and titles, which didn’t see any We Wuz Robbed shock wins.

Perhaps the only slightly surprising win came with The Shape of Water scooping the Best Picture Oscar, given that the academy is notoriously resilient to sci-fi.

The film resolutely falls into this category, no matter how much it’s dressed up with romance, social commentary and period drama elements, but the academy voters fell for this very fishy tale, hook, line and sinker.

There was great interest in whether smash-hit Call Me by Your Name would win the top title instead, marking two years in a row for resolutely gay-themed films following last year’s superlative Moonlight (because, hey, why not), but Water was still a well deserved win.

Perhaps the film’s win, and some of its shortlisted peers, have opened the door for quirkier content to win at Oscars 2019. Here’s hoping …

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