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20 Best, Worst and Most WTF Moments of Oscars 2018

From Kimmel’s monologue to deserved wins (and unfortunate shut-outs), the highlights, low points and headscratchers from last night’s Oscars

All envelopes were delicately opened and oh-so-carefully read at the 2018 Academy Awards, one year after that stunning Best Picture/La La Land v. Moonlight gaffe that will likely go down in history as the Oscars’ ultimate WTF moment. And indeed, care and delicacy was the mood of the hour at this year’s 90th anniversary ceremony, hot on the heels of a year that saw some of Hollywood’s most pernicious myths about itself leveled to the ground.

From host Jimmy Kimmel’s opening monologue to speeches by presenters and winners alike, much lip service was paid to the industry’s newfound commitment to combatting its own ingrained sexism and racism. And that’s not necessarily a dig against lip service – visibility matters. Seriously, who’d have guessed we’d hear the word “intersectionality” or see an out-and-proud trans person (A Fantastic Woman‘s Daniela Vega) on the Academy Awards’ play-it-safe stage?

That said, the films, creators and actors that the Academy actually honored were a fairly predictable bunch, and didn’t necessarily reflect the “wokeness” that the Oscars seems to believe itself capable of. But whether you’re rolling your eyes or thrilled that The Shape of Water took the night’s top honors, at least we can all agree on one thing: Tiffany Haddish and Maya Rudolph should totally cohost in 2019. Here’s the best, the worst and the most head-scratchiest moments from Hollywood’s big evening. 

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Best: Jimmy Kimmel’s Smart, Subdued Opening

Given the unstoppable onslaught of bad news, award ceremonies don’t feel quite necessary or relevant these days – which certainly makes the job of hosting one a lot harder. Jimmy Kimmel returned this year with a mild touch, making light-hearted jokes about how Armie Hammer was born when a witch put a curse on a Ken doll, and confusing Gary Oldman for Gary Sinise. But he bridged the gap to more serious issues by praising the Oscar statue for not having a penis. From there, he pointed out the salary discrepancy between Mark Wahlberg and Michelle Williams (for reshoots on All the Money in the World), plugged the upcoming march for gun control and joked that we make movies like Call Me By Your Name to upset Mike Pence. It wasn’t a hilarious or wildly imaginative or even offensive opening (though the White House might disagree on that last point). But, in 2018, the balance of business and pleasure felt simply appropriate. PR

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Worst: That Surprised Audience Gag

Kimmel thought a nice way of saying thank you to movie-going audiences would be to crash a nearby preview screening of A Wrinkle in Time and have Gal Gadot, Ansel Elgort, Lin-Manuel Miranda and Guillermo del Toro hand out hot dogs and candy. And it was nice – for those people. For all of us at home, it registered as chaotic and redundant. Kimmel did something similar when he brought tourists to last year’s ceremony, which was equally lost in translation for anyone not in the room at the time. And of course the Random Bearded Dude charged with introducing Tiffany Haddish and Maya Rudolph butchered their names on his first try. That’s why you leave the hosting to the professionals. (Granted, this whole thing was better then Kimmel’s “Young Jimmy” bit, but still.) And while we’re at it, let’s declare a moratorium on bits involving snacks. PR

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WTF: That Trippy, Who-Dropped-LSD-in-My-Drink Set Design

“Aren’t these sets great? They’re just like the Orgasmatron in Barbarella,” Jane Fonda joked after she’d navigated her way through the elaborate gauntlet of this year’s Oscar set. We see what she means: from the elaborate Frozen-ice-capades-on-steroids proscenium arch to the giant sparkly bicycle spokes the presenters had to navigate their way through, the ceremony’s sets were both bizarrely opulent and worryingly pointy. Not to mention confusing; just when we’d gotten used to the bicycle spoke gauntlet, the backdrop suddenly morphed into the red room from Moulin Rouge. “For those who say we’re all out-of-touch Hollywood elites,” Jimmy Kimmel said, “I’ll have you know that each of the 45 million Swarovski crystals on this stage tonight represents humility.” We just hope no one poked their eye out backstage. JS

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Best: Frances McDormand’s Barn-Burning Acceptance Speech

In her role as Mildred Hayes in Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri, Frances McDormand embodied the unblinking stare of all women who were fed up as hell with the state of sexism in 2017. So it’s no surprise that she brought a similar energy to her Best Actress speech, which began with the declaration: “I’ve got some things to say.” Before long, McDormand had placed her Oscar on the ground and invited all the women nominated in every category to stand and got to the nitty gritty: “We all have stories we need to tell and projects we need financed.” It was a no-nonsense, deeply felt call to the industry to pay more than lip service to the notion of giving women a seat at the table. And if you’re a little lost on what an “inclusion rider” is, here’s a handy primer. JS

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Worst: Gary Oldman’s “It’s Your Turn” Best Actor Award

In many respects, the Oscars are a never-ending attempt to right the wrongs of previous ceremonies. Which means that most every year, several winners are destined to take home the trophy not so much for being the best, but for having been overlooked at some earlier date. It’s not that Gary Oldman didn’t cut an impressive Winston Churchill – although under all the makeup and prosthetics, it was a bit hard to tell. It’s just that he was more memorable in 2011’s Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy. (Or Sid and Nancy. Or Prick Up Your Ears. Or …) Perhaps there’s Churchill fatigue right now (see also: The Crown), but Oldman’s performance in The Darkest Hour failed to generate the same electric enthusiasm as, say, Timothée Chalamet’s in Call Me By Your Name or Daniel Kaluuya’s in Get Out. He didn’t rival Daniel Day-Lewis in Phantom Thread, either. Instead, Oldman split the difference between the intriguing newcomers and the already decorated, making for a predictable if not particularly exciting win. PR

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WTF: Having to Choose Between Allison Janney and Laurie Metcalf for Best Supporting Actress

O, ye gods that attend upon awards shows: How dare you force the Academy to choose between Allison Janney and Laurie Metcalf? In their respective performances in I, Tonya and Lady Bird, these performers embodied two of the most memorable mothers in modern cinema, and took two totally different approaches: Janney was all delicious high camp and toxic bluster, while Metcalf created a subtle, close-to-the-vest performance of a mother whose love expresses itself in disapproval. We think the latter had the harder job – the degree of difficulty in that airport scene near Lady Bird‘s level was god-level – but it was Janney who took the statuette for Best Supporting Actress. Still, being forced to pick between these two performances throws the fundamental flaw of acting awards into stark relief. Both were incredible. Both deserved it. Damn you, Oscars. JS

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Best: Long Overdue Wins for Roger Deakins and James Ivory

Talk about legendary. Last night, two icons long overlooked by the Academy finally got the statuettes they deserved. At the age of 89, writer-director James Ivory won Adapted Screenplay for his lovely, thoughtful treatment of André Aciman’s Call Me By Your Name, making him the oldest Oscar winner in history. (“In voting for me, you are remembering them,” he said of his late collaborators Ismail Merchant and Ruth Prawer Jhabvala.) And then there’s Roger Deakins, who at last took the award for Cinematography after an unbelievable 13 (!) nominations with no wins. He certainly deserved it for the visually stunning Blade Runner 2049, but let’s take a second to remember his previous work: Deakins has brought his unparalleled eye to dozens of films including The Shawshank Redemption, Skyfall, Sicario and pretty much everything the Coen brothers have ever made. JS

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Best: The General Level of Awareness at This Year’s Ceremony

This year there was a pervasive sense that things need to change, and perhaps for the first time it didn’t come across as mere posturing. The mood of the room was different. The old-school Hollywood royalty were largely absent – your Afflecks and Damons, your Clooneys and DiCaprios. Instead, there were lots of fresh faces in attendance. An openly trans actress presented for the first time, and her movie, A Fantastic Woman, won best foreign language film. Jordan Peele took home the statue for best original screenplay for a movie that confronts racism. Coco celebrated its Mexican roots with a contagious performance of the winning song “Remember Me.” Most of the musical performances tapped into an ocean of emotions. Four out of the nine movies for best picture were female-driven. Emma Stone pointed out that “four males and Greta Gerwig” were vying for Best Director. Taken together, it was possible to believe we were witnessing the dawn of a new era. PR 

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WTF: But That Montage About Representation Was Still Awkward

Different branches of various activist causes were broadly bundled together in a bit that seemed to conflate the voiceless-ness of women who’ve been sexually harassed and/or assaulted with an absence of diverse voices in general. Harvey Weinstein accusers Annabella Sciorra, Salma Hayek and Ashley Judd took the stage to present a video about equality and representation – and while those issues are certainly adjacent to the Time’s Up movement, maybe systemic racism and systemic sexual misconduct are deserving of their own separate conversations? Trying to tackle both topics in one montage felt forced, and did a disservice to the complexity of each. Ultimately, it was a P.S.A. to challenge the status quo, but the best argument belonged to a facetious Kumail Nanjiani: “There’s so many movies from different points of view that are making a ton of money. Don’t do it because it’s better for society and representation. Do it because you can get rich.” PR

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Best: Eva Marie Saint, Rita Moreno, Jane Fonda and Helen Mirren Represent the Old School

Hollywood loves to shower attention on the young, but as Oscar enters his 90th year, it was refreshing to see the Academy acknowledge the distinguished careers of women in particular. Best costume design presenter Eva Marie Saint is a staggering 93 years old; accepting the statue for best supporting actress in 1954 for On the Waterfront, the actress, then nine months pregnant, joked that she might give birth onstage. Meanwhile, at 86, Rita Moreno is among only 12 people with the coveted EGOT, and she presented in the same dress she wore to the Oscars in 1962, when she won the best supporting actress award for West Side Story. Finally, co-presenters Jane Fonda, 80, and Helen Mirren, 72, share the rare distinction of being actresses over 70 who are still considered employable. This respectful nod to visibility was especially fun given that these ladies remain such an impressive sight to behold. And each of them slayed. PR

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Worst: Women Still Fared Poorly in Most Categories

That said, despite the lip service paid to the importance of diversity and women’s issues, the distribution of awards didn’t do very much to rectify any imbalances. Rachel Morrison was the first woman ever to be nominated for cinematography (for Mudbound), but she didn’t win. Neither did Mary H. Ellis, the sixth woman nominated for sound mixing (Baby Driver). Greta Gerwig was only the fifth woman to be nominated for best director, but Lady Bird was shut out. And French director Agnés Varda, who at the triumphant age of 89 was nominated for best documentary feature for the divine, humane, unexpectedly uplifting Faces Places, sadly went home empty-handed. Meanwhile, women were completely absent from the sound editing, score, and visual effects categories. Awareness is great. Recognition would be even better. PR

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Best: ‘Coco’ and Its Big Win for Representation

An Animated Picture win for Pixar isn’t a shock; it’s pretty much a given at this stage in the game. But unlike most of the studio’s movies, Coco‘s main draw isn’t universality. Lee Unkrich and Adrian Molina’s Dia de los Muertos fantasia situates itself very specifically in Mexico and its traditions – that cultural specificity is its appeal. And the film’s creators made a point of stressing the importance of that point of view when they came onstage. “We tried to take a step forward toward a world where all children can grow up seeing characters in movies that look and talk and live like they do,” Unkrich said in his speech. “Marginalized people deserve to feel like they belong. Representation matters.” JS

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Best: ‘Get Out’ Wins Best Screenplay

This one made us literally jump up from our chairs and cheer. Jordan Peele’s writing and directorial debut is arguably the most important movie of 2017 – a piercing, pointed examination of race relations in America that’s riotously funny and truly scary to boot. And Peele’s screenplay is a thing of genius: He distills real fears into a brilliant horror metaphor, meticulously realized. “I thought no one would ever make this movie,” Peele said in his acceptance speech. “But I kept coming back to it because I knew if someone let me make this movie, that people would hear it and people would see it.” The Shape of Water may have won the night, but mark our words: Get Out is the movie that people will still be talking about in 20 years. JS

Worst: Best Picture Takes the Path of Least Resistance

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Worst: Best Picture Takes the Path of Least Resistance

After 2017’s wondrous Moonlight win, the Best Picture field suddenly felt more wide open than it ever had before. And this year’s lineup included plenty of nominees that were both exquisitely realized and socially relevant – Get Out and Lady Bird chief among them. But the Academy opted to give its highest honors to Guillermo del Toro’s The Shape of Water, a film that, while beautiful and well-acted, isn’t what you might call relevant. Sure, it’s weird and features hot fish-on-woman action, and del Toro deserves an Oscar – but the movie is also cinematic comfort food, in a year when Hollywood, and the world at large, has received multiple shocks to the system. Considering how dedicated this year’s ceremony was (at least on paper) to honoring risk-taking and diversity in the film industry, Water‘s win seems to indicate that, in practice, the Academy wants to keep telling itself the same old stories. JS

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Best: Tiffany and Maya, Auditioning for Next Year’s Oscar Hosting Gig

If Amy Poehler and Tina Fey can’t be convinced to host another award ceremony, then please, somebody, anybody, give the job to Tiffany Haddish and Maya Rudolph! From the second they walked barefoot to the podium, their high heels dangling from their fingers, you knew these two were going to be a good time. The pair opened by riffing on the #OscarsSoWhite controversy of recent years: “We know some of you are thinking, Are the Oscars too black now?” They proceeded to dish about their mutual admiration for each other’s bodily-function movie moments and mutal distaste for white dudes with clipboards, showcasing real chemistry and clearly original material. Plus, they did what only the best presenters can, which is make the audience forget that they don’t know nearly enough about the documentary short and live action short categories. Haddish/Rudolph 2020. PR

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Best: Kumail Nanjiani and Lupita Nyong’o, Your New Favorite Rom-Com Duo

While Nanjiani went home empty-handed last night – he and his wife/The Big Sick co-writer Emily V. Gordon were nominated for best original screenplay – he definitely gets a theoretical trophy for landing the most jokes about racial diversity and inclusion. Taking the stage to present with the fabulously bespectacled Lupita Nyong’o, both of whom expressed their solidarity with DREAMers, he cracked wise about pronunciation problems when it comes to “foreign” names, adding that his Pakistani name is Chris Pine. (“You can imagine how annoyed I was when the white Chris Pine showed up,” he deadpanned.) Later, the Silicon Valley star saved a well-meaning but stiff montage about representation from being unbearably earnest when he made the salient point that he relates to so many movies made by straight white dudes, about straight white dudes, so why can’t they do the same for everybody else? Meanwhile, he casual comic chemistry between these two performers was pitch-perfect. Somebody get these two in a romantic comedy. Or an Oscars hosting gig, if Maya and Tiffany aren’t going to do it next year. PR

Matt Petit

Worst: ‘Lady Bird’ Gets Shut Out

It’s a story as old as the Academy Awards (all 90 years of ’em) that the least showy films often get the least love. And this year, the most egregious casualty was Lady Bird, a movie so flawlessly executed that it enjoyed a historic 100% Rotten Tomatoes rating, was nominated for five Oscars. And yet walked away empty-handed, despite the fact Greta Gerwig’s directorial debut reinvigorated the coming-of-age genre with unparalleled grace, humor and honesty. What makes Lady Bird so remarkable is how unremarkable it seems on the surface, but that doesn’t mean it should not have been honored at all. JS

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Best: An Exuberant, Diverse Array of Musical Performances

Some years, Best Song is a real snoozer of a category. But 2018 brought an embarrassment of riches, performed with gusto by musicians and dancers who certainly weren’t phoning it in. It’s hard to decide what we loved most: Mary J. Blige tearing the house down with her soulful rendition of “Mighty River” from Mudbound; Broadway vet Keala Settle singing the pants off of The Greatest Showman‘s “This Is Me”; Andra Day and Common’s timely rendition of “Stand Up for Something” from Marshall (complete with a shout-out to the Parkland student protesters); or indie-folk icon Sufjan Steven’s quiet, elegiac “Mystery of Love” from Call Me By Your Name, complete with St. Vincent and the Punch Brothers’ Chris Thile backing him up. But we’re thrilled Kristen Anderson-Lopez and Robert J. Lopez’s Coco tearjerker “Remember Me” won the night, complete with Gael García Bernal’s heartfelt – if, shall we say, somewhat quavering – performance of the opening verse. JS

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Best: Eddie Vedder’s “In Memoriam” Tribute, Scored With a Stripped-Down Tom Petty Song

Eddie Vedder had the unenviable task of taking the stage after an evening of impressive, exuberant musical performances. But the Pearl Jam frontman blended into the scenery in the best possible way, offering up a stripped-down version of Tom Petty’s 1999 single “Room at the Top” for the annual “In Memoriam” segment. As if grappling with the loss of Jonathan Demme, Glenne Headly, George A. Romero and Harry Dean Stanton weren’t hard enough, the whole montage was that much sadder for being haunted by the late Petty’s unforgivable, unbelievable absence. In retrospect, Vedder was an eerily poignant choice, seeing as so many of his own peers are also gone. PR 

WTF: That Out-of-Nowhere Tribute to the Military

There was no shortage of Hooray-for-Hollywood montages (some might say too many) at the Oscars this year, and most of them were at least topical to the ceremony. But we’ll copt to being a bit flummoxed by a mid-show homage to the U.S. military and movies about war, introduced by actor/Vietnam War vet Wes Studi. Most of the clips shown – out-of-context moments from movies including Saving Private Ryan, American Sniper, The Deer Hunter and Zero Dark Thirty – seemed to glorify cinema’s romanticized idea of war rather than salute the troops; even the featured films that have dealt with the subject in complex ways were reduced here to just run-and-gun gmoments. Not that our fighting men and women don’t deserve to be honored – they most certainly do. But we don’t really get what the subject has to do with a movie awards show. JS