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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: 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

Richard Shotwell/Invision/AP

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

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