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Breaking down the most exciting Oscar race in recent memory

Last night, the 90th Academy Awards came and went, with another set of Oscar winners in the books. Yours truly went 20 out of 24 with predictions, which is certainly at least a respectable showing. As you no doubt saw, either in our post or during the actual telecast, it was a night of mystery that turned out to confirm many initial expectations. More on that below, though for starters, it was actually refreshing to see almost now winners be played off during their speeches. It did more to help the flow than arbitrary limits. Throw in another winning turn by Jimmy Kimmel and the show itself was really quite smooth. Kudos to the producers for not allowing a repeat of last year’s concluding fiasco.

Of course, Best Picture went to Guillermo del Toro’s The Shape of Water. It also took Best Director for del Toro, Best Production Design, and Best Original Score. The nomination leader ended up the winner, go figure, especially when it was in many ways a tribute to the old Hollywood moviemaking style. Removed from all of the various scenarios, this film winning did make a lot of sense. Other movies had perhaps more compelling stories, or fit traditional statistics and narratives, but with the preferential ballot, this probably was always the most likely outcome. Many of us just overthought things, unnecessarily.

Leading the way was The Shape of Water of course, with the aforementioned quartet of wins. Following close behind was Dunkirk, which took three technical awards (Best Film Editing, Best Sound Editing, Best Sound Mixing). The only other films to win multiple prizes were Blade Runner 2049 (Best Film Editing for Roger Deakins and Best Visual Effects), Coco (Best Animated Feature and Best Original Song for Remember Me), Darkest Hour (Best Actor for Gary Oldman and Best Makeup & Hairstyling), and Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri (Best Actress for Frances McDormand and Best Supporting Actor for Sam Rockwell), each of which won a pair of statues. Any other flick that scored a win had it be their only victory, such as I, Tonya with Allison Janney in Best Supporting Actress, or Phantom Thread with Best Costume Design.

For the first time, the four acting categories matched up at all of the televised shows. There was Frances McDormand in Best Actress for Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri and Gary Oldman in Best Actor for Darkest Hour, obviously paired with Sam Rockwell in Best Supporting Actor for Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri and Allison Janney in Best Supporting Actress for I, Tonya. If we include del Toro’s win in Best Director, there’s even more lineup matching, not to mention James Ivory taking Best Adapted Screenplay for penning Call Me By Your Name. Just something interesting to take note of.

Statistics wise, the big one that fell last night had to do with Best Picture, because…of course. The Shape of Water winning shattered the stat that you needed to be at least nominated for Best Ensemble at the Screen Actors Guild awards. We had always prepared for that to go down last year, until La La Land was upset by Moonlight. This year, that snub was a big reason why I ended up predicting SAG Ensemble winner Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri instead. Now, the stat is gone. A lot of that probably has to do with the preferential ballot, which rewards consensus and being the least disliked of the nominees.

Overall, it was a good show, and not just because so many of my predictions were correct in the end. Kimmel proved he should be the new go to host for the Oscars, the Academy avoided any embarrassments, and there was genuine suspense about what would take Best Picture. Early on, you could have even made a case that Dunkirk was coming on strong. Obviously, del Toro and The Shape of Water held on, but it was exciting waiting for the final envelope to be (properly) opened and the title announced. Here’s to more Oscar telecasts that end up like this one going forward…

Congrats once again to all of the new Academy Award winners!

About Joey Magidson

A graduate of Stony Brook University (where he studied Cinema and Cultural Studies), resides in Brooklyn, New York. He contributes to several other film-related websites and is a member of the Broadcast Film Critics Association.

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