In Brief

Oscars 2018: The Shape of Water takes the top prizes

Gary Oldman and Frances McDormand among the other big winners at the 90th Academy Awards

The Shape of Water topped the list of Oscar-winners last night, securing Best Picture and Best Director for Guillermo del Toro.

“The 90th Academy Awards went off without a hitch,” says The Times, “when Warren Beatty and Faye Dunaway returned to the scene of the greatest fiasco in Oscar history” to award the Best Picture prize. Last year they mistakenly gave the Oscar to La La Land, before it was awkwardly handed on to the true winner, Moonlight. 

In a repeat of the Golden Globe accolades, Gary Oldman was named Best Actor for his portrayal of Winston Churchill in Darkest Hour, and Frances McDormand took the Best Actress award for Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri.

Allison Janney won Best Supporting Actress for I, Tonya and Sam Rockwell won Best Supporting Actor for Three Billboards. Disney Pixar’s Coco won the Animated Feature Oscar.

Once again, Hollywood’s politics was on show, as well as its glamour. “Disgraced producer Harvey Weinstein — a perennial Oscars fixture — wasn’t at Sunday’s Academy Awards but his presence still loomed large,” reports the Los Angeles Times.

Host Jimmy Kimmel addressed the sexual harassment scandals that have rocked the industry in the past 12 months, citing the golden statue handed out to winners as a positive role model.

“Just look at him,” he said. “Keeps his hands where you can see them. Never says a rude word. And most importantly, no penis at all.”

But the men and women at the ceremony were keen to look forward as well as back. 

Ashley Judd, Anabella Sciorra and Salma Hayek, three of the women who accused Weinstein, spoke of “the effects ushered in by the producer’s downfall”, says the LA Times, highlighting “the academy’s strides toward inclusion and diversity”.

And del Toro drew attention to a new generation of directors, saying: “I want to dedicate this to every young film-maker that is showing us how things are done, really they are. In every country in the world.”

23 January

Best Actor and Actress Academy Award nominees

The nominations for this year’s Academy Awards have been announced and while Guillermo del Toro’s fantasy thriller The Shape of Water leads the pack with 13 nods, it’s Martin McDonagh’s Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri that is the film to beat.

The nominations for Best Actor and Actress, meanwhile, have thrown up some surprises as well as confirmed long-standing favourites, and include previous winners and Oscar first timers.

Here are the Best Actress and Best Actor nominees up for Oscar glory:

Best Actress nominees

Frances McDormand - Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri 

It’s been 21 years since Frances McDormand’s Oscar win for Fargo, notes Guy Lodge in Vanity Fair, but the actress may be about to claim her second gong after winning the Golden Globe for best actress and bookmakers installing her as firm favourite. McDormand plays a grieving mother in Martin McDonagh’s “creosote-flavoured black comedy of revenge and redemption” Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri.

Lodge says the camera is “mesmerised by the simple spectacle of McDormand’s face”, and her performance “prompted spontaneous mini-bursts of applause” at the Venice Film Festival. One particularly stunning speech by McDormand in the film, says Lodge, is “an Oscar clip in the making”.

Saoirse Ronan - Lady Bird 

Following her Golden Globe win for best actress (comedy or musical), the 23-year-old has received her third Best Actress nomination for her enchanting role in Lady Bird, Greta Gerwig’s directing debut. Collider says Ronan carries the highly emotional film herself “with a balancing act of a performance - that of playing a genuine, complex teenager.” GoldDerby says that the Ronan's youth should not be viewed as an impediment, just five that 32 of the 89 Best Actress winners were in their twenties when they took home the award.

Sally Hawkins - The Shape of Water

The British actress has won applause for two roles this year. Praising her performance in Maudie, Variety says that “Hawkins is always excellent and reliable, but she outdoes herself portraying Canadian painter Maud Lewis”. Although her character is crippled by arthritis, and married to a gruff local fisherman (Ethan Hawke), "Hawkins allows Maud’s joy to shine through". The second role to win her attention and an Oscar nomination is in The Shape of Water, Guillermo del Toro’s dark fantasy about a mute cleaner who falls in love with an amphibious creature in a government laboratory. Indie Wire says Hawkins is “very much in the running” to pick up the famous gold statue come 4 March with her “once-in-a-lifetime" performance.

Margot Robbie – I, Tonya

A surprising yet deserved frontrunner for best actress, Margot Robbie’s portrayal of infamous figure skater Tonya Harding, who ordered a brutal attack on her main rival in the run up to the 1994 Olympics, is a “canny, live-wire, deeply sympathetic performance” that leaves no doubt she’s a major actress says Variety. Robbie gives an “outsized performance that suits the film’s broadness and showy surfaces” but its somewhat lukewarm reception as a whole could hurt her chances, says the New York Times.

Meryl Streep - The Post 

The three time Academy Award winner has been nominated a record 21 times in her long career, after she received a nod for her role as Washington Post publisher Kay Graham in Steven Spielberg’s The Post

While the film’s fortunes have faded in recent weeks, along with those of her co-star Tom Hanks who missed out on nomination, Streep has proved she is still a formidable force when it comes to Oscar season and few would be surprised if she were to get a fourth gold statue come 4 March.

Who missed out

Emma Stone - Battle of the Sexes

Stone was in the running for her portrayal of tennis star Billie Jean King in Battle of the Sexes. According to EW, Stone takes the role with “steely grace and dignity”. While the film lack the reviews needed to win Best Picture, the role of Billie Jean King is the type of role the Academy loves, Collider notes, “a biopic, a feel-good sports drama, and a coming-out story all in one.”

Jennifer Lawrence - Mother!

The 27-year-old already has one Oscar and three nominations under her belt. This year she teamed up with her real-life boyfriend, director Darren Aronofsky, for the harrowing psychological horror Mother! Her performance as a poet’s wife tormented by the arrival of creepy guests has blown away the critics. And as The Guardian notes, Aronofsky has a good record of directing actors to awards glory (Ellen Burstyn, Mickey Rourke, Marisa Tomei, Natalie Portman), but it appears this will not be Lawrence's year.

Nicole Kidman – The Beguiled

Period thriller The Beguiled won Sofia Coppola the Best Director prize at Cannes earlier this year. But Kidman’s performance as a strait-laced schoolmistress whose desire for order turns sinister also had critics dropping Oscar hints, with Indie Wire tipping Kidman in its list of contenders. The Daily Telegraph describes her performance as “deliciously subtle” and “a camp delight”.

Best Actor

Gary Oldman - Darkest Hour 

Long installed as favourite to take home his first Oscar at this month’s ceremony, Oldman’s transformation into Winston Churchill in World War II drama Darkest Hours has already won him critical acclaim and a Golden Globe. Collider says the Best Actor award is as good as Oldman’s already, calling his performance “gigantic” and that the Academy is sure to love him in the film. With the relentless pace of the film and Oldman’s frequent explosive speeches as Churchill, critics say it’s hard to see how Oldman could lose.

Timothee Chalamet - Call Me By Your Name 

The 21-year-old has become the youngest actor to receive a nomination since Jesse Eisenberg for The Social Network for his breakout role in the LGBTQ romance Call Me By Your Name. Younger actors don’t normally receive Best Actor nominations, Collider notes, but the audience reception for Chalamet’s performance at TIFF, Sundance, and the New York Film Festival was obviously enough for the Academy to take note of his talent.

Daniel Day Lewis – Phantom Thread

Much has been of Daniel Day Lewis’ claim that this will be his last film. But if it this is to be his final curtain call “he goes out with high showmanship” says Variety “although not, perhaps, a home run”. Day-Lewis “traces the arc of his character from remote tyrant to willing slave with a majestic command” and his immersion in the role, down to the pinpricks on his character’s fingers, is, as always, total says Rolling Stone. Could it be enough to earn him a fourth and final Oscar?

Denzel Washington - Roman J Israel, Esq

While Dan Gilroy’s uneven legal drama has received somewhat mixed reviews, critics have been almost unanimous in their praise of Denzel Washington in the title role.

“It’s not a role we’re used to seeing Washington play, his hugely underrated performance as a haunted soldier in The Manchurian Candidate probably coming the closest, but he’s never been better” says Benjamin Lee in The Guardian, praising “a nervy, compelling performance from the Oscar-winning actor that dominates this unconventional morality play”.

Whatever faults you find in Roman J. Israel, Esq as a movie “there is no disputing the start-to-finish excellence of Washington” as he breaks new ground in his long and illustrious career says Rolling Stone.

Daniel Kaluuya - Get Out

Made on a budget of less than $5 million Jordan Peele’s satirical horror movie on the issue of race was an early contender that managed to stay the course to awards season, and its British-born star Daniel Kaluuya gets a surprising but nevertheless well-deserved Oscar nod.

Who missed out

Matt Damon – Downsizing 

Alexander Payne’s sci-fi comedy, about a couple who shrink themselves in a bid to solve their financial worries, won rave reviews when it premiered in Venice. Damon’s performance also garnered plenty of praise. The Financial Times says that Damon “dresses down convincingly” for the role of the shrinking husband, “proving again after The Martian that he can ground an otherworldly concept”.

Tom Hanks – The Post 

The two time Academy Award winner emerged as a serious contender for his portrayal as Washington Post editor Ben Bradlee in Steven Spielberg’s film about the Pentagon Papers leak, Like his co-star Meryl Streep, veteran Hollywood actor Tom Hanks is no stranger to Oscar buzz but despite being one of the most political movies up for contention this year, The Post's awards buzz has faded in recent weeks, along with Hank's chances.

John Boyega / Will Poulter - Detroit

Director Kathryn Bigelow is no stranger to the Oscars, having claimed several awards and nominations, and the stars of her films haven’t done too badly either. Jeremy Renner (Hurt Locker), and Jessica Chastain (Zero Dark Thirty) both made the shortlist in recent years. Bigelow’s Detroit, an action-packed historical drama about a 1960s race riot in Detroit, looked equally likely to attract Oscars attention. Both John Boyega and Will Poulter won praise for their diametrically opposed roles. The Hollywood Reporter says the two stand out in a talented ensemble, with Boyega as “the embodiment of good” and Poulter as “the embodiment of evil”. Metro calls their performances “gut-wrenching”.

Kumail Nanjiani - The Big Sick

The Silicon Valley star’s romcom, based on his own cross-cultural relationship with his wife and co-writer Emily V. Gordon, has been called one of the best comedies of the year so far by a host of critics. As well as writing the script, says Entertainment Week, Nanjiani also stars in this film with a “big heart”, which the magazine tipped for a string of nominations.

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