Hollywood stage set for Oscars to mark year eclipsed by #MeToo
With the Harvey Weinstein allegations, other sexual misconduct claims and gender inequality hogging the spotlight, this year’s Academy Awards will see plenty of political statements and a chance to support female filmmakers
Hollywood’s awards season reaches its glittering climax on Sunday at the Oscars, with fairy tale romance The Shape of Water and dark crime comedy Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri neck-and-neck in the race for the major statuettes.
The ceremony caps a difficult few months during which the industry has declared war on the pervasive culture of sexual misconduct brought to light by the downfall of movie mogul and alleged serial sex attacker Harvey Weinstein.
Peter Debruge, the chief film critic for Hollywood trade publication Variety, says he expects this year’s celebrations would place front and centre an issue acknowledged for a long time as an “open secret” – but never before handled.
“This year, now that the case has blown open, it’s a totally different situation,” he said of the Weinstein scandal, ahead of Sunday’s gala.
“I think we can expect jokes, we can expect political statements, we can expect any of the women who win to take that opportunity to kind of speak their minds.”
With voting among the Academy’s 8,500 members closed since Tuesday, the frenzied and at times schmaltzy campaigning that perennially marks the awards merry-go-round can no longer impact the results.
“The Academy is certainly going to be on high alert to make sure that the people from PriceWaterhouse are not backstage tweeting and distracted, that you know the right envelopes go out,” said Debruge.
“But at the same time, every once in a while, some human error like that can make a show really exciting.”
Greta Gerwig is only the fifth woman in Oscars history to be nominated for best director, but faces tough competition from Guillermo Del Toro, the favourite for The Shape of Water, Christopher Nolan ( Dunkirk ), Jordan Peele ( Get Out ) and Paul Thomas Anderson (Phantom Thread).
There was also the first nod in history for a female cinematographer, Rachel Morrison, who shot Dee Rees’s racial drama Mudbound.
It is vying for best picture, best director and best actress for its star Sally Hawkins, while Richard Jenkins and Octavia Spencer are in the running for supporting actor and actress.
“The most beautiful thing which I’ve heard... is that the movie has healed someone emotionally or has given someone an emotional ointment for the soul,” Del Toro said at a recent luncheon for Oscar nominees in Beverly Hills.
Tense second world war epic Dunkirk heads into Sunday’s gala in second place with eight nods, while Three Billboards picked up seven nods.
Starring Frances McDormand, Three Billboards tells the story of a grieving mother who takes on the town’s police while trying to call attention to a lack of progress in the hunt for her daughter’s killer.
Buoyed by strong showings at the Golden Globes and Screen Actors Guild Awards, Martin McDonagh’s film made a late charge to move back into pole position for the coveted best picture statuette.
Others in the coveted top category are dark satire Get Out, Daniel Day-Lewis’s apparent final film Phantom Thread – he has announced his retirement – and Pentagon Papers thriller The Post .
For best actor, Gary Oldman is one of the surest bets of the night for his acclaimed performance as Churchill in Darkest Hour.