‘The Shape of Water’ Wins as Oscars Tackle the Serious Without Losing the Fun

Mexican director Guillermo del Toro (C) delivers a speech surrounded by his cast and crew after he won the Oscar for Best Film for "The Shape of Water" during the 90th Annual Academy Awards show on March 4, 2018 in Hollywood, California. / AFP PHOTO / Mark RALSTON (Photo credit should read MARK RALSTON/AFP/Getty Images)

“The Shape of Water” floated to the top as best picture at the 90th annual Academy Awards, bringing a suspenseful close to an awards season punctuated by the sexual-harassment scandals that have roiled Hollywood.

The Oscars are a big, unwieldy beast, which invariably try to serve too many masters. Yet if the intent was ultimately to maintain a celebratory tone without ignoring either the outside world or the elephant in the room throughout this year’s awards, host Jimmy Kimmel and the show itself largely succeeded.

Aside from best picture, the awards both spread the wealth among a number of films and mostly followed the anticipated script, with few major surprises among the highest-profile categories. The show also managed to deal with serious issues — from Time’s Up to diversity and inclusion — without sacrificing a sense of fun and irreverence.

Last year, the two-month awards process was dominated by the collective response to the newly minted Trump administration. While politics played a significant part in Sunday’s telecast, there was also the matter of the #MeToo movement, as the entertainment industry still seeks to get its own house in order.

Kimmel addressed the #MeToo movement and Time’s Up campaign head-on in his opening monologue, which mocked various targets — including, inevitably, the Trump White House — with a light, clever touch.

Indeed, while Kimmel might have become a more polarizing figure with his entry into the healthcare and gun-control debates, he again brought a genial persona to the emcee role, one that somewhat leavened the seriousness and bouts of pretentiousness that can drip into the ceremony.

Toward that end, Kimmel not only joked about the show’s length but offered a jet ski as an incentive to whoever gave the shortest speech. (This being the Oscars — a career milestone for honorees — the sentiment is admirable, but they might need a bigger boat.)

The host also again enlisted ordinary people into the act — this time taking a group of stars to surprise the audience in a nearby theater. As with last year’s similar stunt, the idea was better than the execution, but it did give the show a welcome and refreshing jolt of energy.

In terms of politics, Kimmel extended an endorsement to the planned march for gun control being organized by students impacted by the Parkland school shooting. When the documentary “Icarus,” about a Russian whistleblower, won, he deadpanned, “Now we know at least [Vladimir] Putin didn’t rig this competition.”

The audience also loudly cheered acknowledgment of the Dreamers, those youths brought to America without legal documentation; “Coco,” the animated feature, whose producers gave thanks to Mexico, where the story takes place; and Common’s passionate rap, which took President Trump to task on multiple fronts. Director Guillermo del Toro also spoke of the power of film to tear down walls, not erect them.

The issue of sexual harassment was given powerful voice by several actresses who have publicly spoken out about disgraced producer Harvey Weinstein, allegations that, because of his outsized role, cast a shadow over awards season. Ashley Judd cited “a mighty chorus that is finally saying Time’s Up.” Frances McDormand also used her speech to deliver a message of female empowerment, having all the women nominees stand — a symbolic gesture if there ever was one.

For an event like the Oscars, avoiding major snafus is always part of the challenge, especially after last year’s envelope mix-up. Bringing back Warren Beatty and Faye Dunaway as presenters nicely added closure to that farcical finale.

There were, admittedly, an over-abundance of clip packages, although given the 90th-anniversary milestone, that was hardly a surprise.

The producers also provided the requisite mix of old and new, featuring the stars of superhero fare like “Black Panther” and “Wonder Woman” while giving nostalgic nods to Eva Marie Saint, Rita Moreno and Jane Fonda. Throw in screenplay winner James Ivory, 89, and for an industry that prize’s youth, it was an inordinately good night for octogenarians.

While the best-picture balloting kept Oscar watchers guessing, the acting nominations went according to form, including lead actors McDormand and Gary Oldman, and supporting honors for Sam Rockwell and Allison Janney.

The Oscars are still absorbing the impact of the #OscarsSoWhite campaign, the hash tag created a few years ago in response to the absence of people of color among nominees. Since then, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences has expanded its membership by roughly 20% and inducted more women and people of color, new blood that might have had an impact on the awards, producer more openness to genres that have usually been overlooked in the past.

Notably, sexual-harassment claims also bled into the pre-show coverage, with the E! network featuring Ryan Seacrest emceeing its red-carpet arrivals despite allegations against him by a former wardrobe stylist, which the host has denied.

The following is a list of nominees with the winners indicted with an asterisk (*) and the word “WINNER.”

ACTRESS IN A SUPPORTING ROLE

Mary J. Blige, “Mudbound”

Allison Janney, “I, Tonya” *WINNER

Lesley Manville, “Phantom Thread”

Laurie Metcalf, “Lady Bird”

Octavia Spencer, “The Shape of Water”

ACTOR IN A SUPPORTING ROLE

Willem Dafoe, “The Florida Project”

Woody Harrelson, “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri”

Richard Jenkins, “The Shape of Water”

Christopher Plummer, “All the Money in the World”

Sam Rockwell, “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri” *WINNER

FOREIGN LANGUAGE FILM

“A Fantastic Woman” *WINNER

“The Insult”

“Loveless”

“On Body and Soul”

“The Square”

DOCUMENTARY (SHORT)

“Edith + Eddie”

“Heaven is a Traffic Jam on the 405” *WINNER

“Heroin(e)”

“Knife Skills”

“Traffic Stop”

DOCUMENTARY FEATURE

“Abacus: Small Enough to Jail”

“Faces Places”

“Icarus” *WINNER

“Last Men in Aleppo”

“Strong Island”

ORIGINAL SONG

“Mighty River,” “Mudbound”

“Mystery of Love,” “Call Me by Your Name”

“Remember Me,” “Coco” *WINNER

“Stand Up For Something,” “Marshall”

“This is Me,” “Greatest Showman”

ANIMATED FEATURE FILM

“The Boss Baby”

“The Breadman”

“Coco” *WINNER

“Ferdinand”

“Loving Vincent”

ADAPTED SCREENPLAY

“Call Me by Your Name” *WINNER

“The Disaster Artist”

“Logan”

“Molly’s Game”

“Mudbound”

ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY

“The Big Sick”

“Get Out” *WINNER

“Lady Bird”

“The Shape of Water”

“Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri”

ACTOR IN A LEADING ROLE

Timothée Chalamet, “Call Me By Your Name”

Daniel Day-Lewis, “Phantom Thread”

Daniel Kaluuya, “Get Out”

Gary Oldman, “Darkest Hour” *WINNER

Denzel Washington, “Roman J. Israel, Esq.”

ACTRESS IN A LEADING ROLE

Sally Hawkins, “The Shape of Water”

Frances McDormand, “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri” *WINNER

Margot Robbie, “I, Tonya”

Saoirse Ronan, “Lady Bird”

Meryl Streep, “The Post”

DIRECTOR

Christopher Nolan, “Dunkirk”

Jordan Peele, “Get Out”

Greta Gerwig, “Lady Bird”

Paul Thomas Anderson “Phantom Thread”

Guillermo del Toro, “The Shape of Water” *WINNER

BEST PICTURE

“Call Me by Your Name”

“Darkest Hour”

“Dunkirk”

“Get Out”

“Lady Bird”

“Phantom Thread”

“The Post”

“The Shape of Water” *WINNER

“Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri”

PRODUCTION DESIGN

“Beauty and the Beast”

“Blade Runner 2049”

“Darkest Hour”

“Dunkirk”

“The Shape of Water” *WINNER

CINEMATOGRAPHY

“Blade Runner 2049” *WINNER

“Darkest Hour”

“Dunkirk”

“Mudbound”

“The Shape of Water”

COSTUME DESIGN

“Beauty and the Beast”

“Darkest Hour”

“Phantom Thread” *WINNER

“The Shape of Water”

“Victoria and Abdul”

SOUND EDITING

“Baby Driver”

“Blade Runner 2049”

“Dunkirk” *WINNER

“The Shape of Water”

“Star Wars: The Last Jedi”

SOUND MIXING

“Baby Driver”

“Blade Runner 2049”

“Dunkirk” *WINNER

“The Shape of Water”

“Star Wars: The Last Jedi”

ANIMATED SHORT FILM

“Dear Basketball” *WINNER

“Garden Party”

“Lou”

“Negative Space”

“Revolting Rhymes”

LIVE ACTION SHORT FILM

“DeKalb Elementary”

“The Eleven O’Clock”

“My Nephew Emmett”

“The Silent Child” *WINNER

“Watu Wote/All of Us”

ORIGINAL SCORE

“Dunkirk”

“Phantom Thread”

“The Shape of Water” *WINNER

“Star Wars: The Last Jedi”

“Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri”

VISUAL EFFECTS

“Blade Runner 2049” *WINNER

“Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2”

“Kong: Skull Island”

“Star Wars: The Last Jedi”

“War for the Planet of the Apes”

FILM EDITING

“Baby Driver”

“Dunkirk” *WINNER

“I, Tonya”

“The Shape of Water”

“Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri”

MAKEUP AND HAIRSTYLING

“Darkest Hour” *WINNER

“Victoria and Abdul”

“Wonder”