March 4, 2018



The awards may be boring at tonight’s Oscars–Frances McDormand, Gary Oldman, Sam Rockwell, Allison Janney and Guillermo del Toro seem to be sure things–but the politics should be fascinating, as host Jimmy Kimmel and the show’s presenters and winners attempt to navigate a #TimesUp and still #OscarsSoWhite moment.  And no matter how predictable the rest of the awards will be, the preferential Best Picture ballot makes it something of a wild card, with several nominees having a chance to pull an upset.  Plus if the rumors are true, the Academy itself is scheduling a wild card by bringing back Warren Beatty and Faye Dunaway to present Best Picture, because that worked so well a year ago.

5:02PM (PT):  Doing the opening as an old-timey newsreel is… interesting.

5:03:  Kimmel wastes no time jumping into last year’s wrong envelope fiasco.

5Ph:07:  And from there into some very careful #MeToo jokes, concentrating on Harvey Weinstein and generalities.

5:12:  A competent, safe monologue from Kimmel, touching on the unavoidable issues without ruffling any feathers.

5:14:  Ah, we’re still in the part of the evening where clip packages are allowed.  Later on, nominees will be lucky if their names are announced.

5:17:  Sam Rockwell wins Supporting Actor, as expected, but it’s nice to see Frances McDormand look genuinely happy.

5:22:  Disney presents us with a teaser of a teaser for Mary Poppins Returns.  With no Star Wars this Christmas, it’s their big holiday movie.

5:24:  The first of what will probably be roughly five million promos for American Idol.

5:26:  Gal Gadot and Armie Hammer arrive to show us what humans will look like when geneticists have perfected DNA.

5:28:  Darkest Hour takes its all-but-certain Hair/Make-Up award.

5;32:  Phantom Thread wins what will (sadly) probably be its only award tonight.

5:33:  These technical awards winners really want that Jet-Ski.

5;40:  The first semi-upset of the night!  Icarus beats the favored Faces Places for Documentary (although it was considered the 2nd favorite, so not a stroke-inducing shock), probably helped quite a bit by the timing of the awards coming right after the Olympics, making the film super-topical.

5:45: Kimmel has a good line about the Icarus win proving Putin didn’t fix this vote.

5:46:  Our first song presentation is Mary J. Blige for Mudbound.

5:53:  a montage of… something.

5:54:  The message is that movies are good?

5:55:  Yep, that’s it.  The Academy thanks people for going to the movies.  Or, put a bit differently after Netflix just won an Oscar, the Academy begs people to keep going to the movies.

5:57:  The sound awards, which may be Dunkirk‘s one big Oscar moment.

6:01:  Dunkirk wins its pair of awards.  It could also win Editing, but anything more than that would be a surprise.

6:04:  It’s just a stupid Walmart commercial, but it’s fun to see Dee Rees direct something that isn’t heavy with social meaning.  (And the budget for the commercial may not have been much less than she had to spend on Pariah.)

6:09:  Lupita Nyong’o and Kumail Nanjiani get some politics into their pre-Production Design banter.  A bit more relevant than Kimmel asking Steven Spielberg if he has any pot.

6:10:  Shape of Water was expected to win Production Design, so if the award had gone elsewhere, it might have been significant.  Instead, everything is on track.

6:14:  It’s mildly interesting that by having Coco’s Remember Me performed in Hour 2 of the show, the Academy is giving the showcase Best Song slot later on to This Is Me.

6:20:  I feel like the Roseanne trailer is getting more play than the trailer for Force Awakens, and I’m just not getting it.

6:23:  With Rita Moreno and Eva Marie Saint presenting, and Faye Dunaway still to come, the show is really going for the grandma demo.

6:24:  A Fantastic Woman was expected to win Foreign Film, but it’s still a historic moment for a story about a trans woman to take home that statue.

6:29:  Allison Janney concludes her victory lap of Supporting Actress awards with the Oscar.  “I did it all by myself” will be all over social media… just about now.

6:33:  The Nancy Meyers Walmart commercial is very Nancy Meyers.

6:37:  John Boyega and Daisy Ridley had something better to do tonight?

6:38:  Dear Basketball wins Animated Short, a blow to the Times Up people who thought Kobe Bryant shouldn’t be awarded.

6:40:  Coco may be the least surprising winner of the night.

6:41:  We’re an hour and 40 minutes in, and still have a lot of territory to cover:  Cinematography, Editing, Score, Song, VFX, and 2 more shorts, before the heavy hittlers.

6:45:  Some more politics in the Coco acceptance speeches, but the tone this year is different than last:  not so much angry as determined.  One might even call it resistance.

6:46:  Is it me, or is there something a bit creepy about theseSamsung super slo-mo Red Carpet shots?  On the plus side, the invocation of Emma Stone’s name in the Coming Up list means Best Actor may be on the horizon.

6:53:  Blade Runner takes the VFX award that had been tipped to War For the Planet of the Apes.  A good omen for Roger Deakins in Cinematography?

6:56:  The fact that Dunkirk won Editing may show how soft the support is for Shape of Water and 3 Billboards.  Or it may just indicate respect for Dunkirk.

7PM:  It’s time for Kimmel’s annual stunt, this time taking some celebs to a civilian screening of (Disney’s) A Wrinkle In Time.

7:03:  Honestly, if I were at a screening of Wrinkle In Time and they stopped it in the middle to show off some celebrities, I’d be pissed off.

7:10:  There’s a fantastic poetic justice in Tiffany Haddish’s name being mispronounced by the audience member, after her presentation of the nominations.

7:12:  Live Action Documentary Short Film goes to Heaven Is A Traffic Jam On the 405, and it would be unseemly to suggest that its title helped it win votes from people based in Los Angeles.

7:15:  To the extent it’s possible to have an upset in Live Action Short, the award was supposed to go to the timely DeKalb Elementary rather than Silent Child.

7:22:  A powerful performance of Song nominee Stand Up For Something, although it could have done without the call for a standing ovation at the end.

7:24:  Melissa McCarthy’s final Walmart commercial is a conventional salute to empowerment.

7:25:  The nod to Scrubs in the promo for Zach Braff’s new show is cooler than the entire Roseanne reboot promo.

7:27:  Cynical question:  did the Times Up movement agree to soft-pedal tonight’s red carpet in exchange for the scripted segment during the awards?  Which is basically another clip package, this one pushing the message that movies are suddenly admirably progressive.

7:31:  Call Me By Your Name‘s (likely) only big moment of the night, a lifetime achievement award to James Ivory.

7:35:  Can Get Out pull off the upset?  It’s taken the first step by winning Best Original Screenplay, beating 3 other Best Picture nominees.

7:45:  Another montage, this time about the military.  And In Memoriam still to come.

7:48:  Roger Deakins, one of the world’s great cinematographers, finally has his Academy Award, and for some of his most gorgeous work on Blade Runner 2049.

7:51:  This Is Me is the kind of song the Oscars should hit out of the park.

7:53:  And… pow.

7:58:  Original Score goes to Shape of Water, a strong sign for the film although also not a surprise.

8:01:  More Disney promo as Mary Poppins stars Emily Bunt and Lin-Manuel Miranda give out Best Song.

8:04:  Remember Me beats back a strong challenge from This Is Me.

8:06  It’s death time, this year with the bonus of a song by the recently-deceased Tom Petty.

8:13:  This is interesting:  to draw attention away from Casey Affleck not giving out Best Actress in accordance with tradition, Emma Stone is giving out Director rather than Actor.

8:14:  Guillermo del Toro is a very popular winner for Best Director.  And his pro-immigration words get applause as well.

8:18:  Netflix would like everyone to know that the post-Kevin Spacey House of Cards is on its way.

8:19:  Here comes Best Actor, given out by Jane Fonda and Helen Mirren.

8:24:  Winston Churchill would have liked to have as easy an election in his lifetime as Gary Oldman’s road to Best Actor.

8:29:  Jennifer Lawrence and Jodie Foster sub for Casey Affleck to give Best Actress with some Meryl Streep gags.

8:33:  Frances McDormand takes Best Actress, beating a remarkable field.

8:37:  McDormand is as theatrical as everyone expected, making all the women nominees and winners stand, and looking like she’s ready to singlehandedly lead the revolution.

8:41:  Warren Beatty and Faye Dunaway prepare to present Best Picture, and everyone holds their breath.

8:42:  This year all the Best Picture clips are actually with the category, rather than scattered throughout the show.  More appropriate, in this viewer’s opinion.

8:46:  In the end, the favorite took the prize:  The Shape of Water wins Best Picture, the surprise being that there wasn’t a surprise.

8:50:  This wasn’t the most memorable Oscars, but due credit to everyone involved for navigating a huge minefield without setting anything off.  This year, a lack of losses constitutes a win.

About the Author

Mitch Salem
MITCH SALEM has worked on the business side of the entertainment industry for 20 years, as a senior business affairs executive and attorney for such companies as NBC, ABC, USA, Syfy, Bravo, and BermanBraun Productions, and before that, at the NY law firm of Weil, Gotshal & Manges. During all that, he has more or less constantly been going to the movies and watching TV, and writing about both since the 1980s. His film reviews also currently appear on and In addition, he is co-writer of an episode of the television series "Felicity."