Stage set for Oscars to mark year eclipsed by #MeToo

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HOLLYWOOD, United States, March 2, 2018 (BSS/AFP) – 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.

As with the Golden Globes in January, the mood in Tinseltown on Sunday is
expected to be celebratory but defiant as the film world’s A-listers speak
out against dozens of showbiz people called out for predatory behavior since
October.

Peter Debruge, the chief film critic for Hollywood trade publication
Variety, told AFP he expected this year’s celebrations would place front and
center 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 told AFP 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.”

The 90th Academy Awards — hosted by late night funnyman Jimmy Kimmel —
will be beamed live around the world by ABC from Hollywood’s Dolby Theatre.

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.

Organizers are looking to rebound after last year’s flubbed announcement of
the best picture winner — the trophy was initially given to “La La Land,”
when the actual winner was “Moonlight.”

“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.”

– ‘Emotional ointment’ –

With the #MeToo and Time’s Up campaigns against sexual misconduct and
gender inequality dominating the 2018 awards circuit, this year’s Oscars is
seen as an opportunity for the industry to support female filmmaking.

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
favorite 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.”

“The Shape of Water,” a Cold War-set story of love between a mute cleaning
woman and a mystery merman-like creature, tops the nominations with 13, one
shy of the record.

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 told AFP at a recent luncheon for Oscar nominees in Beverly Hills.

However, in a wide open race, it is expected to fall far short of the
record 11 statuettes achieved by “Ben-Hur” (1959), “Titanic” (1997) and “The
Lord of the Rings: Return of the King” (2003).

– Late charge –

Tense World War II 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.

Gold Derby, a site that collates the awards predictions of experts and
members of the public, also has it as favorite in the best actress and
supporting actor categories, with “The Shape of Water” ahead in best
directing, production design and score.

“Dunkirk” was also a favorite in three races — although all technical
categories — while Winston Churchill biopic “Darkest Hour” and Pixar
animation “Coco” were expected to pick up two statuettes each.

“The Shape of Water” and “Three Billboards” will vie for best picture
honors with seven other films, including “Dunkirk” and “Darkest Hour,” and
coming-of-age movies “Call Me By Your Name” and “Lady Bird.”

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.”

McDormand, who has dominated the awards season, is expected to bag her
second best actress statuette with no serious challenge from Hawkins, Margot
Robbie (“I, Tonya”), Saoirse Ronan (“Lady Bird”) or Meryl Streep (“The
Post”), who notched her record 21st nomination.

For best actor, Gary Oldman is one of the surest bets of the night for his
acclaimed performance as Churchill in “Darkest Hour.”

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