The 90th Academy Awards marked change in the air, but the Academy of old suitably shouted ‘This Is Me’.
By: William Hume
[To every young filmmaker] This is the door. Kick it open and come in.
– Guillermo del Toro, Academy Award Winning Director/ Producer of The Shape of Water
Watching this year’s Academy Awards, I felt an honest sense of “Changing of the Guard.” It wasn’t because of a few young winners like Rachel Shenton & Chris Overton’s for Best Live Action Short (The Silent Child), comparatively young centimillionaire Kobe Bryant (39) buying Best Animated Short for Dear Basketball, or Jordan Peele’s surprising but not undeserved Best Original Screenplay win for Get Out (I would’ve chosen Three Billboards). Rather, it was because older winners were truly turning in some of their best ever work. In one particular instance the ceremony did display #TimesUp for Ryan Seacrest’s career at least on the red carpet, after being sidelined because too few stars would talk to him following misconduct allegations. Daniel Day Lewis gave us his final acting performance for Phantom Thread, a commendable send-off, which won its only award appropriately for Costume Design. Mark Bridges, the recipient also curiously won a Jet-Ski, a personal touch of MC Jimmy Kimmel for giving the shortest speech, a consequence of humour strangely befitting Phantom Thread.
In many areas there were some notable old timers nearing late peak or retirement age. Eva Marie Saint remarked how she was older than The Academy. James Ivory, previously director of such classics as A Room with a View (1985), Howards End (1992), and The Remains of the Day (1993, the year I was born) became the oldest Academy Award Winner at 88 with an Adapted Screenplay win for Call Me By Your Name. This after being denied by the studio the chance to direct due to ageist concerns. His win reminded me of fellow screenplay winner David Seidler at 73 winning for The King’s Speech “I believe I am the oldest person to win this particular award… I hope this record is broken quickly and often.” He was close. [Studio Note: Fellow Octogenarian Oscar winner Clint Eastwood latest, the 15:17 to Paris made profit this weekend, despite a critical dredging]. The oldest nominee ever 89 year-old Agnès Varda was present, and oldest competitive acting nominee and winner Christopher Plummer (88); present on the red carpet and the butt of MC Jimmy Kimmel’s old age jokes, had an online presence that correctly stated comparatively how old he was “born in the same year as MLK, and Anne Frank (seriously, look it up).”
The 68 year-old Roger Deakins deservedly won Best Cinematography for the iconic looking Blade Runner 2049 which also won Best Visual Effects (with help from a Canadian firm Rodeo). My personal favourite film of 2017 picked up an award its 35-year old predecessor did not receive. Deakin’s age is referenced directly in his speech as he notes he better say something so as not receive the jet-ski at his age, and is well represented as well in a career that includes 13 other nominations starting with The Shawshank Redemption (1994) and Fargo (1996, which won Best Actress for Frances McDormand returning to the podium this year.), More recently he lensed Skyfall (2012) and Sicario (2015) and a whole lot in between if you check his IMDB page.
Perhaps literally the ‘old’-est man who a few people have argued stole the award from young ones Timothee Chalamet (22), and Daniel Kaluuya (29), the favourite to win Gary Oldman (only 59, and 13 days younger than Gary Newman) won Best Actor for Darkest Hour portraying then 66 year old, Winston Churchill with an Oscar winning Makeup crew. Oldman who had the longest speech that turned into an endless thanking parade, saved face by referencing his failure to win the jet ski and opened up about his immigrant status, a recurring theme throughout the night.
Finally Guillermo del Toro who bookended Oldman’s award winning both Best Director and Best Picture for The Shape of Water also drew on his immigrant status watching American films in Mexico as a child and now having grown up and won an Oscar with his most mature film to date, he encouraged young filmmakers to join him. “This is the door. Kick it open and come in.” Let me tell you we will. Our time will come.
*Additionally Best Supporting Actor – Sam Rockwell, Three Billboards
Best Supporting Actress – Allison Janney, I, Tonya