Oscars 2018: The highs and the lows, from Kimmel to inclusion riders to that Jet Ski

The 90th Academy Awards played out Sunday night with the usual mix of spectacle, stardom, and suspense (like, would Warren Beatty and Faye Dunaway get the right Best Picture envelope this year?). But with a ceremony approaching four hours, there were bound to be some misfires along the way. Here are the highs and lows from Hollywood’s biggest night. —By Ethan Alter, Nick Schager, and Gwynne Watkins

HIGH: Jimmy Kimmel’s triumphant return

Although a certain envelope snafu brought a sour end to his inaugural hosting year, Kimmel dusted himself off for Round 2 and delivered a command performance that acknowledged the serious issues facing the film industry, while also leaving room for smartly written silly gags.

Watch: Jimmy Kimmel’s full opening monologue:

He also came up with the brilliant idea of tempting winners to keep their acceptance speeches short and to the point by dangling a Jet Ski in front of their faces, and even upped the stakes later in the evening with the promise of an all-expenses-paid trip to Arizona’s Lake Havasu. Here’s our one-word speech about that: Awesome.

Helen Mirren presents a fabulous new Jet Ski. (Photo: ABC)
Helen Mirren presents a fabulous new Jet Ski. (Photo: ABC)

(For those keeping score at home, Mark Bridges, the winner for Best Costume Design for Phantom Thread, scored the Jet Ski.)

LOW: That stage design

While the stars shone brightly at tonight’s Academy Awards, their radiance was somewhat undercut by the design of the show’s stage, which was surrounded by giant crystals and featured several ornate architectural backdrops that were gaudy to the point of distraction. They made us feel the entire telecast was taking place inside last year’s Beauty and the Beast remake, crossed with Superman’s Fortress of Solitude. Cracked Kimmel, “Each of the 45,000 Swarovski crystals on the stage represents humility.”

Host Jimmy Kimmel hosting the Oscars. (Photo: Chris Pizzello/Invision/AP)
Host Jimmy Kimmel hosting the Oscars. (Photo: Chris Pizzello/Invision/AP)

Or as Jane Fonda put it: “They’re just like the Orgasmatron in Barbarella.”

HIGH: Sam Rockwell’s giddy gratitude

Not only did Best Supporting Actor winner Sam Rockwell profusely thank his fellow nominees and his Three Billboards co-stars, he also thanked his movie-loving parents and “everyone who’s ever looked at a billboard.” In a charming speech, Rockwell recalled the time his dad pulled him out of school when he was 8 years old, telling the principal that they had to go because of Sam’s grandma. “We got in the car and I said, ‘What’s wrong with Grandma?’” recounted Rockwell. “And he said, ‘Nothing, we’re going to the movies.’” After a few more heartfelt thank-yous, Rockwell ended his acceptance speech by dedicating the win to his late friend Philip Seymour Hoffman.

HIGH: The lovers, the dreamers, and Lupita

While presenting the Oscar for Best Production Design, Lupita Nyong’o and Kumail Nanjiani took a moment to speak directly to all the dreamers (and Dreamers) watching at home. Observing that they both hail from places “no one in Hollywood can find on a map” — Kenya and Pakistan/Iowa, respectively — the duo spoke in heartfelt terms about the journey that led them from overseas to these shores. “Dreams are the foundation of Hollywood, and dreams are the foundation of America,” Nyong’o eloquently stated.

LOW: Star Wars — The Awkward Jedi

It’s hard to get the comic timing right when you’re bantering with recorded droid sounds. That’s the awkward situation that Oscar Isaac, Mark Hamill, and Kelly Marie Tran found themselves in when they presented the Best Animated Short and Best Animated Feature Oscars. As fun as it was to see the Star Wars: The Last Jedi stars reunited (on the 40th anniversary of the first Star Wars Oscars), their jokes fell flat — particularly a cringe-inducing one about how no designers would dress BB-8. (Get it? Because he’s round! Size discrimination is hilarious.)

From left; BB-8, Oscar Isaac, Mark Hamill, and Kelly Marie Tran present the Best Animated Short Film Oscar. (Photo: Reuters/Lucas Jackson)
From left; BB-8, Oscar Isaac, Mark Hamill, and Kelly Marie Tran present the Best Animated Short Film Oscar. (Photo: Reuters/Lucas Jackson)

At least the actors’ improvised lines landed better: Hamill got a laugh from muttering “Don’t say, ‘La La Land’” when he opened the envelope, and it was impossible not to smile when Isaac (born in Guatemala) announced Coco’s win by shouting “Viva Latin America!”

HIGH: The Tiffany and Maya show

We already wanted to see the Tiffany Haddish-Maya Rudolph team-up that Paul Thomas Anderson has planned, but watching their incredible comic chemistry as Oscar presenters makes us think they should just star in every movie made going forward. Oh, and Meryl Streep totally has to play Haddish’s mom in each of those movies, too.

Tiffany Haddish and Maya Rudolph at the 90th Academy Awards. (Photo: ABC)
Tiffany Haddish and Maya Rudolph at the 90th Academy Awards. (Photo: ABC)

HIGH: Roger Deakins for the win

It took 23 years and 13 nominations, but legendary cinematographer Roger Deakins finally has his Oscar, for Blade Runner 2049, which brought the Dolby Theatre to its feet. Funnily enough, film nerds seemed more thrilled about his victory than Deakins, who seemed more concerned with ensuring that he didn’t win the Jet Ski that everyone else was gunning for.

Cinematographer Roger Deakins receives a standing ovation. (Photo: ABC)
Cinematographer Roger Deakins receives a standing ovation. (Photo: ABC)

LOW: Jimmy Kimmel throws hot dogs at innocent moviegoers

In a variation on last year’s tour-bus prank, host Kimmel recruited some of the most famous Oscar guests — including Gal Gadot, Mark Hamill, Ansel Elgort, Armie Hammer, Lupita Nyong’o, Margot Robbie, Lin-Manuel Miranda, and Guillermo del Toro — to barge in on unsuspecting filmgoers during a preview screening of A Wrinkle in Time (ABC needs to feed the synergy machine, natch) across the street. Before Kimmel had even passed out the hot-dog cannons (really), Twitter was letting out a collective groan.

Sure enough, the overlong stunt was complete chaos, with celebrities throwing food at an amused but baffled audience of people who were probably wondering how A Wrinkle in Time ended.

Jimmy Kimmel and Gal Gadot appear on screen via satellite after highjacking a nearby movie theater. (Photo by Chris Pizzello/Invision/AP)
Jimmy Kimmel and Gal Gadot appear on screen via satellite after highjacking a nearby movie theater. (Photo by Chris Pizzello/Invision/AP)

HIGH: Music of the night

Apart from Gael García Bernal — whose stripped-down rendition of Coco‘s standout number “Remember Me” fell a little flat (at least until Miguel arrived and took things up a notch) — the live renditions of the five Oscar-nominated songs pretty much rocked the house.

Mary J. Blige slayed Mudbound‘s moving ballad, “Mighty River,” Common and Andra Day brought the crowd to their feet when they tag-teamed on “Stand Up for Something” from Marshall, Sufjan Stevens made us shimmy like Armie Hammer while listening to “Mystery of Love” from Call Me by Your Name and Keala Settle earwormed us with The Greatest Showman’s “This Is Me” all over again. Forget the Oscar — these performances deserve a freakin’ Grammy. Watch them all below:

HIGH: Movies for everyone, by everyone

In the wake of #OscarsSoWhite, the Academy made a commitment to represent more diverse films and filmmakers. That goal became even more imperative in light of #MeToo, and was reinforced throughout the ceremony — particularly in an inspiring segment featuring interviews with groundbreaking actors and directors, as well as leaders of the #TimesUp movement, discussing representation. The passion of people like Geena Davis, Ava DuVernay, Greta Gerwig, Yance Ford, Salma Hayek, and Barry Jenkins shone through as they urged viewers at home to put their own stories on film. And Kumail Nanjiani landed one of the best lines of the night: “Some of my favorite movies are by straight white dudes, about straight white dudes. Now you can watch my movies and relate to me. It’s not that hard. I’ve been doing it my whole life.”

HIGH: Frances McDormand’s inclusive speech

No one was surprised that the heavily favored Frances McDormand won Best Actress for her fiery lead performance in Martin McDonagh’s Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri. But she still managed to wow the crowd with a passionate speech. “So I think this is what Chloe Kim must have felt like after doing back-to-back 1080s in the Olympic halfpipe. Did you see that? OK, that’s what it feels like,” she began, before asking all of this year’s female nominees — in every category, regardless of whether they had won or not — to stand with her in solidarity.

“Look around, everybody. Look around, ladies and gentlemen, because we all have stories to tell and projects we need financed. Don’t talk to us about it at the parties tonight. Invite us into your office in a couple days, or you can come to ours, whatever suits you best, and we’ll tell you all about them. I have two words to leave with you tonight, ladies and gentlemen: inclusion rider.”

Watch McDormand’s full speech:

(An inclusion rider is a contract provision that requires that a production hire a diverse cast and crew, which McDormand later explained in more detail backstage.)

Said Kimmel afterward: “I really hope Frances McDormand wins an Emmy for the speech she gave at the Oscars, because that was absolutely unbelievable.” No argument here.

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