Frances McDormand Makes the Oscars Weird Again
Who better than McDormand to give this impolite year its defining Oscar moment'
'This is a night for positivity,' Jimmy Kimmel said, at the start of theninetieth Academy Awards. For the most part, it was'all the way upthrough the moment when Guillermo del Toro, accepting the award for Best Picture, toldaspiring filmmakers, 'This is a door. Kick it open and come in.' Much ofwhat came in the intervening three and a half hours struck a similarchord: inclusive and inspirational, in the safe, prepackaged mode thatHollywood tends to prefer. Instead of the spiky, rudedanger of the Golden Globes, we got an endless montage celebrating the magic ofthe movies and a blandly nonconformist anthem from 'The GreatestShowman,' with the lyric, 'I'm marching on to the beat I drum.' Even thejoint appearance of three of Harvey Weinstein's accusers'Ashley Judd,Annabella Sciorra, and Salma Hayek'went for the conciliatory language of'a new path,' a far cry from the had-it-up-to-here snarl of 'Time's Up.'After a year of upheaval and revolt in Hollywood, it all felt awfullysafe and devoid of spontaneity.
With two exceptions. The first was TiffanyHaddish,presenting two short-film awards with Maya Rudolph. Haddish missed outon a nomination for 'Girls Trip,' but she put her indelible stamp onthis year's Oscar season'first, when she announced thenominations,in January, hilariously mangling the names Luca Guadagnino and DanielKaluuya. Last night, she stole the show again, riffing on white peoplewith clipboards ('I'm always wondering, What are they writing down aboutme'') and telling Rudolph, 'When you took a dookie in the street in'Bridesmaids,' it changed my life.' Haddish had a freshness and anin-the-moment comedic spark that leaped off the television screen. Ifthe Academy's leaders don't nab her as next year's host, they're fools.
New Yorker writers on the 2018 Academy Awards.
The other burst of spontaneity came from Frances McDormand, who gave themost memorable speech of the night. Up to and including her role in'Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri,' for which she won hersecond Best Actress award, McDormand has made a career playing brash,unconventional, rough-hewn women. She's a true original who doesn't fitinto any Hollywood archetype'even that of a grieving mother seekingjustice. McDormand cuts into her characters like a chainsaw: no time forapologies, vanity, or small talk. She's like Hollywood's cool, eccentricaunt who does community theatre and sneaks you a joint on your birthday.A month before she was nominated for 'Three Billboards,' she was singingShaker spirituals in a Wooster Groupshow in SoHo. Talkabout marching on to the beat that you drum!
So who better to give this impolite year its defining Oscar moment' Whenshe won, she hopped onstage, gave a tiny little lunge-kick, and shookthe hand of the guy who brought out the statuette. Her hair was shortyet unwieldy, and her dress looked repurposed from some weird drapes.She let out a nervous whinny-laugh and motor-mouthed, 'O.K., so I'mhyperventilating a little bit. If I fall over, pick me up, 'cause I've gotsome things to say.' By 'things to say,' she had slowed into anI-mean-business deadpan. Then: curveball! 'I think this is what ChloeKim must have felt like after doing back-to-back 1080s in the Olympichalf-pipe. Did you see that'' Practically everyone had McDormand on anOscar ballot, but no one predicted a snowboarding metaphor.....
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