By Michael Hernandez
Guillermo del Toro's surrealist love story The Shape of Water walked away Sunday night with four Academy Awards, including best picture, amid one of the tightest Oscar contests in recent history.
But the night's festivities were defined in many ways by a Hollywood confronting its history of underrepresentation of women and minorities, as well as recent allegations of sexual abuse and misconduct by some of its most powerful elites.
"The greatest thing our art does, and our industry does, is erase the lines in the sand," del Toro said while accepting the award for best director. "We should continue doing that."
The Shape of Water took home the night's largest haul of Oscars with four, including production design and original score.
Christopher Nolan's Dunkirk netted three Academy Awards, including sound mixing, sound editing, and film editing, fueling early speculation that it was on the road to take home best picture.
For its part, Tinseltown embraced past criticism levied against it, including the Oscars So White backlash that began in 2015, oftentimes poking fun at itself while urging social inclusion.
"Are the Oscars too black now?" said Tiffany Haddish while presenting with Maya Rudolph. Both actresses are black, and Rudolph quipped: "Don't worry, there are so many more white people to come."
‘We all have stories to tell’
Amid the levity, some were quick to come to the defense of hundreds of thousands of migrants who were brought to U.S. illegally as children, popularly known as "Dreamers", and who now face an uncertain future in the country after President Donald Trump ended the immigration protections granted to them by former President Barack Obama.
"We are dreamers. We grew up dreaming of one day working in the movies. Dreams are the foundation of Hollywood and dreams are the foundation of America," said Lupita Nyong'o standing alongside Pakistani-American comedian Kumail Nanjiani.
"And so, to all the dreamers out there, we stand with you," added Nanjiani.
Oscar underdog Get Out won for best original screenplay, written by director Jordan Peele. Peele is the first black screenwriter to win the award.
Peele said he stopped writing the movie about 20 times, worried that it would never get the green light from a movie studio.
"But I kept coming back to it because I knew if someone let me make this movie, that people would hear it and people would see it," said Peele. "I want to dedicate this to all the people who raised my voice and let me make this movie."
After winning for best lead actress, Frances McDormand asked all fellow female nominees to stand as she urged inclusion in the industry.
"Look around, ladies and gentlemen, because we all have stories to tell and projects we need financed,” McDormand said. “I have two words to leave with you tonight, ladies and gentlemen, Inclusion Rider.”
She was referring to a contractual stipulation that would require gender and ethnic diversity on film projects.
During a powerful moment, Ashley Judd, Annabella Sciorra, and Salma Hayek took the stage to champion the end of a disgraceful era in Hollywood that has been exposed by the #MeToo and #TimesUp movements.
"The changes we are witnessing are being driven by the powerful sound of new voices, of different voices, of our voices, joining together in a might chorus that is finally saying 'time's up'," said Judd.
Judd, Sciorra, and Hayek all made allegations of sexual misconduct against disgraced Hollywood titan Harvey Weinstein before he was forced from Hollywood, the first in a long line of powerful men who found themselves on the outside of an industry they once led.
Below is a list of major Oscars winners:
Best Picture: The Shape of Water
Best Director: Guillermo del Toro, the Shape of Water
Lead Actor: Gary Oldman, Darkest Hour
Lead Actress: Frances McDormand, Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri
Best Original Screenplay: Jordan Peele, Get Out
Supporting Actor: Sam Rockwell, Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri
Supporting Actress: Allison Janney, I, Tonya
Best Animated Feature Film: Coco
Cinematography: Blade Runner 2049
Film Editing: Dunkirk
Visual Effects: Blade Runner 2049