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Let the Right One In — The Oscars Got It So Right This Year

I know no Call Me By Your Name or Get Out or Three Billboards fan wants to hear that — and certainly not Nate Silver, who is always wrong about the Oscars year after year (still love ya, Nate). He dissed the Best Picture winner on Twitter shortly after the Oscars, but I can tell you end to end, from someone who has covered the Oscars every year since 1999, that The Shape of Water is one of the best films to win the prize in two decades. It joins the ranks of the best of the best, like No Country for Old Men, The Departed, and The Hurt Locker and perhaps ushers in a new decade of films that will flourish under America’s sudden turn to the dark side.

I did not think Shape would win, as you all know, though it was one of my favorites of the year. I had heard too many divisive opinions from people, and it was lacking the SAG Ensemble stat — worse, it didn’t win the BAFTA for Best Picture when it led the nominations there. I assumed the actors would be behind Billboards, but sitting in the Dolby last night it was clear that there was a muted response to every mention of Billboards and a hearty, enthusiastic response to both Shape and Get Out. This is an Academy newly sworn to political activism and there is no turning back. That is perhaps the difference between the opinions other countries have of us and our opinion of ourselves. We want to be the good guys, always, and on the right side of good and evil, even if it isn’t exactly the whole truth.

It was clear from the first moment last night that The Shape of Water was the favorite — you could just feel it in the room. Usually my own ego gets in the way of everything else when it comes to predicting — I didn’t do too badly, 19 right overall, but not having chosen Best Picture and refusing to choose Dear Basketball cost me in the end. Still, I ended up leaving feeling good about the Best Picture winner because it is so deserving, stats be damned. I don’t know what I’ll do to fill the time now that the SAG stat has faltered, and Shape also becomes the first film to win without winning any screenwriting or acting prizes in 20 years. People fell in love with this film, and for once passion won out.

While it’s true that Get Out is probably still the landmark film of the year and will do what all great films do when they don’t win Oscars: consistently land on the greatest films of all time lists, Spielberg says Guillermo del Toro has joined a legacy of filmmakers and he did do that. He and Alfonso Cuaron and Alejandro G. Inarritu have made a lasting and permanent imprint on American film, showing a rigid studio system what flexibility is also possible within that system. That is probably the bigger legacy. Get Out, I suspect, will live on as one of the greatest movies never to win: people will look back and marvel that it didn’t, as they do every year. These are Oscars to be proud of, even if the ratings dipped.

You might have thought that if Get Out won last night that it would be a sign of a changing Academy. I guess I would have thought that too. But Shape’s win still shows that Oscar voters were willing to let the right one in: a sci-fi fantasy film, even if it was divisive, even without the full support of the Screen Actors Guild. There were many reasons for it not to have won, and there will be many reasons why some will seek to downgrade it simply because it did win. But those of us who know this race understand what a big deal it was that it won. It wasn’t just that it became the first film with a Best Actress and Supporting Actress nominee to win Best Picture since Chicago — and before that Shakespeare in Love, the year my daughter was born and the year I first thought about starting this site — but it was that the film itself is so imaginative and unique. It has now broadened the possibilities for what can be considered “Best Picture” of the year. Bravo to Guillermo del Toro and his exceptional work.

Twenty years is a long time to be covering the Oscars. I’ve aged and evolved along with them. I feel the pulse of the next generation behind me, with more interest in them and more urgency to write about them just as I feel the restlessness in myself to move on from them. Our staff here at AwardsDaily is growing and I’m hoping next season to bring more voices in.

I just want to give an eternal shout out to those who keep this site running, those who are ever present, working regular jobs in addition to helping with this site. Our intrepid reporter Jazz Tangcay out and about doing interviews, attending parties, listening to the buzz on the ground. Marshall Flores, proofreader and stats whiz and the first to call a potential win for Get Out in screenplay and its Best Picture nomination. Clarence Moye and the devoted ADTV crew: Megan Mclachlan, Joey Moser, and Jalal Haddad, also known as the Oscar Squad. Our roving festival correspondents in Europe, Patrick Mulholland and Zhuo-Ning (Tony) Su, whose voices brim with sharp insight. Our keen guest contributers Brian Whisenant, Daniel Smith-Rowsey, and Robin Write. Deep appreciation to Dr. Rob Y for his lucid handling of the Awards Daily Oscar Ballot Project, a premium fixture of the site for 10 years now. And finally, Ryan Adams, Wingman in Chief, whose presence is like the beating heart of this site. Thank you.

And thanks to you readers, those longtime loyalists who are still kicking around this site, those who haven’t migrated to the abundance of other Oscar sites, the gratifying number of new friends who have recently found us and joined the AD community, and especially to those who send letters, emails, and tweets of gratitude and encouragement. We might not always write back to every one of you, but we share your messages with each other and your notes often brighten our day on days when we need it most. Though we might not say so out loud, we truly do appreciate your words of support.

Onward, my friends, onward. Real life awaits outside in daylight. As well as a wealth of new worlds onscreen to discover together in the dark.