Held one year ago, the 90th Academy Awards would have very likely been a rose-colored nostalgia fest.
But this year, with a culture-wide reckoning over decades of sexual misconduct, a film business in decline, a volatile political climate and the fact that last year the esteemed show couldn't even manage to present its biggest award correctly, the film academy and host Jimmy Kimmel on Sunday staged a complex and sometimes incongruous dance of attempting to both honor and atone for the past.
In many ways, the show inside the Dolby Theatre went exactly as planned — scripted, tight, full of past-looking montages, forward-thinking speeches and produced to appeal to all. Presenters Faye Dunaway and Warren Beatty got a best picture redo, ("What happened last year is Waterhouse under the bridge," Kimmel quipped).
The production did its best to appeal to the "regular moviegoer" by trotting out Gal Gadot and other stars to literally give candy to a theater full of people.
The awards also effectively skirted the awkwardness of having an accused man in the spotlight by shifting around long-held presenter traditions and having Jodie Foster and Jennifer Lawrence present the best actress award instead of Casey Affleck. And three Harvey Weinstein accusers, Ashley Judd, Salma Hayek and Annabella Sciorra, were given a moment to themselves on stage for nothing more than the fact that they were brave enough to speak up before a hopeful video played highlighting a changing industry, post #MeToo and more diverse.
The video highlighted Greta Gerwig, the fifth woman to ever be nominated for best director, Yance Ford, the first transgender nominee for "Strong Island," Dee Rees, whose "Mudbound" scored a historic cinematographer nomination and the Pakistan-born Kumail Nanjiani, nominated for "The Big Sick."
The nominees signaled a renaissance. The winners told a slightly different story. (And of course, there was what they wore - the good and the bad.)
With a more diverse, more international and younger infusion of voting members into the film academy, the movie in love with movies still won the top awards. Guillermo del Toro's fantasy romance "The Shape of Water," won best picture, director, score and production design.
"Growing up in Mexico, I thought this could never happen," del Toro said. "It happens."
The acting awards, which have been locked for three months, went to the expected winners — all esteemed veterans and three of whom had never been nominated before: Frances McDormand won best actress for "Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri" and her co-star Sam Rockwell won for his supporting performance. Gary Oldman picked up the best actor prize for transforming into Winston Churchill in "Darkest Hour" and Allison Janney for becoming Tonya Harding's mother in "I, Tonya."
At 89, James Ivory became the oldest Oscar-winner for his adapted screenplay for "Call Me By Your Name." And Christopher Nolan's ambitious World War II nail-biter "Dunkirk" picked up three technical awards.