ROBIN ABCARIAN: After months of horrific revelations and #MeToo rage, it was still all smiles on Oscar night

By Robin Abcarian
Guest Columnist

(TNS) This was Hollywood at its sanitized best. After months of horrifying revelations about widespread sexual harassment and assault in the industry, the 90th Academy Awards presented a toothless, feel-good nod to the scandal.

So many of this year’s films feature transgressive female characters — Frances McDormand’s hell-bent mother in “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri,” Margot Robbie’s blue-collar ice dancer in “I, Tonya” — but little of that anger made it onstage.

After winning for lead actress, McDormand asked every female nominee to stand and be acknowledged, a graceful gesture of support by a woman for women.

But where you might have expected some righteous rage, Oscar delivered only paeans to inclusiveness.

Earlier, a trio of actresses — all of whom were victimized by Harvey Weinstein — stood together onstage and declared that women were finally speaking as “a mighty chorus,” as one of them, Ashley Judd, put it.

Judd stood with Annabella Sciorra and Salma Hayek, as she spoke of “equality, diversity, inclusion and intersectionality.”

None specifically mentioned harassment. Nor demanded an end to the misogyny that has been at the root of Hollywood’s often grotesque treatment of women. (If you didn’t know they were Weinstein victims, you would not have known by watching.)

Their words prefaced a video that seemed more on point for last year, when #OscarsSoWhite was the sub-theme of the ceremony. In it, directors Ava DuVernay, Greta Gerwig and Dee Rees, actors Kumail Nanjiani and Mira Sorvino, whose career was demonstrably harmed after she refused Weinstein’s advances, spoke hopefully about the importance of storytelling and inclusion.

Although this year’s winners were, as always, overwhelmingly white and male, they emerged from the most diverse collection of nominees that included some milestones for women like Gerwig and Rachel Morrison, the first female cinematographer to be nominated for an Oscar.

Jordan Peele’s win earned one of the longest standing ovations of the night, not just because “Get Out” was such a wonderful, unexpected film, but because he made history as the first African American to take home the statuette for original screenplay.

Maybe it was too much to hope for something beyond Jimmy Kimmel’s monologues. It was a pleasure to hear him devote so much of his opening to the “Time’s Up” and #Me Too movements but he didn’t really call anyone out by name except Harvey Weinstein, though he surely could have, as he seemed to suggest.

“The academy expelled Harvey Weinstein last year,” Kimmel said, adding: “There were a lot of nominees and Harvey deserves it the most.”

There were no Ryan Seacrest jokes (too close to home, I guess, since Seacrest was on the red carpet Sunday afternoon, struggling to get all the A-listers who usually stop by the E! Booth to discuss their couture choices.)

Nor was there any allusion to the sexual assault scandal that nearly derailed the career of basketball legend Kobe Bryant.

Bryant sat happily in the orchestra, soon to be named an Oscar winner for the animated short “Dear Basketball.” In the press room after he briefly spoke onstage, the scandal did not come up.

Kimmel did mention the brief controversy that enveloped Mark Wahlberg when it was revealed he had been paid $1.5 million to his costar Michelle Williams’ $80-a-day rate to reshoot some scenes for the Oscar-nominated “All the Money in the World.” But of course, Wahlberg very publicly announced that he would donate that money to the #MeToo and Time’s Up movement.

A powerful, symbolic moment came during the performance of the song “Stand Up for Something” by Common and Andra Day. Standing silently behind the singers was a tableau of black-clad activists, including Tarana Burke, the African American activist who first coined the phrase “Me Too” years before the Weinstein scandal rocked the entertainment industry and spread to almost every profession.

At the end of the song, she raised her arms and crossed her fists above her head.

And that was as angry as anyone got.

Robin Abcarian is a columnist at the Los Angeles Times. She can be reached at robin.abcarian@latimes.com.

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Posted by Tribune News Services

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