The Shape Of Water triumphs at Oscar Awards

Sally Hawkins and Doug Jones on the set of'The Shape of Water. Courtesy Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation All Rights Reserved

LOS ANGELES | Romantic fantasy "The Shape of Water" won the best picture Oscar on Sunday, the film industry's most prestigious honor, on a night where themes of female empowerment and activism nearly overshadowed the awards.

The 90th Academy Awards turned Sunday night's ceremony in Los Angeles into a celebration and exhortation of representation and inclusion, after a year marked by seismic cultural change in Hollywood that rippled across the world.

The award went to Frances McDormand for "Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri", a movie about a furious woman out for justice. "Look around", she said. "Because we all have stories to tell and projects we need financed". "I have two words to leave with you tonight, ladies and gentlemen: Inclusion Rider" - referring to actors signing contracts that mandate a film's gender and racial inclusivity. "We're not going back".

Things went expected in the acting categories, where three widely admired veteran actors won their first Oscars.

Bankrolled by the Beijing-based company, "Darkest Hour" and "Phantom Thread" won the Oscars for Best Actor ("Darkest Hour"), Best Makeup & Hairstyling ("Darkest Hour") and Best Costume Design ("Phantom Thread"). "Put the kettle on..." My home, my family and my Oscar, he said in the acceptance speech.

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Gary Oldman, 59, won the Best Actor for "Darkest Hour".

And Jordan Peele won the award for best original screenplay for his highly acclaimed debut film, horror satire "Get Out". Call Me by Your Name was the choice for best adapted screenplay, making James Ivory, at 89, not only a first-time victor, but also the oldest-ever victor of a competitive Oscar.

In one of the most powerful moments of the night, three actresses who have accused Weinstein of sexual misconduct - Ashley Judd, Anabella Sciorra and Salma Hayek - took to the stage at the Dolby Theatre in Hollwyood and received a standing ovation. The movement's leaders had chose to stand down for the night, in contrast to the Golden Globes, whose attendees expressed solidarity by wearing black, but Hollywood's mood of reckoning still permeated proceedings. On the red carpet, most stars shunned the E! Accepting the Oscar for Best Picture, del Toro jokingly examined the envelope in a nod to last year's Best Picture mix-up, before delivering a speech that championed diversity, storytelling, and the future of film. This was the year that men s--d up so badly "women started dating fish", he said, referencing The Shape of Water.

Understandably, many were surprised and concerned about actors' level of enthusiasm - or lack thereof - for the film when it failed to land a nomination for the best ensemble SAG Award, without which no film - not Gravity, not The Revenant, not La La Land - had managed to win the best picture Oscar since Braveheart 22 years ago. "Give us a minute".

The Best Picture was presented by Warren Beatty and Faye Dunaway, who had mistakenly named La La Land the Best Picture victor on stage after they were accidentally handed the envelope for Emma Stone's Best Actress award, rather than Moonlight's winning card.

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"I am an immigrant", an emotional Del Toro said in collecting his first prize of the night, praising the power of filmmaking to "erase the line in the sand" between people of different countries and cultures.

"I was a kid enamoured with movies, growing up in Mexico", del Toro told the audience. "I'm going home with these two babies". Coco won not only best animated feature, but also best original song, with "Let It Go" winners Bobby Lopez and Kristen Anderson-Lopez's "Remember Me" topping formidable competition (I have no doubt that nine-time nominee Diane Warren's day will still come). Ivory, 89, is the oldest Oscar victor ever.

Harvey Weinstein, an Oscar svengali, was nowhere in sight, banished from the Academy last October after multiple allegations of his predations triggered the #MeToo avalanche.

Amazon's The Big Sick and Netflix's Mudbound won nothing, but Netflix's film about Russian doping, Icarus, took best documentary, suggesting the Academy's resistance to streaming services is weakening.

Dunkirk dominated the technical awards with three wins, while British cinematographer Roger Deakins won his first Oscar after being nominated 13 times.

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