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The Shape of Water was named best picture at the 90th annual Academy Awards on Sunday, picking up its fourth win of the night and accomplishing a feat awards season hasn’t seen since 1995.
The fantasy romance that tells of a mute cleaning woman who falls in love with a fish-man beat out Call Me by Your Name, Darkest Hour, Dunkirk, Get Out, Lady Bird, Phantom Thread, The Post and Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri for the night’s biggest prize.
The best ensemble SAG Award typically predicts the Oscar best picture winner, but Three Billboards took home that prize in January. In fact, Shape of Water wasn’t even nominated. The last film to overcome the SAG Awards snub and win the best picture Oscar was Mel Gibson’s Braveheart more that two decades ago.
“As a kid I was a big admirer of foreign film,” said director Guillermo del Toro during his acceptance speech. “A few weeks ago, Steven Spielberg said, ‘If you find yourself at the podium, remember that you are a part of our legacy, a part of our world of filmmakers, and be very, very proud.’ I am proud.”
He continued, “I want to dedicate this to every young filmmaker, the youth who is showing us how things are done in every country of the world. I was a kid enamored with movies growing up in Mexico. I thought this could never happen. It happens, and I want to tell you, everyone that is dreaming of using genre or fantasy to tell stories about things that are real in the world today: You can do it. This is a door — kick it open and come in.”
Del Toro had already won best director going into the best picture category; his win was the fourth time in five years the prize went to a Mexican filmmaker. Shape of Water also won best production design and original score.
The best picture category was presented by returning pair Warren Beatty and Faye Dunaway. The duo was invited back as a make-good after last year’s Envelopegate fiasco. Beatty and Dunaway memorably announced La La Land as the winner before correcting their mistake to crown Moonlight the winner.
“This is the home stretch, nothing could possibly go wrong,” host Jimmy Kimmel joked before the pair took the stage.
“It’s so nice seeing you again,” said Beatty to the audience. Dunaway added, “As they say, presenting is lovelier the second time around.”
When he reached the stage, del Toro confirmed that the envelope in his hand indeed had him as the winner.
Ahead of the show, The Hollywood Reporter‘s awards analyst Scott Feinberg pointed out that each of the five serious contenders for best picture faced their own daunting statistic. Dunkirk had no nominations in the acting or writing categories, Get Out had fewer than five total nominations, Lady Bird had no craft nominations, and Three Billboards didn’t have a directing nomination — all are typically signs that a film will not win the most coveted award.
While Get Out and Three Billboards are the most timely of the bunch, Shape of Water had been the most widely admired throughout the long awards season, including a handful of best director wins for Guillermo del Toro, and led the field with 13 nominations going into the night — one shy of the all-time record.
The 90th annual Academy Awards were hosted by Kimmel and aired live on ABC from the Dolby Theatre in Los Angeles.
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