Native American actor Wes Studi, who discussed his Vietnam service with us earlier this year, appeared at the 90th Oscar Awards ceremony to introduce a video tribute to men and women in uniform. It's not the nomination (and win) Studi deserved for his performance in "Hostiles," but it's great to see a veteran on the Oscar stage.
Studi stunned the crowd when he described his own service in Vietnam with Alpha Company of the 39th Infantry and then asked "Anyone else?" and got nervous laughter in response.
He then introduced a clip that "spotlights those who fight for freedom around the world" and we got clips from "A Few Good Men," "Full Metal Jacket," "Zero Dark Thirty," "American Sniper," "Dunkirk," "Saving Private Ryan," "From Here to Eternity," "The Deer Hunter" and "Patton." The video ended with this tribute screen:
The rest of the ceremony went pretty much as expected. Mexican director Guillermo del Toro won Best Director and his movie "The Shape of Water" won Best Picture. Military-themed films made a strong showing in other categories.
"Dunkirk" won three well-deserved Oscars for Best Editing, Best Sound Mixing and Best Sound Editing. Christopher Nolan's WWII masterpiece is probably best enjoyed on a giant screen and the director committed to a disorienting, complex structure that probably confused many of the academy's oldest voters. Hans Zimmer's innovative score would have made a better winner than Alexandre Desplat's music for "The Shape of Water."
As we predicted, Gary Oldman won Best Actor for "Darkest Hour" and the crew's incredible transformation of Oldman into Winston Churchill won for Makeup and Hairstyling. It's worth posting our video about that process again.
"Dunkirk" and "Darkest Hour" make an excellent double feature if you're looking to learn about the moment that both Britain's low point and high point during World War II. Watch "Dunkirk" first (on the biggest TV you can find) to get a sense of the confusion of soldiers who have zero idea what's going in a movie that's not interested in historical context or overall tactical decisions. Then watch "Darkest Hour" for a sense of just how fragile the government was in London and how Churchill's leadership was the only reason the amazing Dunkirk rescue happened at all.
Special note for our most loyal commenters: yes, it was surprising to see Jane Fonda at the Academy Awards so soon after the release of Ken Burns and Lynn Novick's documentary "The Vietnam War." That film's exposure of her actions in North Vietnam to new generations should've motivated her to stay home for at least a year.