Gary Oldman, Guillermo del Toro win first Oscars

Gary Oldman (left) won Best Lead Actor for his role as Winston Churchill in Darkest Hour, and Guillermo del Toro won Best Director for The Shape Of Water. PHOTOS: REUTERS, AFP

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Gary Oldman won his first Oscar for his lead role as British wartime leader Winston Churchill in Darkest Hour.

Oldman, 59, was the front-runner for the best actor Oscar after sweeping awards season with prizes at the Golden Globes, the Screen Actors Guild and numerous film critics groups.

Mexican film-maker Guillermo del Toro won the best director Oscar for his fantastical romance The Shape Of Water. It was the first Academy Award for the 53-year-old, who is known for making both mainstream action movies like Hellboy and offbeat dark fantasies like Pan's Labyrinth.

The Oscars ceremony offered something for everyone, tackling Hollywood's sexual misconduct scandal and last year's best-picture blunder while sharing its awards love with first-timers, LGBT movies and films about other cultures. In a ceremony marked by calls to activism across several fronts, gay romance Call Me By Your Name won best adapted screenplay and racial satire Get Out won best original screenplay.

A Fantastic Woman, Chile's groundbreaking story about a transgender woman, played by transgender actress Daniela Vega, won best foreign language film, and Mexican-inspired Coco was named best animated feature. Retired NBA star Kobe Bryant won the best animated short category for Dear Basketball, based on his 2015 poem for The Players Tribune.

Opening the show before an A-list audience of actors and filmmakers, Jimmy Kimmel pulled no punches about the sexual misconduct scandal that has led to the downfall of dozens of once-powerful men in Hollywood and overshadowed the movie industry's awards season.

In some of the strongest moments, rap artist Common and singer Andra Day brought the leaders of activist movements, including #MeToo and Black Lives Matter, onstage for a performance of their Oscar-nominated song Stand Up For Something. And celebrities ranging from director Ava DuVernay, Salma Hayek and Kumail Nanjiani spoke in a video segment about attempts to smash barriers in the industry around racism, sexism and prejudice against gays and lesbians.

Kenyan-Mexican actress Lupita Nyong'o and Pakistani-American Kumail Nanjiani spoke out on behalf of America's so-called Dreamers - hundreds of thousands of young people whose parents brought them to the United States illegally, and whose fate is now uncertain.

"Dreams are the foundation of Hollywood and dreams are the foundations of America," Nyong'o said.

Among award winners, Sam Rockwell, and Allison Janney took home their first Oscars in their supporting roles in Fox Searchlight dark comedy Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri and independent ice-skating movie I, Tonya respectively.

Warner Bros. British World War Two movie Dunkirk picked up most of the awards in the early running, including sound editing, sound mixing and film editing.

But the best picture Oscar - presented at the end of the three-and-a-half-hour show - is seen as a close race between The Shape Of Water, Three Billboards and Universal Pictures racial satire Get Out. Three Billboards, the tale of an angry woman seeking justice for her daughter's killer, scooped multiple honours earlier this year, but Get Out, a bold horror movie that became a talking point around modern-day race relations in America, appears to have gained momentum in the last two weeks.

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