It’s January, and no one has identified another COVID-19 variant in something like a fortnight, which means Sundance has returned to Utah, and the crème de la crème of Hollywood is trying to interpret vague dress codes (“mountain chic”) while Netflix splashes the cash on arthouse films to prove it’s more than just Vikings: Valhalla. There to promote her Shere Hite doc (and the Gucci aesthetic?) is Dakota Johnson, who presented Luca Guadagnino with the International Icon award on opening night.
The 33-year-old—who starred in Guadagnino’s A Bigger Splash and Suspiria—rattled off his greatest hits during her speech, including Call Me By Your Name, before nodding to the Armie Hammer controversy in a way that would have made Ricky Gervais proud. “Sadly I wasn’t in [Call Me By Your Name],” she deadpanned. “Luca had asked me to play the peach. There was a scheduling conflict. Thank God, because then I’d be another woman Armie Hammer tried to eat.”
If the audience tittered nervously, Twitter cackled loudly. Now this, I thought, is surely the energy that the Oscars needs this year. (With all due respect to Jimmy Kimmell—who’s already been named as host for the third year in a row—the Academy Awards is due for some fresh blood, and not the kind Hammer was after.) If Jerrod Carmichael came out swinging at the beginning of the Globes, the rest of the ceremony (White Lotus speeches excluded) proved so dull that everyone getting completely hammered felt like the only appropriate response. (A moment of silence for House Of The Dragon’s Milly Alcock and her hangxiety on 11 January.)
“Who could forget when she called out a pre-cancelled Ellen DeGeneres for lying about not being invited to her birthday party?”
Hollywood’s culture—if not its cultural output—is, in many ways, ridiculous, and, if most of the industry consists of nepo babies at this point, surely it makes sense to have their reigning queen as MC on the biggest night of the year for movies? Who better to send up Tinseltown than the daughter of Melanie Griffith and granddaughter of Tippi Hedren, both of whom once cohabited with a 400-pound lion named Neil? No one else has mastered chaotic “surreally rich thespian” energy in quite the same way as Dakota (except maybe fellow nepo baby Gwyneth, whose ex-husband Dakota is consciously coupled up with).
Johnson is a woman who once declared, “I love limes, I love them, they’re great, I love them so much, and I like to present them like this in my house,” during an AD tour of her midcentury LA home, then told Jimmy Fallon the citrus fruits had been put there by a set dresser and she is, in fact, “mildly allergic”. Who could forget when she called out a pre-cancelled Ellen DeGeneres for lying about not being invited to her birthday party, and then, in the same breath, told her Tig Notaro is far and away her favourite comedian without so much as flinching? And what about when she admitted to using her faux pregnancy bump from Fifty Shades Of Grey to freak people out by smoking in public?
Who else, I ask you, is so embedded in Hollywood culture to confidently admit to taking her hair extensions out at awards season afterparties and hiding them in actors’ jacket pockets because “they’re so available”? LA needs more stars who are in on their own joke, who are willing to respond to the question “Which movies make you cry?” with “The Lion King… [and] bad ones that I was in”. It’s possible that, in a major step backwards, the Oscars will fail to nominate any women directors in 2023; surely the academy could throw us a bone in the form of a female host with a “live, laugh, lime” approach to the entire event. At the very least, she could serve as co-host; after all, Dakota and Jimmy Kimmel already “share bushes” on their neighbouring LA properties, anyway.