There were worthy winners aplenty at last night's Academy Awards, but very few surprises. The major categories went exactly where they were expected to go, with the exception of Best Picture: the only category with no clear favourite.

It was going to be Three Billboards Outside Ebbing Missouri or The Shape of Water, with plenty of other nominees with chance of becoming surprising but deserved winners in one of the strongest fields to compete for the prize in years.

At the end of a long evening however, it was The Shape of Water that marked its place in the history books.

Getting it right this time, Warren Beatty and Faye Dunaway announced the winner to rapturous applause before writer, producer and director Guillermo del Toro took to the stage with his cast and crew.

"I want to dedicate this to every young filmmaker, the youth that is showing us how things are done," the Mexican said in his acceptance speech. "This is a door. Kick it open and come in."

Del Toro's unlikely romantic fantasy is a winner like very few others in the 90-year history of the prestigious awards, and that's just one of the reasons it is a perfect winner in 2018.

The Shape of Water is about compassion for the other, for the outsider, for those who don't look like us. It's a comment on immigration in a time where the world seems to be turning its back on the idea of helping one's neighbours.

It's a film about toxic masculinity, about powerful men whose cruel actions leave them literally and figuratively rotting. It's a story led by a disabled protagonist unencumbered by cliché, who is shown as a sexual being and who has agency in a story she leads.

Del Toro has always had a unique voice in filmmaking and it's wonderful that he didn't have to compromise that to find awards season success. To reduce it to a simple point: a film in which a woman has sex with a fish-man just won Best Picture!

It's a weird film. Gloriously weird, and that's inspirational. Films reflect our world, its problems and its joys, back at us, through filters of genre - fantasy, science fiction - but also dated concepts of what constitutes mass appeal. That last filter often wipes away with strangeness, the weirdness of relateable stories, and with it some level of authenticity.

The Shape of Water's win is one for the weirdos, the outsiders and the dreamers, for people like Guillermo del Toro who resisted society's onslaught of attempts to homogenise and 'normalise' us and emerged his true, bizarre self.

Ultimately however del Toro's film is one about hope. It and Three Billboards offer a broad comment on our society, but The Shape of Water is hopeful where Martin McDonagh's drama has a more cynical, weary edge. Both are exceptional, but when it comes down to it I'm glad hope prevailed on that biggest of stages.

The Academy voted for a worthy Best Picture winner, but voters had many top prospects to choose from. The Shape of Water's win was perfect, but wins for Get Out, Lady Bird or Call Me By Your Name would have been as well.

Sally Hawkins as Elisa and Doug Jones as the Amphibious Man.