FEBRUARY 25, 2019
Well, that’s over with.
Considering the trainwreck that was much of this season’s Oscar race, Sunday’s hostless Oscar awards wasn’t half bad. The show moved along at a decent clip, and much to ABC’s relief clocked in at just over three hours. But what a road to get there!
Let’s just roll down memory lane with the stumbles that led to the Sunday night show.
* The idea for a Best Popular Film Oscar. The fans revolted. The decision is reversed.
* The idea to present awards in four categories during the commercial breaks. (Interesting that those happened to be the four categories in which ABC/Disney did not have a nominee. Just sayin’.) The fans revolted. The decision is reversed.
* Hiring a host whose homophobic tweets from years ago were widely known and not even vetted by the Academy. After resisting the idea of a sincere apology, Kevin Hart “quit,” but essentially the decision was reversed.
* The idea to perform only two of the Best Song nominees. Reportedly Lady Gaga revolted. The decision is reversed.
* The idea not to follow the tradition of having last year’s Oscar winners in acting present this year’s acting awards. The fans revolted. The decision is kinda reversed, with last year’s four winners presenting in two teams of Oldman/Janney and McDormand/Rockwell.
Clearly the message to the Academy and ABC/Disney was “Don’t mess with our Oscars!”
So let’s look back to go over some of the highlights and lowlights of the 91st Annual Academy Awards ceremony:
The Lady Gaga/Bradley Cooper duet of the Oscar winner “Shallow.” The simplicity of the presentation was perfect, and the chemistry that these two have with one another was hot. Kudos to them both also for being good soldiers in showing up everywhere in support of their film, even as the Oscar chances for “A Star Is Born” were dwindling. That’s professionalism.
Spike Lee jumping into Samuel L. Jackson’s arms upon winning his first competitive Oscar for Best Adapted Screenplay for his film “BlacKkKlansman.” The joy Lee felt at that moment could be felt through the TV for this long overdue writer/director.
Diversity. Three out of four acting winners (Rami Malek, Regina King, Mahershala Ali) are actors of color, the first African-American women won for production design and costumes (Hannah Beachler and Ruth E. Carter respectively for “Black Panther”), as well as the first black director of an animated feature (Peter Ramsey for “Spider-Man: Into the Spider-verse”).
The wonderfully dotty and charming acceptance speech by Olivia Colman who seemed as shocked as we were in her unexpected Best Actress win for “The Favourite” over the heavily favored Glenn Close. This woman is as real as they come.
Having presenters announce the winner in teams worked well, partially thanks to a minimum of awkward scripted banter. High marks go especially to the trio of Tina Fey, Amy Poehler and Maya Rudolph (who needs a host when you can hear this 3 women riff?) and the surprisingly effective duo of Awkwafina and John Mullaney, who were just delightful together. Invite them all back next year, please!
* People, if you’re nominated for an Oscar (and especially if you’re favored to win), do some homework and prepare your speech. The trainwreck that was the acceptance speech by the heavily-favored Greg Cannom, Kate Biscoe and Patricia DeHaney, who won the Oscar for Makeup and Hairstyling for “Vice,” will stand as a model as what not to do when you’re accepting an Oscar. Fumbling with one crumpled sheet of paper and desperately trying to read from it is just the kind of amateur hour performance that may motivate the Academy to relegate this category to the commercial break permanently.
* The Academy self-promotion. Why force a wonderful actress like Laura Dern to come out as a spokesmodel for the Academy’s under-construction museum, which may or may not prove to be a boondoggle, having to deliver lines like “The dream is a reality!” My heart went out to her.
* And then there’s our Best Picture winner, “Green Book.”
I’m not yet joining the chorus of those who have decried that “Green Book” is the worst Best Picture winner ever. 1931’s “Cimarron” is pretty bad, and 1952’s 2 1/2-hour “The Greatest Show on Earth” is almost impossible to sit through. And, of course, there’s 2005’s “Crash,” the less said about which the better. But “Green Book” is way up there in the Academy Hall of Shame.
To say that this thing is a better film than “Roma,” “The Favourite” or “A Star Is Born” is a head-scratcher to say the least. And this win happens in a year that produced such sophisticated and forward-thinking films on race as “Black Panther,” “The Hate U Give,” “Sorry To Bother You” and “BlacKkKlansman,” all of which were a step forward in redefining race relations on film. “Green Book,” on the other hand, feels like a major step backward, with yet another white dude learning how to be a better person by knowing a black guy. Of course, the white guy did help by teaching the black man how to eat fried chicken. (I cringe at even typing the cliches in which this film trades.)
But we move on. The 2019 film season is in full swing, with a few well-reviewed films already in release (reviews to start this week).
And remember, next year’s Oscars are only 364 days away! Let’s take this ride together.