Oscars 2019: Highlights And Takeaways From A Night Of Surprises

CREDIT: ROB LATOUR/REX/SHUTTERSTOCK

It was a night of historic first, zero hosts (but a lot of clever presenters), and no delays. Last night’s Academy Awards was a show that entered looking like a complete shit show, but by the end would be one of the speediest and and enjoyable broadcasts in years.

Is it too early to say the Oscars no longer needs a host?  I don’t think so. The host-less format led to a slimmed-down broadcast in which the most clever gags came during presentation, like the sight of Melissa McCarthy and Brian Tyree Henry in full The Favourite regalia, including a regal gown made of bunnies. The Academy teased us cruelly by starting the show with Amy Poehler, Tina Fey, and Maya Rudolph, knowing good and damn well we’d have given anything to have them be the hosts for the evening.

Green Book took Best Picture, the easiest and safest bet in a night full of stunners. I said the first time I saw it at a packed crowd in Middleburg that it was the Best Picture frontrunner, and while my heart drifted over in support of Roma, which I saw that same weekend, Peter Farrelly’s divisive feel-good dramedy about race and identity was the obvious choice. Roma still had a very good night for Netflix, so their investment was well-spent. It was also a very good night for Marvel, and I’ll never forget the huge smile on Kevin Feige’s face when Black Panther won the studio its first-ever Oscar. Ultimately the groundbreaking superhero film came away with three, including Best Original Score, Best Costume Design, and Best Production design. Not too shabby, Marvel.

But other than Regina King winning for her incredible heart-rending Best Supporting Actress performance in If Beale Street Could Talk, the rug was pulled out from under us frequently. It’s my thinking that the Academy’s efforts to diversify its membership have affected the common wisdom and conventional thinking. That’s how you get Rami Malek in a definite upset victory over Christian Bale in the Best Actor category, his win defined by his immigrant status, that of the role he played in Bohemian Rhapsody, and more. There was an air of inclusiveness that coursed through the night, but the upsets didn’t end there.

That said, Rami Malek is better than Bale? Or Willem Dafoe for At Eternity’s Gate?  Get outta here with that weak mess.

Nobody took a minute to condemn Bryan Singer? Yeah, okay. I guess that’s tough to do when Bohemian Rhapsody keeps winning…

While I had an inkling that Richard E. Grant could sweep in and overturn Mahershala Ali for Best Supporting Actor, Ali’s remarkable LEADING performance (Don’t let anybody tell you otherwise, he was the star of that movie, not Viggo) in Green Book earned the actor his second win in two attempts, joining a very exclusive club that includes sound mixers Russell Williams and Willie Burton, and Denzel Washington as the only African-Americans to win two Oscars.

Stanley Donen (Charade, Singing in the Rain) being left of the In Memoriam video was unforgivable, which only goes to show that if you’re planning to die, do it early so they can get you into the package in time.

It’s tough to find fault with Olivia Colman winning Best Actress for her hilarious and commanding role in The Favourite, but I think few would have pegged her as the frontrunner, not with Glenn Close’s powerhouse performance in The Wife out there. But Colman, a long-denied screen veteran in her own right, gave an acceptance speech so full of shock and unbridled joy that it was all worth it. So we didn’t get to see Close’s dog pip this time, that’s what Youtube is for.

Other highlights for me:  Bradley Cooper and Lady Gaga driving the audience to tears with their “impromptu” duet of “Shallow”; Samuel L. Jackson gleefully presenting the purple-clad Spike Lee with the award for BlacKkKlansman‘s Best Adapted Screenplay, followed by Spike’s rambling speech that nobody would turn away from. Spike being Spike, he said everything he wanted to say and had pages ready to go if he got up on stage again.

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