This year’s Oscars telecast was perhaps the first I remember where the actual telecast seemed a little anticlimactic at first.
Kevin Hart’s going to be our host! No, wait, never mind! But we WILL have a popular movie category! No, no, scratch that, too! But we FOR SURE will hand out awards during commercial breaks! On second thought …
The show itself boasted so much drama that the actual nominated dramas felt a little secondary … at least before the show began.
But for all those threatened changes, and with the Oscars going host-less for the first time since 1989, the telecast had a distinctly retro vibe to it, right down to its Best Picture winner.
In a Best Picture slate filled with daring, often angry contenders, Green Book felt like a little of old Hollywood come back to visit. Its story dealt with racism, yes, but in a kinder, gentler fashion than, say, Spike Lee’s powerful-but-shrill BlacKkKlansman, and without the regal superhero sweep of Black Panther. Green Book was a smaller story with, in a way, smaller ambitions. It was the sort of feel-good, issues-oriented film that Academy voters have often been drawn to.
But we live in more fractious times. And for many, Green Book was out of step with them. Spike Lee was visibly upset with Green Book’s victory. And when asked about it afterward, he said, “The ref made a bad call.”
Speaking of Lee, he won his first Oscar last night, for Best Adapted Screenplay. But when he took the stage, he was so profane, and the Academy censored so much of what he said, that I thought that the audio feed for my television set was going out.
“Do not turn that [censored] clock on,” he reportedly said as he accepted his award. He then launched into an explicitly political acceptance speech, telling folks to vote and “make the moral choice between love versus hate.”
The telecast had many a political and quasi-political moment, with both winners and presenters making references to immigration and walls and feminism and race relations. But that’s hardly new, is it? Indeed, if anything, it felt to me as if the political commentary was turned down a notch compared to last year’s show.
Also under the category of “nothing new to see here,” both Glenn Close and Amy Adams still have never won an Oscar.
Close’s loss to Olivia Colman in the Best Actress category might’ve been the biggest upset of the night. Close, who won a wheelbarrow-full of trophies leading up to the Oscars, was expected to finally nab the big one for her performance in The Wife—her seventh Oscar nomination without a win. Instead, Colman’s funny, pitiful, tragic take on Queen Anne in The Favourite won the night.
“You’ve been my idol for so long, and this is not how I wanted it to be!” Colman said from the stage.
Amy Adams, of course, was not expected to win for her performance in Vice, her sixth nomination. I was frankly expecting another Favourite actress—Rachel Weitz or Emma Stone—to pick up the statuette here. Instead, it was Regina King from If Beale Street Could Talk, who wound up giving the most faith-inflected speech of the night.
And as been its way as of late, Oscar spread its love around. Green Book earned three Oscars: Best Picture, Best Supporting Actor (for Mahershala Ali) and Best Original Screenplay. That mark was equaled by two other films—Roma (including one for Best Director) and Black Panther. And Bohemian Rhapsody, considered a dark horse for Academy love before the nominations were announced, took home four, including one for Rami Malek for Best Actor.
Interestingly, Malek’s win highlights one of the night’s biggest winners: television. The Bohemian Rhapsody star first earned fame for his work in USA’s Mr. Robot (for which he won an Emmy in 2016). And Regina King has collected three Emmys already, and she’ll be taking part on HBO’s take on Watchmen soon. Meanwhile, Colman has been a fixture on British television for years now, and she’ll be taking over the role of Queen Elizabeth on Netflix’s The Crown. Oh, lest we forget, Ali was the anchor for the third season of HBO’s True Detective.
In the world of entertainment a decade ago, television still played little sister to the power and prestige of film. Clearly, that’s not necessarily the case anymore.
Seems like some things do change, after all.