The Oscars are in the books ladies and gentlemen and lets me just say it might not have been the most dramatic ceremony in recent memory but it certainly offered its share of surprises. Going into the event there was the potential for several historic honors to be handed out and while the Academy didn’t completely satisfy in who it chose to honor there was still plenty to be proud and celebrate. So today I’m going to look at who won and who lost and point out important milestones, upsets, snubs and underwhelming decisions that defined the 91st Academy Awards. This is Cinema Spotlights 2019 Oscar Recap.
Today I’m not going to look at moments of the Oscars like speeches and performances per say. Rather I’m examining the honorees and some of the history (or lack thereof) made in this year’s ceremony in terms of award winners. I still may mention their acceptance speeches, but I’ll be looking more at which movies walked away with honors, any historical relevance of the wins as well as those nominees who were wrongfully turned down for an honor. I’ll also be exploring how the Academy took some great leaps forward as well as some instances where voters proved there’s still plenty of room for improvement in which films they decide to recognize. As always I did not examine the documentary or short film categories as those are not movies I incorporate into this blog.
What Academy Award winner surprised, disappointed or pleased you the most? Let me know in the comments below.
Let’s start with the big winner of the night, “Green Book”. The Academy had eight nominees for the Best Picture category this year, all with their own merits, but chose to honor the Golden Globe winning “Green Book” with the biggest award of the evening. “Green Book” took home three awards winning Best Original Screenplay and a Best Supporting Actor award for Mahershala Ali, his second Oscar win in three years in this very category making him the first black man to earn the award more than once. Ali is the only black actor to earn this honor in the last decade and two years ago became the first black man to win the award since Morgan Freeman in 2004. Ali is now tied with six other actors for the second most wins in the category behind Walter Brennan and his three wins. “Green Book’s” Best Picture win wasn’t a complete shock after it won the Golden Globe for Best Picture – Musical or Comedy and was considered the main competition to “Roma” which was seen as the favorite. However its win has been stained with controversy with many calling it “the worst Best Picture Winner since ‘Crash’”.
One man who was particularly irritated was Spike Lee. The outspoken filmmaker was nominated for Best Director for the first time in his career and was immediately critical of “Green Book” as a disappointing winner. He even reportedly tried to leave the ceremony after the winner was announced over his film “BlacKkKlansman”. Part of his complaint stems from his 1989 work “Do the Right Thing” being snubbed by the Academy when “Driving Miss Daisy”, a film many have compared “Green Book” to unfavorably, won Best Picture. Lee didn’t walk away empty handed. He earned a Best Adapted Screenplay award for co-writing “BlacKkKlansman” and used his platform to make an impassioned speech aimed at the 2020 Presidential Election and President Donald Trump, one of the few such political statements made during the show. The adapted screenplay honor would be the only statuette presented to “BlacKkKlansman”.
The real loser in “Green Book’s” Best Picture victory though was “Roma” which made some history of its own despite the Academy refusing to give it the Best Picture win it deserved. “Roma”, a Netflix film, had a tough road ahead to start as the Academy has shown its bias nature against both foreign language films and Netflix movies in the past. In fact this was the first time Netflix had won aawards for anything other than documentary features at the Oscars. “Roma” was poised to become the first completely foreign language picture to win the night’s top honor but had to settle for three awards that still helped it make a bit of history. Its biggest victory was earning Alfonzo Cuaron his second Best Director statuette after winning for “Gravity” in 2013. Cuaron becomes the second Mexican director after Alejandro Iñárritu to win two Best Director Oscars and it’s the fifth time in six years that a Mexican born director has won the award. With “Roma’s” win Cuaron did something no other director has ever done. He also served as cinematographer for the film meaning he is the first to win as a cinematographer and director in the same ceremony. “Roma” also earned its most predictable award of the night, Best Foreign Language Film, and was the first Mexican entry to ever win the honor.
It was also a big night for Marvel Studios which earned several nominations for “Black Panther” (including Best Picture) and one nomination for “Avengers: Infinity War”. While few had “Black Panther” as anywhere near the favorite for the night’s top honor, it still made a statement by earning Marvel Studios their first ever Oscars grabbing the honors for costume design, original score, and production design. “Infinity War” did not win however, losing the Best Visual Effects award to “First Man”, the only honor the biopic would win throughout the night. “Black Panther’s” wins gave production designer Hannah Beachler and costume designer Ruth Carter (shown above) their first Oscars and made them the first black women to win in their categories. Marvel’s success wouldn’t stop there as “Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse” a co-production between Columbia, Marvel Entertainment and Sony Animation, became Sony’s first ever Best Animated Feature winner as expected. Peter Ramsey, one of the film’s directors, became the first black director to win for Best Animated Feature.
One category that has proven to be quite predictable lately and very diverse at that, at least in terms of the ratio of black and white winners, is the Best Supporting Actress award which this year went to Regina King for her role in “If Beale Street Could Talk”, the only win for the film which was once believed to be an Oscar frontrunner. King continues a trend of Golden Globe winners taking the comparable supporting actress honor at the Oscars as only two Globe honorees have lost the Academy Award in the last decade. King is the fifth different black actress to win the award in the last ten years and continues a seemingly endless string of different winners of the award as only two women have ever earned more than one supporting actress statuette. Another interesting note about King’s win is that combined with the Best Supporting Actor win for Ali it is the second time in three years a pair of black performers have won the supporting actor and actress categories. Ali and Viola Davis earning their respective honors in 2016.
Looking at the two lead performer categories both were first time winners AND first time nominees in their respective categories. Rami Malek won the Oscar for Best Actor in a Leading Role for his performance in “Bohemian Rhapsody” and it wasn’t the first time the biopic was mentioned over the course of the night. Malek became the first actor of Egyptian decent to win the award and was the heavy favorite going into the ceremony after winning a Golden Globe for the performance last month. Despite losing the Best Picture honor “Bohemian Rhapsody” left with several technical awards earning the honors for sound mixing, sound editing and film editing. With four wins, “Bohemian Rhapsody” was the most awarded film at the ceremony. The Oscars also opened with Queen and Adam Lambert who payed homage to the band’s legacy while Malek used his platform to not only thank Queen and his supporters but also touch on his family’s history as immigrants in the United States.
While Malek was considered the heavy favorite for the award and won, the Best Actress category turned out to be the shocker of the night as the heavy favorite, and expected winner, Glenn Close lost an acting Oscar for a SEVENTH time. Despite earning her first Golden Globe for film for her role in “The Wife”, Close lost the Oscar to her fellow Golden Globe winner Olivia Colman who earned the one and only win for Best Picture nominee “The Favourite”. Coleman was always seen as the closest competition for Close, so the fact that it was Coleman who won wasn’t so much the surprise. It was that Close lost that had jaws on the floor considering the heavy buzz that the role had created for Close to finally earn that long awaited Academy Award. Without taking anything away from Coleman and her amazing performance as Queen Anne, this to me was the most upset of the evening as it went against many expectations and predictions that had Close finally breaking through. Close is now the most nominated woman to never win an Oscar between the two female acting categories. Looking at the rest of the winners, Best Picture nominee “Vice” only received one win, for Makeup and Hair Style while “A Star is Born” also walked away with only one honor, the Best Original Song for “Shallow”. That win gives Lady Gaga and her fellow writers the unofficial trifecta of a Grammy, Golden Globe and Oscar for a single song from a film. Gaga and Bradley Cooper also provided a steamy and unforgettable rendition of the song during the show.
Overall I don’t think the Academy got EVERYTHING right but it was nice to see a show where no single film was really the dominant force. “Roma”, “Green Book”, and “Black Panther” all received three wins while “Bohemian Rhapsody” earned one more with four and the remaining categories were pretty evenly spread among other contenders. In fact this was the first time in four years that every Best Picture nominee won at least one award. With that it’s one of the most balanced shows in recent memory even if the Academy did miss several worthy opportunities to make a statement. Even with an underwhelming Best Picture winner capping things off we saw a Netflix film made in Mexico and spoken in Spanish earn several awards and nearly win the top honor. We saw a superhero film take three awards in a show that often denies such movies credit as legitimate art. We saw a man of Egyptian heritage win the Oscar in his first nomination and a legendary black director finally win an Oscar even if it’s not the one he truly wanted the most. We saw an overdue actress lose for a seventh time to an equally deserving first time nominee and black performers sweep the supporting actor and actress honors for the second time in three years with one of those actors making history as the first black man to win his honor twice. It may not have been the most thrilling, shocking, or entertaining of Oscars ceremonies, but the 91st edition was a still a great showcase of the best of 2018 that took small steps that may evolve into giant leaps forward for the future of film.