In the months leading up to the 91st Academy Awards, it appeared the viewing audience was in for a letdown. Still reeling from the #OscarsSoWhite controversy, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences announced they would be adding a new category – Outstanding Achievement In Popular Film. The decision did not go over well. Like, at all. A month later, they scrapped the idea.
Then came the host controversy. Comedian Kevin Hart was all set to preside over the ceremony, but outrage arose over resurfaced tweets in which Hart used anti-gay slurs and expressed homophobic views. Hart officially stepped down, and the Academy scrambled to replace him, eventually deciding the award show would proceed host-free for the first time in almost 30 years, according to Variety.
Finally, on Feb. 24, 2019, it was time for Hollywood’s biggest night. Opening with a raucous performance by Queen featuring Adam Lambert, the night boasted inclusiveness and historic firsts for the majority of the three-hour run time. Mahershala Ali became the second black actor with multiple Oscars, joining Denzel Washington. « This has been a long time coming, » legendary costume designer Ruth Carter said when she accepted her Oscar, making her the first black woman to win in that category. Rami Malek became the first man of Egyptian descent to win Best Actor.
Bad things also happened. Here’s the 5 best and 5 worst things that happened at the 2019 Oscars.
Best: Billy Porter’s velvet tuxedo gown
Pose and American Horror Story actor Billy Porter won the Oscars before they even began. Strolling down the red carpet in a velvet tuxedo gown designed by Christian Siriano, the actor set Twitter on fire. « Lesbians who wanted a hybrid of a tux and a dress for their wedding say thank you billy porter, » @coloured_braids tweeted. « I wasn’t aware of Billy Porter before this red carpet, and now I want him to replace our entire royal family. Dress for the job you want, not the one you have, » @AyoCaesar added.
In an interview with Vogue, Porter explained his fashion choice. « My goal is to be a walking piece of political art every time I show up, » he said. « To challenge expectations. What is masculinity? What does that mean? Women show up every day in pants, but the minute a man wears a dress, the seas part. » Can’t argue with that.
Worst: They tried to cut major categories from the broadcast
On Feb. 11, 2019, the Academy announced the awards for cinematography, editing, live-action short, and makeup and hairstyling would be presented « during commercial breaks, » in an effort to shorten the broadcast (via The Hollywood Reporter). This decision sparked an immediate backlash from some of Hollywood’s heaviest hitters.
Two-time Oscar-winning director Guillermo del Toro tweeted, « I would not presume to suggest what categories should occur during commercials on Oscars night, but, please: Cinematography & Editing are at the very heart of our craft. They are not inherited from a theatrical or literary tradition: they are cinema itself. » The Exorcist director William Friedkin had other ideas on how to shorten the broadcast. « They should start by cutting speeches by the Academy president, the head of the MPAA and Price-Waterhouse, he tweeted. « There should only be one presenter per category. No lame repartee or jokes. »
Eventually, the Academy relented to the pressure and reverted to the longstanding tradition of airing these important awards. Before presenting the award for Best Cinematography to Roma‘s Alfonso Cuaron, filmmaker Tyler Perry chided the Academy (per Variety). Explaining to the viewers at home about the « collaborative community » it takes to make a film, Perry saved his final shot for last: « It is a true honor for me to present this next award live on camera, not during the commercial break — thank you, Academy. »
Best: Lady Gaga and Bradley Cooper’s emotional performance
Without introduction, Bradley Cooper and Lady Gaga surprised the audience by approaching the stage from their seats to perform « Shallow. » Unquestionably the greatest musical performance of the night, the pair captivated the audience with a powerful rendition of the Oscar-nominated song from A Star Is Born. They even received a standing ovation during the commercial break.
The intimate performance, was maybe too intimate, because the Cooper and Gaga seemed to be, how shall we say this? Still in character. « I haven’t seen a star is born, i’m not watching the oscars, and yet i’m suddenly extremely invested in bradley cooper‘s wife being rude to lady gaga because, from what i can gather, gaga had sex with her husband on stage, » writer Ashley Feinberg tweeted. Cooper isn’t married, but he’s currently dating model Irina Shayk. But still. Comedian Tiffany Haddish asked what everyone was thinking. « I was like, are they doin’ it? » she said (via Entertainment Tonight).
Later in the evening, Lady Gaga won the Oscar for Best Original Song and she, of course, praised Cooper. « Bradley: there’s not a single person on the planet that could have sung this song with me but you, » a tearful Gaga said. « Thank you for believing in us. »
Worst: Bohemian Rhapsody won how many?
Bohemian Rhapsody was the worst-rated Golden Globe Best Picture winner since 1986, but the Golden Globes aren’t the Oscars, right? Even if accused rapist Bryan Singer didn’t direct the Queen biopic or if the film didn’t allegedly mishandle Freddie Mercury’s sexuality, the critical consensus is that it’s just an average movie elevated by Rami Malek’s performance. But before the night was over, the film would have more Oscar wins than The Godfather. Wrap your head around that one.
In addition to Malek’s win for Best Actor, the film took home awards for Sound Editing, Sound Mixing, and Editing. Twitter did not take kindly to that. « BOHEMIAN RHAPSODY winning for Sound Editing proves that voters don’t know what a sound editor does, » film critic Russ Fischer tweeted. « Bohemian Rhapsody literally just got an Academy Award for sound editing for putting Queen songs in a Queen movie, » writer Chase Mitchell added.
However, the bulk of the online outrage came from the film’s Best Editing win. « The man who just won an Oscar for best editing once directed Urban Legends: Final Cut, » film critic Scott Weinberg tweeted. The roast session was brutal, with many people sharing clips of Bohemian Rhapsody‘s poorly edited scenes or mocking it outright — even Teen Vogue got in on the action.
Best: Captain America to the rescue
After 34 years in the business, starting with the sitcom 227, Regina King took home her first Oscar on her first nomination. While she walking to the stage to accept her Best Supporting Actress award for If Beale Street Could Talk, she had a little trouble with her dress. Not to worry, even though he wasn’t carrying his shield, Captain America himself, Chris Evans, offered her his arm to ensure King wouldn’t trip on her gown. Naturally, the gentlemanly act became an instant highlight of the night.
« ‘Can you make me a formal jacket that exactly matches my eyes so that when I help Regina King up the stairs, every woman fills her pants with eggs?’ – Chris Evans, » television writer Cassie St.Onge quipped. « Regina King saying ‘thank you, baby’ to Chris Evans as she goes to retrieve her #Oscar is MY SEXUALITY, » Rachel Ray magazine editor Christina Lizzo tweeted.
Worst: Lost for words
Although it racked up a whopping eight Oscar nominations, Vice only took home the award for Best Makeup and Hairstyling. The film depicts the career and life of former Vice President Dick Cheney; we’re not sure if Greg Cannom, Kate Biscoe, and Patricia Dehaney were inspired by the public speaking of George W. Bush when they took the stage. Their collective speech was quickly labeled « the worst acceptance speech of all time. »
« Thank you, Annapurna, our great director Adam McKay. Christian Bale, what a …. Oh, you’re here. Go ahead, » Cannom started, throwing it over to Biscoe. Almost immediately, the trio appeared to lose track of who was supposed to say what and when and stumbled through the rest of the speech and reading off a shared piece of paper. After Cannom thanked Bale for being « so great to work with, » Dehaney thanked « Sam Rockwell and the other 150 SAG members. »
They talked over each other until the music started playing them off, although it is important to remember that these folks do their work (now Academy Award-winning work, at that) behind the scenes, and not in front of a viewing audience of millions. The winners were still running down the list of names when the house lights came down. It was brutal, but at least they have Oscars.
Best: Spike Lee won his first Oscar
It’s hard to imagine that the man behind Do The Right Thing, Malcolm X, and Clockers has never taken home an Oscar, but legendary filmmaker Spike Lee finally got his due by winning Best Adapted Screenplay for BlacKkKlansman. The ecstatic Lee jumped in presenter Samuel L. Jackson’s arms then delivered an impassioned speech about the history of African-Americans and the extreme hardships they faced.
« My grandmother … who lived to be 100 years young, who was a Spelman college graduate even though her mother was a slave. My grandmother, who saved 50 years of social security checks to put her first grandhild … through Morehouse college and NYU grad film, » he said. « Before the world tonight, I give praise to our ancestors who helped build this country … along with the genocide of its native people. We all connect with our ancestors … to regain our humanity. It will be a powerful moment. »
Lee then took a moment to deliver a political message to the lively crowd. « The 2020 presidential election is around the corner. Let’s all mobilize, let’s all be on the right side of history, » he added. « Make the moral choice between love versus hate. Let’s do the right thing! You know I had to get that in there. »
Worst: In Memoriam left off some big names
Each year, during the « In Memoriam » segment of the broadcast, the Academy honors those in the industry who have passed. And while there is no way to mention every single person who is no longer with us, you’d think the Academy would make a concerted effort to include those who have won or been nominated for their prestigious award. The 2019 Oscars had some glaring omissions.
According to The Hollywood Reporter, Stanley Donen, the legendary director known for Singin’ in the Rain and Seven Brides for Seven Brothers didn’t make the cut even though he took home an honorary Academy Award in 1998. Carol Channing, the Broadway icon who died a month before the Oscars, was noticeably absent from the segment. She was nominated for an Academy Award in 1968 for Best Supporting Actress in Thoroughly Modern Millie. Actress and director Sondra Locke, who earned an Oscar nomination in her 1968 screen debut, was also snubbed.
If that doesn’t make you upset, the Academy even left out Verne Troyer. How are you going to leave out Mini-Me? It can’t be done.
Best: Olivia Colman’s Best Actress acceptance speech
In the biggest upset of the night, The Favourite‘s Olivia Colman took home the Oscar for Best Actress over the heavy favorite Glenn Close. She was as surprised as everyone else. A visibly shocked and crying Colman wandered to the stage, seemingly not believing it was real. Once on stage, she was overcome with nervous laughter. « It’s genuinely quite stressful, » she said. « This is hilarious. »
After thanking the director Yorgos Lanthimos, Colman thanked her co-stars Emma Stone and Rachel Weisz, calling them « the two loveliest women in the world to fall in love with and to get to work with every day, I mean you can imagine, it wasn’t a hardship. »
Coleman had long since endeared herself to the audience, and before thanking her husband and kids, she quipped, « Glenn Close, you’ve been my idol for so long and this is not how I wanted it to be. » She then acknowledged the rest of her fellow nominees: « I love you all. » And when the teleprompter told her to wrap it up, she blew it a raspberry and kept talking, still unsure why she was on stage, before being starstruck by Lady Gaga. It was a beautiful moment.
Worst: Green Book — Really?
Samuel L. Jackson’s apparent reaction when opening the envelope for Green Book‘s Best Original Screenplay win should tell you all you need to know about the controversy sparked by the film — a controversy that will no doubt linger on since it also took home the coveted Best Picture Award. But we’ll let social media tell you a bit more.
« Green Book is a biopic about a black man that focuses on a white man and like Spike [Lee], I am bored of watching Hollywood pat themselves on the back for pushing a ‘black movie’ while simultaneously erasing the voices of the central characters, » Metro UK entertainment reporter, Tobi Rachel tweeted. « The worst part of this ‘green book’ garbage is it was such a good year for movies that talked about race and race relations in really interesting and complicated ways: blindspotting, sorry to bother u, beale street, widows, et al, » humorist and former CNN panelist Andy Levy tweeted.
« I mean, every time somebody’s driving somebody, I lose, » Spike Lee said backstage, referencing the Oscars in 1990 where his film Do The Right Thing wasn’t nominated and Driving Miss Daisy won Best Picture. Speaking of Lee’s 2019 Best Adapted Screenplay win and Green Book, New York Times critic Amanda Hess tweeted, « The essence of the Oscars is to give out long-overdue awards to atone for its past mistakes while simultaneously making new mistakes that it will have to atone for decades later. » Ouch.