On Sunday, Feb. 24, the 91st Academy Awards played out like a roller coaster in slow motion, oscillating between wonderful highs and terrible lows before ending in a nosedive, with “Green Book” taking home the top prize.
The evening started well, with “Pose” and “American Horror Story” actor Billy Porter winning the red carpet in a tuxedo gown designed by Christian Siriano. For women, voluminous pink statement dresses were the biggest trend of the night, with Angela Bassett and Gemma Chan in fuschia and Kacey Musgraves in pale pink tulle. For men, it was velvet all the way, from Stephan James in a dapper three-piece red suit to Chris Evans rocking muted blue and Jason Momoa’s peach-colored ensemble that even featured a matching scrunchie to tie back his hair. Another fashion standout was Spike Lee, who wore a purple tux and his “Do The Right Thing” character Radio Raheem’s LOVE and HATE knuckle rings. All in all, the red carpet served as a welcome reminder that men have absolutely no excuse to bore us with the same exact plain black suit ad nauseum.
While technically hostless, the Academy brought in a dream team of Maya Rudolph, Amy Poehler and Tina Fey to do a brief opening monologue. They were preceded by a performance by the surviving members of Queen and Adam Lambert for some reason, but the less said about that the better.
The first award of the night went to Regina King — Best Actress in a Supporting Role for her performance in “If Beale Street Could Talk,” the film’s only award of the night. Her dress getting snagged on her way to the stage actually ended up being another high point of the ceremony as real-life Captain America, Chris Evans, jumped to her aid. Be still, my heart.
Other early standouts include Hannah Beachler, who took home the “Best Production Design” award for her work on “Black Panther” — the first Black person to do so. She shared the award with Jay R. Hart, who wisely stood back and let her have her historic moment and all 45 seconds of their allotted acceptance speech time. Beachler put those seconds to good use, concluding her heartfelt remarks with “I did my best, and my best is good enough,” easily among the night’s most quotable lines.
“Black Panther” also won for Best Costume Design — Ruth E. Carter thanked both Ryan Coogler and recurring collaborator Spike Lee, even though she did not work on Lee’s most recent film — and Best Score. Ludwig Göransson’s win was the cherry on top of a spectacular award season for the Swedish composer, who took home top prizes at the Grammys for his collaborations with Childish Gambino. He should also be a spokesperson for whatever brand of conditioner he uses, but I digress.
The much-anticipated performance of “Shallow” lived up to expectations. Bradley Cooper still can’t sing, but he and Lady Gaga practically had eye sex on stage. Film Twitter had a meltdown and memes materialized within minutes. One can’t help but think Cooper’s girlfriend Irina Shayk might have felt some sort of way about the whole thing, but once again I digress. Jennifer Hudson’s performance of Best Song nominee “I’ll Fight” from the documentary “RBG” received a well-earned standing ovation, as one would expect. Meanwhile, even Bette Middler and an introduction featuring Keegan Michael Key descending from above with an umbrella, Mary Poppins style, could not save “Where the Lost Things Go” from its fundamental mediocrity. At least “When a Cowboy Trades His Spurs for Wings” had novelty going for it if not much else. The glaring absence of “All The Stars” from the performance lineup was duly noted. “Shallow,” of course, won. Literally no one doubted it would.
A documentary short about periods, “Period. End of Sentence.,” took home the Best Documentary (Short Subject) prize, leading to the first Oscar acceptance speech to feature the use of the word “menstruation.” Pixar’s first female-directed short “Bao” took home Best Animated Short, which is cool, of course, though Disney-Pixar winning an animated category is also kind of the default setting. Best Animated Feature went to “Spider-man: Into the Spider-Verse.” Sometimes life is okay.
At other awards shows, Neil Armstrong biopic “First Man” took home a slew of prizes for Justin Hurwitz’s theremin-laced score, which did not even manage to get an Oscar nomination. It then lost both Oscar sound categories to “Bohemian Rhapsody,” but managed to pull an upset and take home the Best Visual Effects prize.
“Bohemian Rhapsody” took home the Best Editing prize even though the most remarkable editing involved was the way all of the night’s winners from the film managed to avoid mentioning their director, Bryan Singer, who faces a number of sexual abuse allegations, including some involving underage boys. Rami Malek also took home Best Actor, because apparently prosthetic teeth and lip-syncing are enough to seal the deal, nowadays. In his speech, the actor managed to not only dance around Singer, but also call the bisexual Freddie Mercury “gay” and eulogize girlfriend, Lucy Boynton, in a striking rendition of “that guy who gets a tattoo of his girlfriend’s name after the third date.” At least last year Gary Oldman just put everybody to sleep and yammered on too long. Malek also somehow managed to fall off the stage — off-camera, unfortunately — after his speech; Twitter suspects the ghost of Freddie Mercury pushed him.
Best Supporting Actor went to Mahershala Ali for “Green Book,” inspiring something of a Gordian knot of feelings. Because on one hand, yay Mahershala Ali. On the other hand, “Green Book” is gross.
Best Actress went to Olivia Colman for “The Favourite.” Despite the near-universal praise of her portrayal of Queen Anne, it was quite a controversial win, as she was chosen over seven-time nominee Glenn Close, who was nominated for “The Wife.” None of the few people who actually saw “The Wife” seem to love the film all that much besides Close’s performance, but many were hoping to see the 71-year-old actress receive a so-called “career Oscar” for lifelong services rendered to cinema, as Hollywood icons quite often do when they reach a certain age without taking home the gold. Unfortunately, Close’s name turned out to be prophetic once again.
The writing categories proved a stunning demonstration of the duality of mankind, with the technically-adapted-from-a-true-story “Green Book” somehow winning “Best” “Original” Screenplay, while “BlacKkKlansman” taking home the Best Adapted Screenplay award finally made “Academy Award winner Spike Lee” a long-overdue reality. Lee was presented the Oscar by his good friend Samuel L. Jackson. The filmmaker took a flying jump into the actor’s arms when he collected the award in a true #FriendshipGoals moment.
Best Foreign Language Film went to “Roma,” and both Best Cinematography and Best Director went to Alfonso Cuarón. Apparently, he and friends Alejandro G. Iñárritu and Guillermo del Toro have made a pact to pass it back and forth amongst themselves for the indefinite future, as between the three of them they have taken home the prize five out of the past six years.
The presenters were generally good. There were no major snafus. Some people, like Gary Oldman, remain hopelessly dull when not pretending to be somebody else. Still, on the whole, it was an entertaining and relatively diverse bunch. Melissa McCarthy wore a bunch of stuffed bunny rabbits in an homage to “The Favourite.” No less than three presenters and winners spoke Spanish on stage, and Trevor Noah threw some shade on the sly by sharing a Xhosa phrase he claimed translated to “in times like these, we are stronger when we fight together than when we try to fight apart,” but actually meant “white people don’t know I’m lying.”
And then, after an evening of both promising highs and foreboding lows, the 91st Oscars botched the landing and gave race-flipped “Driving Miss Daisy” reboot “Green Book” Best Picture. This, a firm reminder that while the Academy likes to gesture about inclusivity and whatnot, at the end of the day they still love nothing more than a race relations movie about a problematic white person solving racism with a token POC sidekick. Happy Black History Month to us all.
The final tally: over the course of three hours and 22 minutes, “Bohemian Rhapsody” racked up the most awards with four while “Black Panther,” “Green Book” and “Roma” all tied for second with three Oscars each.