Highs and lows from the 2019 Oscars
No one knew what to expect for the 91st Academy Awards given that the weeks leading up to it swirled around the ceremony’s lack of host and other production decisions. The final result was a mixed bag of groundbreaking wins (some nearly 30 years in the making), discombobulated acceptance speeches (for better or worse), and musical performances that ranged from stellar to lackluster. Click through for a look at the highs and lows from this year’s Oscars.
High: Maya, Tina, and Amy make us laugh
Maya Rudolph, Tina Fey, and Amy Poehler were the first presenters to take the Oscar stage on Sunday night with their riffing on the lack of a host, which itself was a strong argument for why this fabulous trio should have been hosting the show. Maybe next year? With their tongue-in-cheek mocking of the Academy and their hilarious stream of puns featuring the Best Picture nominees, we got the briefest taste of what their opening monologue might have looked like. It was funny, refreshing, and genuinely delightful. The only problem? It was over too soon.
Low: Queen fails to rock us
Given the absence of a host, we were really looking forward to a rocking opener with Queen and Adam Lambert. “We Will Rock You” and “We Are the Champions” are the band’s two most played songs, and therefore a bit tired — it would have been more engrossing to see them take on one of their musically intricate songs from their rich catalog. Perhaps even “Bohemian Rhapsody” given that the nominated film about them bears that name. Roger Taylor and Brian May can still rock it like nobody’s business, and we could watch May shred that guitar for hours. Similarly, Adam Lambert is a fantastic frontman with impressive powerhouse vocals. But as a whole, this opening just didn’t hit the high notes we were hoping it would, and it felt surprisingly low energy.
High: Chris Evans’ chivalry
It’s no surprise that Chris Evans is every bit as gentlemanly as his Marvel character Captain America. See: his Twitter feed. But it still made us swoon when he jumped out of his seat to help the stunning Regina King climb the steps in her heels and gorgeous train. Her acceptance speech was a thing of moving beauty all its own, but we fell in love with both Evans and King in this moment that proved chivalry is not dead.
High: Melissa McCarthy and Brian Tyree Henry present Costume Design award
McCarthy and Henry offered up one of the funniest visual moments of the night, emerging decked out in a mish-mash of garb from all of the nominated films. McCarthy sported a cowboy hat from The Ballad of Buster Scruggs, a ruff from Mary Queen of Scots, and a glorious ermine cloak covered with stuffed rabbits in twisted homage to The Favourite. Henry wore a skirt from The Favourite, paired with makeup from Black Panther and the red gloves and blouse of Mary Poppins Returns. The two deadpanned the moment to perfection. McCarthy committed to her bit with a rabbit puppet on her hand providing hilarity throughout, which paid off in glorious fashion when she attempted to open the envelope with it. We can’t wait to see the two re-team on the big screen in Superintelligence.
Low: The Best Makeup and Hairstyling winners' acceptance speech
The team from Vice were much-deserving of their win for helping to transform some of Hollywood’s most recognizable stars into infamous politicians. But their acceptance speech was a garbled mess with them eating up much of their time trying to get each other to talk and read from their prepared remarks, which was pretty much just a stream of names, so basically the epitome of how not to give an interesting speech. This was one of the categories originally slated to be awarded during the commercial break, and while we want all artistry to get its due, this speech almost made us wish it stayed there.
Low: Jennifer Hudson sings 'I'll Fight'
Hudson is responsible for some of our favorite Oscar moments, including her Dreamgirls win and her beautiful performance during the In Memoriam in 2015. But this year, when she took to the stage to deliver the nominated “I’ll Fight” from documentary RBG, something was off. She looked stunning in a sweeping train that evoked Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s Supreme Court Justice robes as if they were high fashion. However, her performance was pitchy and she frequently swung off-key. We love JHud, but we wish this was just a reprise of “And I’m Telling You…” because this was not a great moment for her.
High: All the black female winners
Early in the night, Shonda Rhimes tweeted, “It’s a #BlackGirlMagic night. #Oscars.” And we couldn’t agree more. Regina King, Ruth E. Carter, and Hannah Beachler all took home Oscar gold for movies that not only showcased their talents, but marked two major milestones for black filmmaking. King won for her work in If Beale Street Could Talk, the first English language film adaptation of legendary writer James Baldwin’s work. Then, Carter and Beachler both earned Oscar gold for their work on the groundbreaking Black Panther. Their victories made history with Carter becoming the first black winner in the Costume Design category ever and Beachler the first African-American woman to win for production design. It also marked the first time more than one black woman won an Oscar in a single night. It was a shamefully long time coming, but a high point of the 2019 ceremony.
High: Wayne’s World reunion
Party on Academy! Perhaps the best part of Bohemian Rhapsody’s unexpected Oscar run was this opportunity to see Wayne World’s Garth and Wayne reunite on the stage. After being treated to a clip of them rocking out to “Bohemian Rhapsody” in the 1991 film, which was spoofed by Mike Myers in Bohemian Rhapsody, Dana Carvey and Myers came out to present the Oscar-nominated film. For a few brief moments, Garth and Wayne rode again and it was head-bangingly awesome
High: Awkwafina and John Mulaney are starstruck
John Mulaney and Awkwafina are two of the most hilarious major breakouts of 2018, and we loved this matchup on the Oscar stage. Though they’ve both been in the biz for awhile, they feel like the new kids on the block to audiences, and they played that up in their presenting bit, talking about how starstruck they were and how overwhelming being at the Oscars was. Even if it was a bit, and a funny one at that, it was a nice earnest moment to see two people genuinely excited to be there not taking themselves too seriously. “I want these people to like me to a degree that I find embarrassing,” John Mulaney quipped. Has anything more relatable ever been uttered on the Oscar stage?
High: Periods get their Oscar moment
“I can’t believe a film about menstruation just won an Oscar,” said director Rayka Zehtabch while accepting the award for Best Documentary Short, Period. End of Sentence. The documentary takes on the stigma around menstruation in rural India, and while that may sound like a sobering 26-minute short, the atmosphere on the stage was all joy. Women and female-driven films often get overlooked by the Academy, so it was thrilling to see this collection of female producers and filmmakers celebrating a film that is so distinctly female in every aspect from its production team to its subjects to its subject matter, which can sometimes still be a taboo or shameful topic for women to feel comfortable discussing. Plus, few winners looked quite as excited as this group.
High: Lady Gaga and Bradley Cooper's 'Shallow' performance
It was the nominated Best Song performance to end all performances…Taking its cinematic style from A Star Is Born itself, the camera came from the wings and stayed on the stage behind and with the performers throughout, rather than going out into the audience — a brilliant camera technique which puts you more intimately into the performance. Much was made of Lady Gaga and Bradley Cooper’s chemistry in the film, and it was on electric display throughout their performance, beginning with them rising from their seats in the front row holding hands. The number truly hit its stride when Cooper came around the piano to sit next to Gaga, and the sparks of their chemistry were fanned into flames. They sat duetting, their faces touching, and we all felt far from the shallow now. And maybe some other things…
High: Spike Lee wins his first Oscar
It’s taken almost 30 years, but we can finally say the words, “Spike Lee, Oscar winner.” The legendary filmmaker won for Best Adapted Screenplay for his work on BlacKkKlansman, and it was an Oscar moment worth waiting for. When frequent collaborator Samuel L. Jackson opened the envelope to read Lee’s name, he let out a joyous bellow that made the moment even more celebratory. Lee gave a heartfelt speech, speaking movingly to the history of slavery and honoring his ancestors. He ended with a mention of the 2020 election, urging everyone to mobilize and be on “the right side of the history.” Lee closed with the words, “Let’s do the right thing,” a fitting tribute to his first Oscar-nominated film, especially because the Academy finally did the right thing by him.
Low: In Memoriam
This moment should be an emotional, heartfelt tribute to those we’ve lost over the last year, but this year’s segment felt sterile and dull. While we liked the idea of the LA Phil providing the musical backing here, the song choice was languid and slow, making what should be a celebration of life much too solemn. It felt like a PowerPoint presentation set to elevator music. Often the singers can distract from the honorees in the segment, but they provide an essential element of emotion that was lacking here. An In Memoriam should make us feel something more than indifference. If you’re not going to feature a singer, then showcase dialogue and clips of the work from those who’ve passed a la Turner Classic Movies’ annual stunning and emotionally gutting tributes.
High: Barbra Streisand has her moment
If anyone knows how to have a star moment, it’s Barbra Streisand — and Oscar night was no exception. Streisand took to the stage to introduce Best Picture nominee BlacKkKlansman after tweeting about how much she loved the film. This segment included a delighted Richard E. Grant in an adorable cutaway shot and Spike Lee giving her a standing ovation for calling out the fact that they both hail from Brooklyn. Streisand’s joke about both her and Lee loving hats tickled our funny bone. Plus, it was fun to see her introducing a film for no other reason than she genuinely enjoyed it. In short, Babs never disappoints.
Low: Spoiler-laden clips
For the first time in ages, many of the nominees were winners at the box office. But often, the nominated movies are not those that many at home have necessarily seen. The Oscars is a great opportunity to showcase the work and convince audiences to check out a film that flew under their radar. It was strange then that so many of the featured clips in both the Best Picture presentations and nominee packages showcased crucial moments in the storytelling, often showing an extended piece of the film’s final scenes. We don’t think we’ve ever seen a ceremony more in need of a #SpoilerAlert.
High: Olivia Colman becomes our favourite after her Best Actress acceptance speech
Olivia Colman’s win for The Favourite was the biggest surprise of the night with Glenn Close the favorite (no pun intended) to win for her seventh career nomination. But the result was the most giddy, endearing acceptance speech of the evening. A visibly shocked Colman took to the stage promising to give everyone a “massive snog” and rambling through tributes to her parents, husband, and children that were just so delightfully British in their deadpan, humble delivery. She also honored Glenn Close, saying, “You’ve been my idol for so long and this is not how I wanted it to be” in a moment that was utterly classy and sincere. By the time she ended by thanking her presenters and simply saying, “Lady Gaga!” in disbelief, we were all hopelessly charmed by her effortlessly funny and earnest speech.
Low: Green Book wins Best Picture
In a year with so much groundbreaking filmmaking and a crop of nominees that at last marked a move in the right direction away from #OscarsSoWhite, it felt like a distinct step backward for the Academy to give their top prize to Green Book, a film that many have pointed out feels hopelessly old-fashioned (at best) and problematic in its take on race relations. Not to mention that the film has been mired in controversy because movie subject Don Shirley’s family has decried the filmmakers for their representation of their family member, without ever consulting them. A move which felt particularly galling given that no one bothered to thank Shirley when they accepted the award for Best Picture. The 91st Oscars had the opportunity to do something truly revolutionary, but instead they ended on a low note by planting their feet firmly in the past.
High: Alfonso Cuarón makes history for Mexico
Though Roma did not take home the top prize tonight, which would have marked a historic night for Netflix, he still made history on multiple levels. Roma was the first film from Mexico to win Best Foreign Film, a fitting moment since Cuarón made the film as a love letter to his childhood in Mexico City. Winning both the Oscars for Best Director and Best Cinematography for his intimate, black-and-white film, Cuarón is the first person to take home awards in both categories in the same night. In the celebratory words of another Oscar nominee, Roma-roma-ma-ma.