Who knew a hostless Oscars may develop into a good suggestion? Sunday’s ceremony, with its various winners’ checklist, made for a full of life present, even when there have been a number of head-scratchers. Here are the highs and lows as we noticed them.
[See President Trump’s response to Spike Lee’s speech. | Read our movie critics on “Green Book’s” win. | Check out the full checklist of winners.]
The Biggest Step Forward (for Diversity)
We’re a good distance from #OscarsSoWhite. On Sunday, the academy fielded an immensely various slate of winners. Three of the 4 appearing winners had been folks of coloration: Regina King (“If Beale Street Could Talk”), Mahershala Ali (“Green Book”) and Rami Malek (“Bohemian Rhapsody”). Several filmmaker winners had been, too: Alfonso Cuarón (greatest director and cinematography, for “Roma”) led a listing that included winners for documentary function, animated function and animated quick. The first African-American ladies to win greatest costume and manufacturing design, Ruth E. Carter and Hannah Beachler of “Black Panther,” made headlines. And of course there was the first aggressive Oscar, greatest tailored screenplay, for Spike Lee (“BlacKkKlansman”). The gender range in the tech classes was notable too. — SOPAN DEB
The essence of the Oscars is to provide out lengthy overdue awards to atone for its previous errors whereas making new errors it should atone for years later. Nearly three many years after snubbing “Do the Right Thing” and naming “Driving Miss Daisy” best picture, the academy finally gave Spike Lee his Oscar (best adapted screenplay for “BlacKkKlansman”). Then, it handed its biggest prize to “Green Book,” which may as well have been titled “Driving Miss Daisy II.” Its director, Peter Farrelly (“Dumb and Dumber” and “Dumb and Dumber To”), was not required to produce a shelf of Oscar-worthy titles before receiving his own award. But the academy couldn’t resist another film in which American racism is neatly resolved through a white character’s proximity to a black one. See also: “Crash” (2004), which ranks among the worst best picture winners ever. If “Crash” were released today, would the academy stoop to reward it? On Sunday we got our answer. — AMANDA HESS
The New York Knicks won on Oscar night, and, in an even rarer occurrence, so did one of the team’s most loyal fans, Spike Lee. Announcing that best adapted screenplay was going to Lee and his collaborators for “BlacKkKlansman,” the actor Samuel L. Jackson shouted out his longtime collaborator’s name the way his “Do the Right Thing” character, Mister Señor Love Daddy, might have: “Spiiike Leeeeeeeeeeeee!” And Lee, who had won only an honorary Oscar in his 33-year feature career, was ready to celebrate, leaping into Jackson’s arms before delivering the speech he’d seemingly been waiting to make his entire career. That joy turned serious as he told the audience, “Before the world tonight, I give praise to our ancestors who have built this country into what it is today along with the genocide of its native people.” —MEKADO MURPHY
Seven nominations later, Glenn Close remains Oscar-less, retaining her less-than-enviable title of most nominated living actor, male or female, without a win. Close, who on Sunday resembled an Oscar statuette herself in a gold dress that weighed over 40 pounds, had been the best actress favorite for much of awards season, but it was Olivia Colman of “The Favourite” who took the trophy Sunday night. “Glenn Close, you’ve been my idol for so long,” Colman said in her acceptance speech. “This isn’t how I wanted it to be.” — MAYA SALAM
[The full list of winning films.]
The Best Presenters Who Weren’t Hosts, Nope, Not at All
With Maya Rudolph, Tina Fey and Amy Poehler, the Oscars seemed to be furiously overcompensating for its lack of a steward to lead the night. Here we had not one, not two, but three of Hollywood’s most beloved mascots, breezily cosplaying as hosts, reeling through the jokes they might have made had they agreed to the gig. It was the perfect opener to this CliffsNotes version of the traditional Oscars slog. Oscar hosts don’t get much respect. At best, they serve up some questionable choices for us to pick apart from our couches. But these women showed us what we were missing. When they exited the stage, they left a void. — AMANDA HESS
The Best Presenters Who Should Be Hosts
Without a host to guide the writers’ room, the banter doled out to presenters can feel a bit aimless. Trust Awkwafina and John Mulaney to make so much of their time presenting two short films that viewers at home were surely asking, “Why didn’t they host?” From the nerves they cutely faked to the surprise they evidenced when, yes, they got to present a second category, let this be considered their audition tape for next year. — KYLE BUCHANAN
[Spike Lee finally won an Oscar, and his speech was worth waiting for.]
The Most Unexpected Presenters
The radioactive nature of this year’s show gave the academy an excuse to extend its presenters’ list beyond the typical Hollywood crowd. The best picture introductions played more like Time 100 essays: Serena Williams on “A Star Is Born,” the chef José Andrés on “Roma,” Representative John Lewis on “Green Book.” These unexpected crossover appearances were the closest the show itself came to surprise. But trying to puzzle out the logic behind the pairings — Williams is … also a star? — only emphasized how hard the academy seemed to be working to avoid making any kind of statement. What this year’s Oscars really wanted to say was that it had nothing to say. — AMANDA HESS
A treacherous traverse in the days of Joan Rivers spilling out her meanie opinions, the red carpet has been unexpectedly transformed lately — vaguely in tandem with the entertainment industry itself — into a surprisingly diverse and welcoming place. In the internet era, Elizabeth Saltzman, a celebrity stylist, said everyone may be a critic. Yet an overdue tonal shift has taken hold at the Oscars, one that dials down the negative voices, possibly in recognition of adjustments that took decades to achieve. “Things have changed with the #MeToo moment,” said Karla Welch, another seasoned Hollywood stylist. “There’s a lot more freedom, a lot more politics in the styling. It’s not only about the money or the glamour of the dress.” — GUY TREBAY
The Least Awards-Worthy Montage
So, it turns out that Kevin Hart, who dropped out as host, did show up for the beginning of the Oscars after all. A clip of the actor in “Night School” was one of a collection of odd choices for an early montage celebrating the year in film. The segment included a few movies up for Oscars, and a whole lot more that were not even remotely, like “Destination Wedding,” “I Feel Pretty,” “Venom,” “Love, Simon,” “Tag” and “Life of the Party.” The producers also found room to include one of the big snubs in the documentary category, “Won’t You Be My Neighbor?” Seems like with this montage, it was an honor not to be nominated (or host). — MEKADO MURPHY
The Best and Worst Performance in One
Much of the “A Star Is Born” creation story revolves around Bradley Cooper’s transformation into a “professional” musician to play the grizzled rocker Jackson Maine. Performing live onstage with a real professional musician, Lady Gaga, his co-star, reveals that narrative to be a wee bit stretched. She is a powerhouse. He is also there. How easily her Ally eclipses his Jackson! Credit where it’s due to Cooper: He cast a woman who would overshadow him not just in the plot of the film but in its meta-narrative, too. Watching her become an actor was always going to be more interesting than watching Cooper try to sing. — AMANDA HESS
[Why do the Oscars keep falling for racial reconciliation fantasies?]
The Worst Thank-You Speech
Remember when, to shorten the telecast, the academy was going to hand out four awards during commercial breaks and then reversed itself after just about every member seemed to protest? Makeup and hairstyling was one of those categories, and boy, cutting that from the live show looks like a pretty good idea now. The winners — Greg Cannom, Kate Biscoe and Patricia DeHaney for “Vice” — couldn’t decide who should talk first and had trouble reading what they had prepared. The fumbled thank-yous continued as the orchestra tried to play them off. Finally the microphone cut out. Whoever was responsible for that, thank you. — STEPHANIE GOODMAN
After the ceremony, winners headed to the engraving room of the Governors Ball, the Academy Awards’ official after-party, where they could get their names etched on their statues along with a dousing of champagne from Rami Malek, the Oscars’ newly minted best actor. “You’re all going to get wet,” he yelled, shaking a magnum, then drenching onlookers and engravers alike. But there were limits. When Lady Gaga and Mark Ronson, winners of best song for “A Star Is Born,” sat side by side on stools at the counter, like teenagers at an old-fashioned soda fountain, an attendant stopped one guest from snapping a picture of them, saying, “We just want to keep it a sacred moment.” — BEN WIDDICOMBE
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