91st Oscars: Reflections

Our contributors have watched the Oscars, looked at the winners, and have decided to share with you their thoughts of last night’s ceremony and results. It was a night of staid choices, a single interesting surprise, and a return to the cheap progressivism of the past. Before we get to our contributors’ thoughts, let’s look at how they did at predicting this year’s Oscars.

For the first time in awhile, the number of correct runner-up selections had to be consulted to determine a winner. Based on base predictions alone, Wesley, Peter, and Tripp finished the night with sixteen correct predictions. Thomas finished with 13. Among Wesley, Peter, and Tripp, Wesley ended up on top thanks to his 6 correct runner-up predictions compared to Peter’s 5 and Tripp’s 3. Thomas, even though he didn’t get his main predictions right, he managed to pick a winner or runner-up in ever category, which is a solid performance for a fourth-place finisher.

Of the twenty-four categories, only three categories did we all miss entirely: Best Actress (we all had Olivia Colman as our runner-up, though), Best Original Screenplay (Wesley, Peter, and Thomas had Green Book as runner-up), and Sound Editing (Wesley and Thomas were the only ones to pick runners-up there). Additionally, there were four categories that saw only one person correctly predict the winner. In Original Score, Peter made the correct choice while Thomas chose Black Panther as runner-up. In Live-Action Short Film, Peter was again the only correct predictor of Skin, though both Wesley and Thomas each had it as runner-up. For Film Editing, Wesley was the only one to predict Bohemian Rhapsody while both Tripp and Thomas had it listed as runner-up. In Production Design, Tripp was the lone correct predictor while everyone else picked Black Panther as the runner-up.

The four of us correctly predicted eleven categories. Best Directing, Actor, Original Song, Adapted Screenplay, Animated Feature, Supporting Actor, Foreign Language Film, Sound Mixing, Cinematography, Makeup and Hairstyling, and Supporting Actress.

Now that we’ve gone over the statistics, let’s hear what everyone had to say.

Wesley Lovell

With the lead up to the Academy Awards plagued by numerous public relations disasters from the furor over the Popular Film Oscar to the furor over the past homophobic remarks of comedian Kevin Hart who had to been selected to host then withdrew to the attempt to shunt some important tech categories (like Film Editing and Cinematography) to the commercial breaks, the end result was a show that was swift, but dull in many places.

The show opened with Tina Fey, Amy Poehler, and Maya Rudolph who played the “we’re not hosts, but if we were” bit to large laughter even if some of it didn’t quite land. They showcased why they should host in the future. The hostless Oscars wasn’t more organized than it had been in the past, so the absence of a host wasn’t noticed, but also reminded us why there is a host in the first place. The parade of new and old talent was welcome and all of the songs that were performed (Kendrick Lamar turned down the invite to perform “All the Stars”), were performed well.

It was a largely inconsequential night. The event didn’t seem to present too many obstacles to enjoyment, but didn’t try overly hard to entertain the viewers. The winners, on the other hand, ranged from delightful to abhorrent.

Supporting Actress started off the night with the delightful win of Regina King. We then proceeded into expected wins by the likes of Free Solo and Vice. Then we got hit by the one-two Black Panther punch. The first win was the most significant as legendary Ruth Carter deservedly won for Costume Design while the production design for the film was also heralded in a less interesting victory. Roma won the one award of the night it actually deserved, Cinematography, but it was the next pair of awards that turned the evening a bit sour.

Confusing Sound Mixing and Sound Editing, voters made one colossal blunder after another. The first award presented, Sound Editing, went to the worst nominee of the bunch, Bohemian Rhapsody. So bad a winner is it that it ranks as one of them, if not the all-time worst in this category and one of the most egregious selections the Academy has ever made. Although the film also won Sound Mixing, at least that award made a bit of sense.

The next frustration was when Bohemian Rhapsody again won Best Film Editing in a category filled with better edited films. There was a rebound in the Animated Feature category where one of the all-time best animated films won the prize. Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse was the frontrunner, but was never quite as certain as it needed to be. Another excellent win followed not long after when First Man managed to top all of the other single-digit nominees in Visual Effects.

After that, we were stunned by the selection of the facile Green Book as Best Original Screenplay. Over the likes of The Favourite and Vice, that decision is rather insulting. While Spike Lee winning for Best Adapted Screenplay next was bittersweet, it meant that If Beale Street Could Talk was in trouble. Sure enough, when the envelope for Original Score was opened in favor of the inferior Black Panther, the sourness continued. Rami Malek, although not my choice for Best Actor, made a compelling winner, but the true bright spot of the evening followed when Olivia Colman beat out Glenn Close in one of the all-time great Oscar upsets. As much as I love Close, Colman did tremendous work in The Favourite and her win kept the movie from going home empty-handed. Her speech was stellar.

Alfonso Cuaron expectedly won Directing, but it was the final envelope of the night that really sticks in the craw. The worst Best Picture winner since Crash in 2005, Green Book cemented its place in Oscar history. The Feel Good Movie About Racism was a poorly constructed, uninspiring fifth-grade-essay of a film, yet it seemed to convince the majority white Academy that it was significant and important enough to be declared the victor.

There you have the 91st Academy Awards.

Peter J. Patrick

Despite all the problems they had putting together this year’s show, it went smoothly. The mood was set by Queen and Adam Lambert with the opening number. Even an awkward non-monologue monologue by Tina Fey, Amy Poehler, and Maya Rudolph couldn’t dampen spirits.

All the presentations and introductions were well done with Melissa McCarthy’s dressed-to-the-nines Queen Anne co-presenting the Costume Design Award the highlight.

Acceptance speeches, as usual of late, tended to go too long with some of the co-winners hogging the spotlight at the expense of their co-winners, but overall there was nothing too troubling. The nadir was the hair and makeup acceptance speech in which the three winners seemed to be elbowing one another to make their points.

The awards themselves were all well-earned. My predictions came true in 16 of the 24 categories and my runners-up came through in five of the remaining eight. I missed only Best Animated and Documentary shorts (Editor: Film Editing as well).

I continue to scratch my head over the notion that one must be for either Green Book or BlackKklansman, that you can’t be for both because they are diametrically opposed films. No, they are both about the way things were, one in the early 1960s, the other in the early 1970s. That decade made all the difference. I have for years winced at films about racism in which the white character is the hero of a film about the black experience. Green Book is not that film. Viggo Mortensen and Mahershala Ali’s characters are co-equals who help each other. That Mortensen was nominated for lead and Ali for supporting was done at Ali’s request. It was Mortensen who was first attached to the film.

Spike Lee finally got his Oscar, but Glenn Close didn’t. Win one, lose one. No reason to feel sorry for her. She’s enjoyed more time in the spotlight this year than she has in decades. She’ll rebound with something, perhaps the long-delayed film version of Sunset Boulevard now that she’s considered bankable again.

Four Oscars for Bohemian Rhapsody may seem excessive, but the film is much better than the early critics said it was. No, it’s not an in-depth look at the life of Freddie Mercury, but it is a celebration of his life and time that audiences just love. And it was seemingly made without a director!

Some day we may see a foreign language film finally win a Best Picture Oscar, but I’m glad Roma wasn’t the first. I’m with Steven Spielberg and company in believing that Netflix, which only releases films in select theaters to qualify for film awards, then withdraws them, making them available for future viewing only to their subscribers, should have their productions considered for Emmys, not Oscars.

So, what’s ahead? There’s an Elton John biopic from Dexter Fletcher, the director who did clean-up work on Bohemian Rhapsody, scheduled for release in May. Will it have the same impact as Bohemian Rhapsody? Will it be a contender at next year’s Oscars or was the awards success of Bohemian Rhapsody a one-off?

Tripp Burton

No commentary provided at this time.

Thomas La Tourrette

The Academy still knows how to surprise us. As always there are a few somewhat unexpected upsets like score and original screenplay, followed by one major one. I do not know if anyone really guessed that Olivia Colman would upset Glenn Close for best actress. I think the Oscar went to the better performance, but I never expected it to. Olivia Colman then gave a wonderful acceptance speech which covered all sorts of emotions and was a highlight of the evening. I think she was as caught off guard as anyone. Still it was a decent night for the Oscars and it moved at a decent pace. Maybe going hostless is not such a bad thing. I do miss Billy Crystal’s singing montage at the beginning, but not stunts like the pizza delivery or the busful of tourists being walked across the stage. I don’t know if they will continue without a host, but it certainly worked this time.

A lot of talk has already been going on about Green Book’s best picture win. It certainly was a conventional choice, but not necessarily a bad one. Several of the other nominees were not what I would consider best picture worthy. They may have been enjoyable, but Black Panther, Bohemian Rhapsody, The Favourite, Roma, and A Star Is Born all had issues against them too. Vice might have been a viable alternative, though I liked the writer/director’s work better in The Big Short, and he was not able to win best picture then. That left only Green Book and BlacKkKlansman. Spike Lee’s film was the better made and would have been worthy, but the preferential ballot favors feel good movies like Green Book. Personally, I am happy that Roma did not win. And Green Book was definitely a likable film with two great performances. I did like how the director told Viggo Mortenson that there would have been no movie without him, as he was a good center for the film. However, it would have been nice if anyone besides Mahershala Ali had thanked Dr. Shirley.

The enthusiasm of some of the winners was a breath of fresh air. Many seemed ecstatic over their wins and they were often given enough time to express their thanks. That part definitely felt better this year. There will always be awards that are not perfect. Mahershala Ali did create a memorable character in Green Book, though it did not feel that this performance was as good as his winning role in Moonlight just two years previously. But unexpected moments also made it a good night. Melissa McCarthy and Brian Tyree Henry’s togs when they gave out the costume design award were hysterical, but a nice nod to the movie The Favourite. And Keegan-Michael Key’s arrival from the ceiling was surprising but well done. It all adds up to a fun night. They kept the show relevant, fast-moving and enjoyable, all things we were not sure they would do before the awards were given out.

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