Thank God, it’s finally over. What a long, confusing, painful Oscar season this was. Between the Popular Oscar, the Category/Commercial debacle, the Original Song controversy, the lack of a host, and the general melee surrounding the road to the 91st Academy Awards, the final show ended up being an aesthetic delight…and a confusing hodgepodge in terms of awards, as Green Book walked away with Best Picture. The 60s racial dramedy also won awards for Best Original Screenplay for Nick Vallelonga, Brian Currie, and director Peter Farrelly, as well as a much-deserved Best Supporting Actor win for Mahershala Ali. While Green Book has been a frontrunner for much of the season, it still felt like a surprising win.
“Surprising, but unsurprising” is a great way to sum up a fairly weird, dull, and unsettling year for the Oscars. At 13/24, this was easily my worst year predicting in almost a decade (I think since the 2010 King’s Speech/Inception/Social Network debacle). This is mostly due to foreseeable twists that just seemed too far-fetched to outright predict. For example, I knew Bohemian Rhapsody would be popular, but I never dreamed that it would win the most Academy Awards of the night, taking home four. Rhapsody won Best Actor for Rami Malek, who went on to give an ok speech that sadly never addressed the Bryan S*nger in the room, but did touch on some important issues in a respectable way. It also won for Best Editing in a slight surprise victory. And in the funniest, most on-brand move of all, Rhapsody won Both Sound Editing and Sound Mixing, proving once and for all that the Academy cannot tell the difference between the two categories. It’s always been inferred, but if they truly believe that the best sound effects (explosions, loud noises, etc.) were not in a space epic, a sci-fi adventure, or a fantastical futuristic world, but instead at a rock concert, then it is clear they don’t understand the difference between the two categories. Tying Green Book’s Oscar haul were Roma and Black Panther. Roma became the first true foreign language contender in years (Amour and Pan’s Labyrinth had success, but no film has had as great a shot since Crouching Tiger, and before that would be the 80s), and the first foreign language contender to win Best Director. This marks the second time Alfonso Cuarón has won Best Director, and this means that the past 7 years of the Academy have been dominated by the Three Amigos (Cuarón won in 2013 and 2018, and his best friends Alejandro Iñárritu and Guillermo del Toro won in 2014/2015 and 2017, respectively). Cuarón also won the awards for Best Foreign Language Film (Mexico’s first win) and Best Cinematography. While Cuarón certainly ended up getting his steps in, it certainly wasn’t an unpleasant experience – he’s certainly not a sight for sore eyes, and each of his speeches was as lovely and as pleasant as the one before. As for Black Panther, its three victories were highly reminiscent of the days when film like E.T., Who Framed Roger Rabbit, and Terminator 2 dominated the technical categories (back when blockbusters truly meant something…ok, I’m old). Panther brought home Best Original Score, Best Production Design, and Best Costume Design. The latter two categories were most significant, as both wins saw their first female African-American victor – especially terrific for Costume Design, as it meant Ruth E. Carter is finally an Oscar winner. Oh, and speaking of finally seeing someone win, how about Regina King in Best Supporting Actress, the sole award for If Beale Street Could Talk? King’s victory was truly exciting due to her status as one of the most beloved, yet underappreciated character actresses in Hollywood. And things were taken all the way up to 11 when she ended up delivering the best speech of the night (and in the first category no less!). It made me angry that I didn’t predict her. Still, while I didn’t predict most of these awards, at least it was because of tight races and predicted upsets – otherwise, everything was fairly chalk.
In fact, the only true upset of the night came in Best Actress, when presumed frontrunner Glenn Close was shockingly upset by Olivia Colman. It was a moment that almost made up for any missteps earlier in the evening – Colman is incredibly charming, and her performance was one of the best of the year, allowing her upset to feel shockingly earned and exciting. And considering Colman’s speech was charmingly off the cuff and loving, it made for great TV all around. And rounding out the Top 8 categories, Spike Lee finally won the Oscar he’s deserved for almost thirty years in Best Adapted Screenplay for BlacKkKlansman. It was genuinely exciting to see his joy at being accepted by his peers, and while his speech started out in a rough slam-poetry style (according to Trevor Noah, he didn’t think he was going to win until halfway through the ceremony and quickly scribbled notes on a piece of paper), he managed to bring it home in a powerful, spiritual way. The rest of the awards ranged from the inspiring (First Man in Visual Effects, “Shallow” in Best Original Song, Bao in Best Animated Short) to the meh (Period. End of Sentence winning Best Documentary Short, Vice winning Best Makeup, Free Solo winning Best Documentary Feature) to the downright awful (Skin, a short about a white supremacist who gets kidnapped by gangbangers and has his skin died black so he gets shot for home invasion, won Best Live Action Short). Oh, and I can’t forget to shout from the rooftops that Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse won a much-deserved Best Animated Feature award. Huzzah!
As for the show itself, it was surprisingly, and rousingly, not a mess! The lack of the host actually made the show…dare I say better? It moved things along a lot faster, it made the big moments all the more memorable, and it forced the presenters to come up with more ingenious pairings and smarter dialogue. This meant we got a great moment from Maya Rudolph, Amy Poehler, and Tina Fey to open the show, Sam Rockwell and Frances McDormand while presenting Best Actress, Michael B. Jordan and Tessa Thompson while presenting Best Original Score, Samuel L. Jackson and Brie Larson while presenting the Screenplay categories (those two have real chemistry), and especially Awkwafina and John Mulaney while presenting The Shorts (I demand an Awkwafina/John Mulaney rom-com to be greenlit immediately). And the opening was truly exhilarating, thanks to a terrific performance by Queen and Adam Lambert, which culminated in a rendition of “We Are the Champions” while clips of Freddie Mercury played behind them. It was a touching tribute (and perhaps a better tribute than the film itself). Sadly, many of the musical performances didn’t live up to that opening’s hype: Jennifer Hudson’s voice seemed ill as she performed the forgettable song from RBG, Bette Midler’s performance of the Mary Poppins Returns song was fine but unimpressive (I’m afraid Midler’s voice is going with age), and Gillian Welch and David Rawlings performed a sweet, but all-too-somber rendition of “When A Cowboy Trades His Spurs For Wings” from The Ballad of Buster Scruggs (I will also deduct points for the significant lack of Tim Blake Nelsons lowered from the ceiling with angel wings. Still, the performances weren’t all a letdown: Bradley Cooper and Lady Gaga performed “Shallow,” and it truly brought the house down. Not only did the duo crush it emotionally and musically, but their sexual tension was so palpable I thought they were going to end the song by tearing each other’s clothes off and ravishing each other on top of the piano. I’m still mad they didn’t kiss.
Well, that brings us to the end of the 2018 Oscar race. I know it’s been a long, brutal cycle, but I hope you had fun going through it with me, and I hope you’re already excited for next year! I’ll be taking a week or two off from Oscar predictions, trying to finish off the 2018 lists that I’ve been putting off, but get ready: 2019 Oscar predictions are on the way. I’ll have to find a new litmus test for Best Picture winners next year, as the Travis Test (the Best Picture winner has to be in my Top Ten for the year) has officially failed me for the first time, and unofficially for the first time in 11 years. But I digress. You can see the full results of last night’s show below, and until next time, thanks for joining me on this epic, crazy journey!
Best Picture: Green Book
Best Director: Alfonso Cuarón – Roma
Best Actor: Rami Malek – Bohemian Rhapsody
Best Actress: Olivia Colman – The Favourite
Best Supporting Actor: Mahershala Ali – Green Book
Best Supporting Actress: Regina King – If Beale Street Could Talk
Best Original Screenplay: Green Book
Best Adapted Screenplay: BlacKkKlansman
Best Animated Feature: Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse
Best Foreign Language Feature: Roma
Best Documentary Feature: Free Solo
Best Documentary Short: Period. End of Sentence.
Best Animated Short: Bao
Best Live Action Short: Skin
Best Original Score: Black Panther
Best Original Song: “Shallow” – A Star Is Born
Best Sound Editing: Bohemian Rhapsody
Best Sound Mixing: Bohemian Rhapsody
Best Production Design: Black Panther
Best Cinematography: Roma
Best Costume Design: Black Panther
Best Makeup and Hairstyling: Vice
Best Film Editing: Bohemian Rhapsody
Best Visual Effects: First Man