Oscars 2019: Five talking points, from Spike Lee storming off to Olivia Colman's touching speech
Green Book's Best Picture victory over Roma has proven controversial
Colman’s win in the Best Actress category brought Yorgos Lanthimos’s period piece back in the spotlight after being shut out for most of the evening, missing out on its two Best Supporting Actress nominations (for Emma Stone and Rachel Weisz), as well as nods in the Cinematography, Costume Design, Directing, Film Editing, Production Design, and Writing (Original Screenplay) categories.
Green Book, meanwhile, took home the biggest award of the night despite an awards season marred by scandal, and even though it was up against mammoth contenders such as Bohemian Rhapsody, The Favourite, Roma and the extremely popular Black Panther – the first superhero movie to score a nomination in the Best Picture category.
Here are the five biggest talking points from the ceremony.
Green Book disappoints as Best Picture win
This year’s Academy Awards was a tale of two shocks: one pleasant, one dire. The latter arrived with the announcement that Green Book had beaten out the category’s frontrunner, Roma, to Best Picture. It was a dismal reminder that progress is a slow, tedious process. Had Roma prevailed it would have made history, becoming both the first foreign language film and the first film distributed by Netflix (or any other streaming service) to win Best Picture.
It would have been a win that actually felt like the Academy was looking towards the future, smashing through the strict confines that have so far determined what we deem awards worthy and allowing this yearly celebration of film to finally start reflecting how diverse (on every possible level) the art form actually is.
But alas, no. Instead the Academy chose a film that has faced widespread criticism for its use of the “white saviour” trope, since its story of a friendship between two real-life figures – black jazz musician Don Shirley (Mahershala Ali) and his white driver Tony Vallelonga (Viggo Mortensen) – depicted the experiences of black Americans in the segregated South almost entirely through a white perspective.
Crucially, it ignored the realities of racism in order to deliver a neat story about Tony’s redemption as a racist man who learns to become a more tolerant person. Green Book’s win tonight doesn’t feel like much of a victory. It’s more of a case of the same old, same old when it comes to the Oscars. Clarisse Loughrey
Olivia Colman’s Best Actress win is a joyful surprise
It’s a win that many hoped for, but one that not many genuinely expected. Colman beat frontrunner Glenn Close to Best Actress, delivering a delightful (and thoroughly English) acceptance speech to boot. “It’s genuinely quite stressful,” she said. “This is hilarious. I got an Oscar! Okay, I have to thank lots of people. If, by the way, I forget anybody, I’m going to find you later and give you all a massive snog.”
Granted, Close has been wildly overdue when it comes to the Oscars, having failed to win the past six times she’s been nominated – it seems particularly outrageous now that she wasn’t awarded either for 1988’s Dangerous Liaisons and 1987’s Fatal Attraction.
Yet, Colman’s handling of Queen Anne’s various comedies and tragedies in The Favourite soars above any other film performance this year. A figure pathetic, fearsome, and desperate at all moments, Queen Anne is filled with endless conflicting layers, all effortless delivered by Colman. Thanks to Deborah Davis and Tony McNamara’s masterful screenplay, The Favourite was one of the greatest possible platforms for what a unique talent Colman is. Clarisse Loughrey
Richard E Grant wins hearts, even if he doesn't win awards
No one has enjoyed awards season more than Richard E Grant. The 62-year-old star of Can You Ever Forgive Me? was, in his own words, “granted temporary membership to the A-list fame club” after the role earned him an Oscar nomination. Given the adorable viral video he posted in reaction to the nod, the countless selfies with every Hollywood actor he comes across, and the interviews in which he’s grinning ear to ear, it’s clear Grant decided to grab the opportunity with both hands.
He didn’t grab the Oscar, though. That honour, predictably, went to Mahershala Ali for his role as jazz pianist Don Shirley in the somewhat controversial Green Book. Ali is brilliant, of course – just look at his previous Oscar-winning role in Barry Jenkins’ Moonlight – but wouldn’t it have been wonderful if Grant had managed to pull off a surprise victory? This was his first ever nomination, 32 years after he was snubbed for his iconic role in Withnail and I, and he plays Jack Hock – the playful, conniving, antagonistic friend to Melissa McCarthy’s Lee Israel – like no one else could. Alexandra Pollard
Bohemian Rhapsody is ahead of the pack with four wins
Although Green Book walked away with Best Picture, the film with the most wins of the night was Bohemian Rhapsody. It’s news that will also come as a significant disappointment to many. Alongside three wins in the technical categories – for Best Sound Mixing, Best Film Editing, and Best Sound Editing – Rami Malek also picked up Best Actor for his role as Freddie Mercury.
The film, however, has been argued by many to be nothing but a karaoke-style paean to Queen, with many critics picking up on how the film downplays the AIDS crisis of the 1980s - Mercury was diagnosed with HIV in 1986 and died of AIDS-related bronchopneumonia in 1991 - and Mercury’s sexuality. Indeed, the film focuses solely on Mercury’s relationship with Mary Austin (played in the film by Lucy Boynton), leaving his relationship with Jim Hutton (Aaron McCusker), who was with Mercury until his death, as an epilogue untold, leading to accusations that the project “straight-washes” or “de-queers” its subject.
It should be mentioned, crucially, that Academy voters made their decision in the light of the allegations facing Bohemian Rhapsody’s director, Bryan Singer. Last month, The Atlantic published multiple accusations that Singer had sexually abused underage boys. The director denies all allegations. That the Academy sees fit to reward the film in any way has, inevitably, made a statement about how the film industry reckons with the work of alleged abusers. Clarisse Loughrey
The Academy takes two steps forward for diversity, one step back
Four years on from the #OscarsSoWhite controversy, and two years since the Academy took steps to rectify its predominantly white, male demographic by inviting 774 new members, it’s clear that progress has been made. Regina King won Best Supporting Actress for her role in If Beale Street Could Talk, BlackKklansman director Spike Lee finally won an Oscar after decades of snubs, and Black Panther’s costume designer Ruth Carter, and its production designer Hannah Beachler, both became the first ever African American winners in their categories.
Still, the fact that there are still firsts like these in 2019 is a pretty sorry state of affairs – and the fact that the night ended with Green Book, with all its problematic racial politics, winning Best Picture shows there is still work to be done. Alexandra Pollard
See all the action as it happened below.
Golden Globes are a bad indicator of Best Picture winners and only slightly stronger in the acting categories, despite giving themselves two chances each year by dividing their spoilers between “Drama” and “Comedy/Musical” categories. The Screen Actors Guild Awards are better predictors of the acting awards, though their big ensemble prize rarely lines up with Best Picture. And the Toronto Film Festival audience award winner has a much better record at the Oscars in recent years than the winners at the Cannes, Berlin or Venice film festivals.
Every so often, though, there are exceptions. The glittery history of the Academy Awards overshadows the many Oscars that have been handed to films of sub-par quality.
At the end of the Second World War, with Hitler and his minister of propaganda Joseph Goebbels dead, Jannings is said to have rushed towards the allied troops marching into Berlin, clutching his golden statuette and yelling: “Don’t shoot, I have won an Oscar!”
He was not imprisoned, but his reputation was in tatters. The man once considered the world’s greatest actor never worked again. Ninety years on from that historic award, it’s no surprise that the academy don’t talk much about their first Best Actor winner.
Spike Lee established a reputation as a controversial voice early on in his career – Edward Norton describes Do the Right Thing as being “like a hand grenade went off in the theatre”, a reaction shared by contemporary and modern viewers alike. And BlacKkKlansman proves the filmmaker has lost none of his edge. David Boulton, his long-time sound mixer who worked on BlacKkKlansman, observed that “Spike finds humour in stuff you wouldn’t expect him to, like racial slurs.”
Louis Chilton writes: It is hard to overstate Lee’s importance in diversifying the American cultural landscape. Denzel Washington has claimed that “Spike Lee has put more African Americans to work in this business than anyone else in the history of this business”. Through a willingness to cast new and unknown actors, including many actors of colour, Lee, and his production company, 40 Acres and a Mule Filmworks (which takes its name from the promise of reparations to emancipated black slaves in 1865 that was later reneged upon) are responsible for building the careers of several eminent stars, in addition to fostering talent on the technical side of filmmaking.
Read more about Spike Lee's career ahead of, potentially, his first Oscars win for Best Director:
This is a director who, just under a decade ago, released his breakout film Dogtooth – a grim tale of isolation, incest, cat murder and DIY dentistry. It was nominated for Best Foreign Language Film at the Academy Awards, but was booed and hissed by voters during a committee screening, and ultimately lost to Susanne Bier’s In a Better World.
William Wellman’s Wings, the very first winner in 1927, is readily available on DVD and Blu-Ray, as are such other early winners as Cimarron and Broadway Melody.
Most of the other Best Picture winners are titles that any film lover will recognise instantly. The blind spots are obvious. The Academy never chooses foreign language titles. In recent years, it has shunned comedies.
The Shape of Water may have won last year but voters are generally wary about genre pictures. You don’t see many sci-fi or martial arts titles on the list.
The bags, dubbed “Everyone Wins”, are not affiliated with the Oscars themselves, but are distributed to nominees each year by Los Angeles-based marketing agency Distinctive Assets.
Recipients of what the agency describes as a “six-figure swag bag” will include Lady Gaga, Christian Bale, Mahershala Ali, Spike Lee, Rami Malek and Bradley Cooper.
Take a peek at what lucky guests can expect this year
You can find a full list of winners here.