Oscars 2019 Recap

What to lead with?

a) The Oscars were boring as hell without a host.

b) Green Book is NOT my best picture.

Although the Oscars did see a modest bump in audience this year, it is not likely to 91st Annual Academy Awards - Showhave converted any of the first-time watchers as the show felt listless and low energy without a host or opening number. Many of the presenters were good – I like the John Mulaney-Awkwafina pairing, and of course Amy Poehler, Maya Rudolph and Tina Fey, though I think the win goes to Melissa McCarthy and Brian Tyree Henry who really went balls-out in paying tribute to costumers (and kudos to the costume designer in charge of her cape who actually got every single one of those bunnies to stand up).

It was a great night for women, and for women of colour in particular. Rachel Carter and Hannah Beachler became the first ever African American women to win in their categories – costume design for Carter and production design for Beachler. They’re the first African American women to win in a non-acting category since 1984, when91st Annual Academy Awards - Press Room Irene Cara won for cowriting Flashdance. Both wins come courtesy of juggernaut Black Panther, which may be the actual best picture of 2018, trophy or not. “Marvel may have created the first black superhero, but through costume design, we turned him into an African king,” Carter said in her speech. “It’s been my life’s honor to create costumes. Thank you to the academy. Thank you for honoring African royalty and the empowered way women can look and lead onscreen.” Beachler, meanwhile, paid it forward “I give the strength to all of those who come next, to keep going, to never give up. And when you think it’s impossible, just remember to say this piece of advice I got from a very wise woman: I did my best, and my best is good enough.”

Regina King, Mahershala Ali, and Rami Malek all earned the Oscars they were expected to in the top acting categories. I have trouble calling Ali’s performance a 91st Annual Academy Awards, Press Room, Los Angeles, USA - 24 Feb 2019supporting one since he has pretty equal screen time to Viggo, but his award is deserved – not only was it the best and only good thing in an otherwise shitty movie, he ran a very gracious and thoughtful campaign. So did Malek, which is probably what pulled him out ahead of Christian Bale, who probably turned in the more effortful performance as Dick Cheney in Vice but didn’t campaign at all. Olivia Colman pulled out the night’s biggest upset (well, one of them) with her best actress win over the favoured Glenn Close (clearly not The Favourite though, haha, movie puns). Close is great in The Wife, which is not a good movie. Colman is great in The Favourite, which is an exceptional movie. Again, you can’t and shouldn’t really call hers the leading performance above Emma Stone and Rachel Weisz when all 3 ladies get equal screen time, but thanks to wonderful editing, her story line acts as 91st Annual Academy Awards - Backstagethe emotional anchor. And oh boy is she emotional! It’s such a forceful, impassioned performance. Truly deserving, even if poor Close has now lost 7 times and won 0 – a dismal track record, and she’s the got the dubious title of most nominated but never winning actor – male or female.

Spike Lee finally won his Oscar, for BlackKklansman‘s best adapted screenplay. A tough category, which makes it exciting. You could have had heaps more in there spike-lee-1-1for sure. I think If Beale Street Could Talk and Can You Ever Forgive Me? were just as good (and so different!) but I’m glad Lee won, and super glad that pal Sam Jackson was there to tell him the good news. Their on-stage celebration was one of the highlights of the night. So, by the way, was Barbra Streisand telling the audience the many things she and Spike have in common – including (but not limited to) their love of hats. God bless her!

Alfonso Cuaron won best director, as he should, from great friend and last year’s winner, Guillermo del Toro, who got out of his sick bed to do so. And Cuaron accepted Roma‘s award for best foreign language film on behalf of Mexico. And he won best cinematography, the first DP to win who also directed the movie. 91st Annual Academy Awards - Governors BallInterestingly, the American Society of Cinematography gave its highest award to Cold War’s Łukasz Żal, but that’s because Cuaron, a director, is not a part of this guild. Cuaron is the first person to be personally nominated for 4 Oscars for a single film (best foreign language is not personal, but awarded to a country), the fourth being for his original screenplay, which he lost in a tragic incident I don’t even want to get into. Anyhow, in presenting the award for cinematography, Tyler Perry noted it was a pleasure to do so “live on 91st Annual Academy Awards, Governors Ball, Los Angeles, USA - 24 Feb 2019camera, not during the commercial break. Thank you, Academy.” You may recall that just a few weeks ago, the Academy said it would hand out several awards, including this one, during commercial breaks, but had to rescind its decision due to the wrath of nearly everyone.

It used to be that best director and best picture often went hand in hand, which makes sense. But in the past 10 years, since the Oscars opened up the best picture category to a potential 10 nominees, things changed. Now it uses a “preferential ballot” system, which means the most liked movie wins – but not necessary the most popular, which could explain the now 50% 91st Annual Academy Awards - Showdiscrepancy between best picture and best director wins. Members are asked to rank the best picture nominees from best to worst. This year there were 8 nominees, so the accountants made 8 piles and sorted all the ballots according to their #1 choices. If no movie has more than 50% of the votes, and with more than 5 nominees that’s practically impossible, then the smallest pile is removed. Let’s assume that Vice had the smallest pile. Now all the ballots that listed Vice #1 are re-sorted into piles according to who their #2 pick was. You can see why canny members are now voting strategically, and how the movie with the most #1 picks won’t necessarily be the winner. The win could easily go to the movie with the most #2 picks, which is weird, but that’s also how Americans pick their presidents, and we all know how well that turns out. So Green Book is the Donald Trump of best pictures.

Green Book shouldn’t have been nominated. At best, it’s a pretty pedestrian movie. At best. But it’s also a movie about race relations that’s written and directed by white ABC's Coverage Of The 91st Annual Academy Awards - Press Roommen. Solely by white men. Which is why so many of the Academy’s old white men felt comfortable voting for it. They could pat themselves on the back for being ‘diverse’ while still rewarding the status quo – for reframing the story of a black man’s experience into the perspective of his white driver. Never mind that director Peter Farrelly has a history of consulting his penis during meetings. And that writer Nick Vallelonga has said some weird Islamophobic shit, agreeing with Trump of all people, tweeting “100% correct. Muslims in Jersey City cheering when towers went down” – and that was still on his time line when he won the Golden Globe this year. Gross.

Meanwhile, Roma is a work of art from start to finish. I’m so proud that a black and white movie, with subtitles, with no stars or recognizable names, about society’s less visible women, is such a huge deal, so gorgeous and relatable. What a win for 91st Annual Academy Awards - Governors BallNetflix, and for taking chances. And If Beale Street Could Talk is also completely worthy. It’s visual poetry. I was electrified, from the colours to the dialogue’s flow, and the story’s timeliness and timelessness. Perfection. And there are many other terrific movies besides: The Favourite is funny and incisive and beautifully acted; BlackKlansman is galvanizing wizardry; Sorry To Bother You is risky and bold; Blindspotting is culturally significant; Spiderman: Into the Spider Verse is ground breaking; Eighth Grade distills a moment in time, taking us back while pinning us in place with its precise observation; Black Panther elevates the super hero game and asks more of us as an audience and a culture; Can You Ever Forgive Me? is funnier than almost any comedy released this year but the humour comes from a dark and interesting place, a true voice for society’s losers; Leave No Trace is heart breaking in its truth and simplicity; First Man is cold and wonderful and ambitious and intimate; Crazy Rich Asians is visually stunning and a cultural milestone. I’m going to stop there, but you get my point. 2018 was a great year for movies. I was moved, I cried in utter delight, I was horrified and invigorated. I think Green Book is a step back. I wish it didn’t win. But instead of complaining about Green Book, I’m going to keep pushing forward the movies I love, because that’s what’s so great about cinema. You don’t have to like them all, but if you keep watching, you will find something to love.

 

26 thoughts on “Oscars 2019 Recap

  1. The Inner Circle

    Its a damn shame about Glenn Close because she has outstanding for so long….the fact she elevated a movie like “The Wife” that most likely would have been a straight to video or Netflix release into getting seen at the theater speaks volumes.

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    1. Jay Post author

      Not in the least. They campaign hard, and not just the actors. The studios will spend millions on their campaigns, and some producers will stop at nothing. They stage viewings, hold Q&As and meet and greets, hold dinners, DEFINITELY give tea parties, sometimes even with incentives for attending, they send screeners and gifts.
      I wrote about this a couple of years ago:
      https://assholeswatchingmovies.com/2017/02/07/how-to-buy-an-oscar/

      Liked by 2 people

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  2. Sean

    I would have been largely happy with the Oscars this year if Best Picture had gone another way, but I think Green Book winning was the worst possible outcome, even worse than if it had gone to the weakest nominee (Bohemian Rhapsody). Green Book was not the best movie and it was not even the best movie about racism! It goes to show that equality is not as easy to achieve as Green Book’s narrative suggests.

    Despite that disappointment, you were right to end on a positive note. There were some great movies released in 2018, so I can choose my own best picture! And I think it would be Roma. To me it was a standout even with there being a lot of great movies this year. But also, how did great movies like Widows and Sorry to Bother You not get nominated for anything by the Academy? And how did a standout like Barry Jenkins’ If Beale Street Could Talk basically get ignored? The answer’s pretty obvious (#oscarsstillsowhitewhenitmatters) and that’s exactly why Green Book’s win is so frustrating.

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    1. Jay Post author

      I found the anonymous Oscar ballot where the mystery but clearly old white man declined to vote for Period. End of Sentence because “it’s well done, but it’s about women getting their period, and I don’t think any man is voting for this film because it’s just icky for men.”

      So glad it won, even just to rub it in this one dude’s face.

      https://www.hollywoodreporter.com/lists/brutally-honest-oscar-ballot-roma-just-an-expensive-home-movie-1187668/item/best-live-action-short-brutally-honest-oscars-ballot-19-1187875

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  3. Liz A.

    Yeah, that “best” picture… So disappointed. Although, those I watched the last two categories with (I haven’t seen most of the show; I will, but I had things to do while it was being broadcast) were quite happy. (I should probably note that one of them was a Trump voter, so that should be all you need to know about that.)

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  4. Jane Lurie

    Excellent roundup of the Oscars, Jay. I was shocked and disappointed that Glenn didn’t win, although Olivia would have been my next choice. Equally shocked that Green Book took it. Roma was my choice – thankfully it did well in other categories. I mildly disagree about the “no host” issue. I thought it flowed well with its celeb presenters, songs and clips.

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  5. joel watches movies

    great summary, Jay! was definitely disappointed with the best picture winner, but I’m glad Roma and a couple other non-American films got some love. (loved Cauron’s acceptance speech for Best Foreign Film- “I grew up watching lots of foreign films- Jaws, The Godfather…”)

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  6. Lloyd Marken

    I wouldn’t have given it to Green Book either but I really think it’s a fine movie. Not hip or edgy like others but a perfectly fine movie and I’m not really interested in making people feel bad about what for them is a triumphant moment in their career. Spike Lee had some honest comments for the press after, which is what I expect from Spike after a lifetime of not being afraid to voice his opinions but I can’t help thinking in a different context some of that behaviour would be labelled being a sore loser and ironically right after having won an Oscar by the way. I think the Oscar’s reflect now what is happening across the West, we are in flux, we are changing and hopefully progressing but we are divided and I can’t help but think that is because we are more interested in listening to what differentiates us then what unites us. I’m not sure that’s healthy but change is coming regardless and is clearly needed.

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  7. macalder02

    The most relevant, in my opinion, was the biggest anger of Spikr Lee when they awarded Green Book as best film. They had to stop him because he wanted to leave the room. He considered that Hollywood disfavoured him because of his marked theme of racism in his film. You have made a great review, that you make us feel seated in the front row.

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  8. Birgit

    I have yet to see Greenbook nor have I seen The Favourite, Roma or Vice but I would have chosen BlacKkKlansman so far for being so uniquely told. I am not a fan of Bohemian Rhapsody..it’s good but nothing stellar. I understand why many had an issue for Greenbook winning since it was from the “white mans”perspective and it is a shame about the 2 who were part of that film. I still don’t feel the hype of Black Panther and consider Avengers Endgame better…I know I might rot in hell for that. I loved Melissa McCarthy and that many finally, African Americans are being better represented as it should be although it always needs more work. I thought Glenn Close equals Peter O’Toole who. I thought list 7 times as well. I gave my own little recap but not as eloquent as you.

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  9. Paul. Writer and Filmmaker

    Great write-up. Playing devil’s advocate I have seen a lot of negativity towards GREEN BOOK and wondered why? It is definitely NOT a best picture Oscar winner but rather a generic buddy movie which strives to have an important message too. Fair enough if you don’t like the film but how does it fail? Even if the message is deemed patronising and simplistic, Mahershala Ali’s brilliant performance and a razor-sharp script make it praiseworthy. Is it failing from a political and sociological perspective?

    I enjoyed Green Book as a really good work of genre entertainment as Black Panther was. I am interested to know why one is considered a more valid work than the other? Personally, I thought Black Panther, for all its incredible production values and superb action had narrative flaws and Avengers: Infinity War was actually better film story-wise. But hey, Awards are all subjective bullcrap and cinematic navel-gazing so what do I know 🙂

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      1. Paul. Writer and Filmmaker

        Very interesting article so thanks for the link. It’s important not to forget that Marvel is also owned by Disney, so ultimately all involved are being exploited by a neo-Capitalist, culturally appropriating company. What can you do eh? 🙂

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  10. Bryan Fagan

    I was really happy for Lady Gaga. I was hoping she’d win for original song. She’s proven me wrong time after time. At first I thought she was a flash in the pan. Boy was I wrong.

    I wanted Bradly Cooper to receive best director. I have always been a fan but looking back I feel Alfonso Cuaron was deserving.

    Rami Malek was amazing playing Freddy. I thought the movie was okay but his performance was incredible. To be fair I have yet to see Vice. We’ll see if my mind changes after that.

    The one disappointment I have is Amy Adams losing again. She reminds me of a young Katharine Hepburn. I’m hoping one of these years the academy agrees and rewards her one.

    This was an excellent post. I’m happy you did this. I love the Oscars.

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  11. selizabryangmailcom

    Race relations are complicated, and I don’t think it can be adequately approached in a white/black buddy movie. For me and people I know, Green Book was just Driving Miss Daisy, Pt. 2.
    And the only different thing about Black Panther was the predominately ethnic cast–but beyond that, it was just another paint-by-the-numbers Marvel movie. Nothing new to see here. And I personally would have been thrilled–regardless of all the other eye-boggling high tech stuff–if something other than spears had been used as weapons. I’m sure there are more creative ways to express Wakanda’s “African-ness.”

    But I didn’t see the Oscars, so thanks for the summary. I felt like I was there!

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  12. Jeff the Chef

    I really didn’t miss the host. You make a really great point about there having been so many great movies. I really hope that there’s not someone who deliberately and consciously votes for a film because it’s written by white people, but about black people. I liked Green Book, but I was flabbergasted that it won best picture.

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