Film Lists

The Best and Worst of the Awkward Ordeal That Was the 2019 Oscars

What you need to see and what you definitely don't.

The 2019 Academy Awards felt like a tense, forced dinner party that never felt comfortable no matter how many rounds of charades and glasses of wine forced on the guests. A dinner party without a clear host is always going to struggle, and if you throw in some racial tension and sexual assault allegations, you've got yourself a real cringe-worthy way to pass a Sunday night. To the credit of the Hollywood elite, everyone tried hard to make the best of the evening, and there were some high points worth noting, with plenty of low points worth noting with even more emphasis.

Here's our recap of the moments of the night that brought us to tears of joy, despair, discomfort, or boredom.

Most "We wish It was Freddie Mercury on stage": Adam Lambert and Queen Perform

Queen + Adam Lambert - We Will Rock You & We Are The Champions (Live From The Oscars)

To open the ceremony, season 8 American Idol runner up, Adam Lambert, performed a tribute to Queen with the remaining members of the band. While Adam Lambert is an undeniable talent, Queen isn't Queen without Freddie Mercury, and Lambert's inadequacy was on bright display. The best part of the tribute was when the camera would pan to the audience, and we'd see magical little moments, like Glenn Close belting the lyrics to "We Will Rock You" or Javier Bardem doing the sign of the horns.

Most "I don't feel quite as uncomfortable now!": John Mulaney and Awkwafina

"Bao" wins Best Animated Short Film

Amy Poehler, Maya Rudolph, and Tina Fey were always going to be a crowd favorite, and as expected their riffy monologue on the kind of canned jokes they would have made if they had hosted the Oscars brought down the house. But a more unexpected highlight of the night was Awkwafina and John Mulaney presenting the award for Best Animated Short. Their laid back acknowledgment of the nerves that come with attending the Oscars seemed to set the crowd at ease, and their comedic chemistry was impeccable (do we smell an upcoming collaboration?). However, we were very sorry to see John Mulaney's jacket choice.

Most "Green Book really shouldn't win": Alfonso Caurón's Acceptance Speech

Alfonso Cuarón wins Best Director

The Roma director won the Oscar for Best Cinematography and Best Director, marking the fifth time in six years that a Mexican director has won for Best Director. Beyond his impeccable salt-n-pepper hair, Caurón's speech was also a real highlight, particularly as people began to feel more and more dread that problematic white savior movie, Green Book, really could take home best picture.

He said in his powerful speech, "I want to thank the Academy for recognizing a film centered around an indigenous woman, one of the 70 million domestic workers in the world without work rights," He continued, "As artists, our job is to look where others don't. This responsibility becomes much more important in times where we are being encouraged to look away."

The Second Most "We wish it was Freddie Mercury on stage": Rami Malek Wins Best Actor

While we admit to being massive Rami Malek stans and his performance in Bohemian Rhapsody was impressive, a glorified music video that erased much of Freddie Mercury's sexuality doesn't feel like it deserves all of the attention it got last night. Malek's acceptance speech was eloquent and moving, and it's notable that he very intentionally referred to Mercury as a "gay man," but all the same, we just feel pretty "meh" about it all. In a beautiful metaphor for the night, Malek ended up stumbling off the stage at the end of his speech, consequently dropping his Oscar and eventually being treated by paramedics.

Most "Holy shit please show the faces of their dates right now": Bradley Cooper and Lady Gaga Perform "Shallows" and Possibly Fall in Love

If you didn't cry during this performance, you're lying. Bradley Cooper was mostly just there looking handsome, but my god, in the words of Olivia Colman, "aghhh Lady Gaga!" When she hit that first belt, America fainted. When they touched their faces together at the piano? The entire nation, finally united in a common cause, revived and shouted in one voice, "F*CKING KISS!!!" If there were 100 people in a room...every single one ships a Cooper/Gaga romance. We hope Irina Shayk is doing alright.

Most "He Should Have Just Hosted": Everything Spike Lee Did All Night

May we begin by saying the fact that this man doesn't have an Oscar for best director is absurd. But he at least got some much-deserved recognition last night when he won the Oscar for Writing (Adapted Screenplay) for BLACKkKLANSMAN. He ran on stage and into the arms of Samuel L. Jackson, creating one of the most iconic photos from the night. His speech was powerful and very Spike Lee, but perhaps most Spike Lee of all, was the fact that he began with "Do not start that mother fucking clock," and you better believe they didn't dare to. But the moment of the night that people will likely remember Lee for was the moment he reportedly tried to storm out of the theatre when Green Book won Best Picture. He later voiced the sentiment of many when he said the Academy made a "bad call" in choosing Green Book.

Most "Oh my god, I would do anything for this woman": Olivia Colman's Best Actress Acceptance Speech

Olivia Colman wins Best Actress

The Favourite actress won a surprise victory against Glenn Close last night, taking home the Academy Award for Best Lead Actress. Rarely has their ever been a more genuine, charming, lovely acceptance speech than the one Olivia Colman gave. She was so authentically surprised, grateful, and funny; it became apparent that she had won the adoration of a very divided crowd within just moments of taking the stage.

Most "Ugh. Of course.": Green Book Winning Best Picture

'Green Book' wins best picture at the Academy Awards

The movie, about the life of real-life barrier breaker and world-class doctor, Don Shirley, was told from the perspective of his white driver. Earning much criticism from the press for being a "white savior" movie and, most notably, criticism and eventual denouncement from the family of Dr. Shirley, the movie has been sweeping awards season anyway. To make matters worse, the primarily white production team didn't even mention Dr. Shirley or his family in their acceptance speech.

Just...THE MOST: Billy Porter's LOOK

There are no words. Only applause.

Brooke Ivey Johnson is a Brooklyn based writer, playwright, and human woman. To read more of her work visit her blog or follow her twitter @BrookeIJohnson.

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A question for the producers of this year's Oscars ceremony: how dare you?

Last Friday, Deadline reported that the winners of last year's acting awards had yet to be contacted about presenting those same awards at the 2019 ceremony, a long-held Academy tradition. "It breaks my heart," wrote America's relentlessly cool and undeniably talented aunt, Allison Janney, in a now-deleted Instagram comment. On Wednesday evening, the Academy tweeted that Janney, who won Best Supporting Actress last year, will, in fact, be part of the telecast along with previous winners Frances McDormand (Best Actress), Sam Rockwell (Best Supporting Actor), and Gary Oldman (Best Actor). While we sincerely hope this helps mend Janney's wounds, it's unclear in what capacity she and the other acting honorees will be participating. Dave Karger, who covers the Oscars and the Academy for numerous outlets, tweeted in response to Mark Harris, another Oscar expert, that it "looks like" presenter duties will be shared among last year's winners and that they will not be presenting in the acting categories.

This is the latest in a series of hastily-made, announced, then retracted decisions by the Academy in preparation for this year's broadcast.

A brief timeline:

August 8, 2018: Academy announces new category for "popular" film

September 5, 2018: Academy announces it will not present "popular" film award

December 4, 2018: Kevin Hart announced as host of 91st Oscars

December 7, 2018: Kevin Hart drops out of 91st Oscars

January 24, 2019: Variety reports that only two of the five nominees for Best Original Song will be performed during the telecast

January 31, 2019: Academy announces that all five nominated songs will be featured (albeit, for only 90 seconds each)

February 1, 2019: Deadline reports a potential acting award-winner snub

February 6, 2019: Academy tweets that acting award-winners will present (likely not acting-related) awards

The high-level flip-floppery can all be traced back to that first August announcement. In addition to the potential popular film category, the Academy also announced a shorter version of the telecast (now a svelte three-hour event). Aside from the host situation, most of the decisions that followed appear to be an attempt to pare down the traditionally long ceremony. They also appear to be the Academy's effort at drawing in younger, perhaps less film-obsessed viewers. Producers are also relegating some award presentations to commercial breaks and pushing last year's honorees aside for bigger names. It's no secret that industry awards can feel staid and lay viewers are probably not as invested in the race for Best Sound Mixing as they are for Best Director. It makes perfect sense that Oscar producers would want to modernize a 91-year-old ceremony to appeal to the widest possible audience, but the Academy needs to decide who that audience is, and stop making decisions at the expense of the people they claim to celebrate.

Rebecca Linde is a writer and cultural critic in NYC. She tweets about pop culture and television @rklinde.

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