Although the past few months have been one of the most disastrous lead-ups to the Academy Awards ever (No host! Backlash after strange decisions from the academy! The “popular film” category!), the show itself was actually . . . not very dramatic?
Still, there were a few shocking moments, including a surprise best picture winner; a best actress upset; and a steamier-than-expected best original song performance. Here are 15 things to know from the telecast.
1) ″Green Book" took home the main prize, leaving a sour taste in some mouths.
The movie is your basic, old Hollywood Oscar bait: a story about a racist white man (Tony Lip, played by Viggo Mortensen) and a black jazz pianist (Don Shirley, played by Mahershala Ali) driving through the 1960s South and forging an unlikely friendship. With that in mind, it’s not too surprising that it won best picture — until you consider the many controversies that dogged it throughout campaign season.
The movie was written in part by Tony’s son, Nick Vallelonga — and Shirley’s family has claimed that it is filled with inaccuracies. (No one, aside from Ali, mentioned Shirley in their acceptance speeches.) In the lead-up to the Oscars, an anti-Muslim tweet by Vallelonga surfaced. Director Peter Farrelly admitted he used to flash his penis on set as a joke, for which he apologized.
The movie seemed unstoppable. And one explanation is that Oscar voters just don’t spend much time online, where criticism over “Green Book’s” portrayal of racial conflict has been simmering in controversy for the past few weeks.
2) In a heck of an upset, Olivia Colman was crowned the favorite.
This seemed like Glenn Close’s year. Even though “The Wife” wasn’t exactly a box office hit, the adaptation of the Meg Wolitzer novel by the same name was all but assured to earn Close her first win (it was her seventh nomination). She consistently walked away from every other awards show with gold, and her speech at the Golden Globes was deemed by many as “show-stopping.”
But when the time came Sunday night, Olivia Colman came away with the best actress award for her work in “The Favourite.” Even she seemed surprised, accepting the speech with weepy eyes and mouth agape, saying of winning, “It’s genuinely quite stressful. This is hilarious.” She closed out her speech with the equally humble, touching and funny line: “My kids, if you’re home and watching — well, if not, well done. But I sort of hope you are. This is not going to happen again.”
3) It was the night of Spike Lee.
Pretty much everyone in Hollywood agreed that legendary director Spike Lee was overdue for some Academy Awards attention — not only was his “Do the Right Thing” famously snubbed for a best picture nomination in 1990, but he had never won before. (The Academy tried to make up for this by giving him an honorary Oscar in 2015, though everyone knows that’s not the same.)
Things changed Sunday night! Lee, along with Charlie Wachtel, David Rabinowitz and Kevin Willmott, won best adapted screenplay for “BlacKkKlansman." Lee was so excited that he leaped into presenter Samuel L. Jackson’s arms, and the producers were forced to cut the sound for the first few seconds of his speech, as he presumably uttered some words not suitable for television. After Lee paid tribute to his grandmother, who put him through film school, he made the first overtly political comments of the night: “The 2020 presidential election is around the corner. Let’s all mobilize. Let’s all be on the right side of history. Make the moral choice between love versus hate."
Lee also made headlines for his reaction to “Green Book” winning best picture. “I thought I was courtside at the Garden, and the refs made a bad call,” he told reporters backstage in reference to reports that he tried to walk out.
4) Where in the world is Bryan Singer? Certainly not at the Oscars.
While it’s very nice for Rami Malek and everyone else involved with “Bohemian Rhapsody” that the film pulled an impressive four Oscars (actor, sound mixing, sound editing, film editing), it did lead to a bit of awkwardness. The movie was originally helmed by Bryan Singer, but he was fired for what the studio called "unexplained absences.” Then came a rash of lurid sexual assault allegations against him. Meanwhile, Dexter Fletcher finished the film.
Normally, anyone who works on a film is quick to thank its director in his or her acceptance speech. But four speeches came and went, and not one person mentioned Singer’s name.
5) Netflix’s “Roma” had a big night.
Alfonso Cuarón won best director for “Roma,” marking the fifth time in six years a Mexican director has won the category. (Cuarón won in 2013 for “Gravity”; Alejandro G. Iñárritu won in 2014 and 2015; and Guillermo del Toro won last year.) The movie, which angered some who felt that a Netflix film shouldn’t be up for the Oscars, also won best cinematography, which made Cuarón the first cinematographer to win for a film he also directed. And it also won for best foreign film, the first time a Mexican movie has won that prize.
When introducing the latter category, presenter Javier Bardem said in Spanish, “There are no borders or walls that can restrain ingenuity and talent.” Cuarón echoed a similar sentiment in his acceptance speech when he said that all of the nominees “have proven that we are part of the same ocean.”
6) Lady Gaga, Bradley Cooper and one heated performance of “Shallow.”
Hot. Smoldering. Intimate. These aren’t words usually employed to describe any aspect of the Oscars, but they were all used Sunday night. The duo performed their hit song “Shallow” from “A Star is Born” with one caveat: Cooper would be Cooper, not his iconic character, Jackson Maine.
He did just that, at one point sauntering over to Gaga as she belted out her crescendo and sitting down next to her. The two stared at each other with visible affection as they finished the song together, and things got a little heated — or perhaps uncomfortable — for viewers at home.
7) Lady Gaga turned her acceptance speech into a pep talk.
After Gaga and Cooper’s steamy performance of “Shallow,” the ballad — written by Gaga, Mark Ronson, Andrew Wyatt and Anthony Rossomando — won best original song, and Mother Monster broke down as she started her speech. After she thanked her family and Cooper (“There’s not a single person on the planet that could have sang this song with me but you”) she directed her words to all the other dreamers out there.
“If you are at home and you’re sitting on your couch, and you are watching this right now, all I have to say is that this is hard work. I’ve worked hard for a long time,” she said. “It’s not about winning. But what it’s about is not giving up. If you have a dream, fight for it. There’s a discipline for passion, and it’s not about how many times you get rejected or you fall down, or you’re beaten up. It’s about how many times you stand up and are brave, and you keep on going.”
8) Mahershala Ali has never lost an Oscar.
With his best supporting actor win for “Green Book,” Mahershala Ali became only the second black actor to win multiple Oscar acting awards. (The first was Denzel Washington.) Ali won his first Oscar just two years ago — in the same category — for his riveting performance in Barry Jenkins’s “Moonlight,” which also won best picture.
In his acceptance speech, Ali thanked Don Shirley, the jazz pianist he portrayed in “Green Book.” But Shirley’s family has publicly said the film contains several inaccuracies — and that they were not contacted until after the film was made.
9) "Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse” and the women behind “Black Panther” make history.
This year’s ceremony was marked by several historic firsts, led by the women behind “Black Panther’s” technical categories. Ruth E. Carter became the first black costume designer to take home an Oscar. Hannah Beachler became the first African American to win for production design. Their historic wins also make them the first black women to win in non-acting categories since Irene Cara won for best original song (“Flashdance... What a Feeling”) in 1984.
“Marvel may have created the first black superhero, but through costume design, we turned him into an African king,” Carter said in her acceptance speech. Beachler looked to the future while accepting her award. “I give the strength to all of those who come next, to keep going, to never give up.”
And “Black Panther” wasn’t the only film to make Oscars history. In addition to becoming the first Marvel superhero film to win an Oscar, “Spiderman: Into the Spider-Verse” led co-director Peter Ramsey to become the first African American to win an Oscar for animated feature film. He was also the first African American to be nominated in the category.
10) One speech stood out … for all the wrong reasons.
In the past few weeks, the Academy hemmed and hawed about what awards would be included in the telecast, at one point cutting the award for makeup and hairstyling before reinstating it. It might be rethinking that decision after Greg Cannom, Kate Biscoe and Patricia DeHaney, the team behind Christian Bale’s transformation into Dick Cheney in “Vice,” took the stage to receive their Oscar. While deserving of the award, the three made it clear that being on camera wasn’t exactly their specialty. They bumbled through something that could politely (but incorrectly) be called a “speech” in what one critic called “probably the worst Oscars acceptance speech in the 91-year history of the Academy.”
11) Wait, is that Barbra Streisand?
In one of the telecast’s more politically charged moments, Barbra Streisand showed up to introduce “BlacKkKlansman” (not, oddly, “A Star is Born,” even though she appeared in a past iteration of the film). Streisand clearly adored Spike Lee’s movie, gushing about how she tweeted her admiration immediately after seeing it for the first time — which led to a conversation with Lee about Brooklyn and their own personal fashions.
What did she like so much about it? That it was truthful, and “truth is especially precious these days,” she said.
12) Richard E. Grant had the night of his life.
Has there ever been anyone happier to be nominated for an Oscar than Richard E. Grant? Especially someone who had no real shot at winning? Well, probably, but it was hard to imagine that during this award season, in which Grant’s giddiness was infectious — starting with an adorably thrilled video he posted when he got nominated for best supporting actor in “Can You Ever Forgive Me?”
His happiness continued Sunday night, as he beamed through the night and reacted especially ecstatically when Barbra Streisand, one of his idols, appeared onstage to introduce “BlacKkKlansman.”
13) Regina King wins best supporting actress, and Amy Adams goes 0 for 6.
In recognition of Amy Adams’s talent, she’s been nominated for six Academy Awards, including five for supporting actress (“Junebug,” “Doubt,” “The Fighter,” “The Master” and “Vice”) and one for actress (“American Hustle”). Adams lost for the sixth time Sunday night when she was bested by Regina King, who hit gold on her first nomination for her work in “If Beale Street Could Talk,” an adaptation of a James Baldwin novel by the same name. (Glenn Close, a fellow nominee, has been in the running seven times.)
“To be standing here, representing one of the great artists of our time, James Baldwin, it’s a little surreal,” King said, while crying. She then directed her speech toward her mother, saying, “Thank you for teaching me that God is always leaning, always has been leaning in my direction.”
14) Tina Fey, Amy Poehler and Maya Rudolph delivered a mini monologue.
As you may have heard, the Oscars went hostless for the first time in 30 years, and it was … completely fine? Maybe even better than with a host? The show moved along at a delightfully swift pace, and even had a sorta-kinda monologue from Tina Fey, Amy Poehler and Maya Rudolph, who presented best supporting actress at the beginning of the telecast.
They offered jokes that they would have told if they had been hosts:
Rudolph: “Hey, Chadwick Boseman, Wakanda plans do you have later?”
Poehler: “These Spanx are so tight they’ve entered my spider-verse.”
Fey: “Now everyone, look under your seats. You’re all getting one of those cheese sandwiches from the Fyre Festival!”
15) The producers behind “Period. End of Sentence.” had quite the acceptance speech.
“I’m not crying because I’m on my period or anything," producer Rayka Zehtabchi said when “Period. End of Sentence.” won the trophy for documentary short subject. “I can’t believe a film about menstruation just won an Oscar!”
Besides possibly winning the opening line of the night, Zehtabchi and fellow producer Melissa Berton talked about the impact of making the film, which explores the stigma around menstruation that women face in rural India. “A period should end a sentence, not a girl’s education,” Berton said.