The 91st Academy Awards arrived Sunday following promises of change from an organization desperate to lift slumping ratings. So what did we learn about the Oscars going forward? Here are some key takeaways.
It’s an Academy divided
The Academy’s efforts to diversify membership in the wake of 2016’s #OscarsSoWhite controversy seemingly paved the way for more progressive best picture choices, such as “Moonlight’s” surprise triumph in 2017. If that “new” Academy helped “Black Panther” snatch three prizes on Sunday, the Oscars establishment countered by awarding best picture to “Green Book,” an enjoyable but retrograde dramedy that clumsily handles the racial politics at its core — reminding viewers that there’s still a contingent clinging to antiquated views.
Netflix is getting serious
Netflix reportedly poured some $30 million into its Oscars campaign for “Roma,” and that backing didn’t go unrewarded — Alfonso Cuaron’s love letter to 1970s Mexico City claimed awards for cinematography, foreign language film and director. But “Roma” couldn’t get over the hump and win best picture. That said, “Roma’s” haul of three trophies and 10 nominations is nothing to sniff at. (And Netflix picked up a fourth win for documentary short with “Period. End of Sentence.”) While the streaming stigma that stifled past awards campaigns isn’t completely gone, it’s faded.
Narrative doesn’t win awards ...
While Spike Lee’s adapted screenplay victory (alongside three co-writers) for “BlacKkKlansman” rang of overdue recognition for a beloved artist, Glenn Close couldn’t ride that train of thought to an Oscar for “The Wife,” unexpectedly falling to “The Favourite’s” Olivia Colman. Close now has a record-breaking seven acting nominations without a win, proving that the “lifetime achievement” narrative still has its limits.
… or lose them
“Bohemian Rhapsody” topped this year’s Oscars with four wins, despite a mixed critical reception and allegations of sexual misconduct against director Bryan Singer. “Green Book” also endured numerous stumbles on the awards trail, including a claim from the family of Don Shirley — one of the subjects of the film — that the movie was a “symphony of lies.” Many Academy voters either remain unaware of the online discourse surrounding the films, or have no problem eschewing it.
No host necessary
For all of the drama in the buildup to the actual ceremony — most notably, Kevin Hart’s decision to step down as host — Sunday’s Oscars made for a fairly enjoyable and economical show. Tina Fey, Maya Rudolph and Amy Poehler compensated for the lack of a host by delivering a succinct and satisfying opening trialogue (after an unnecessary performance from Queen and Adam Lambert). By cutting the superfluous montages and comedic bits, the Academy scaled back a broadcast that typically clocks in around four hours and gave viewers a 3-hour, 17-minute show — a decent blueprint to follow from here on out.