The 91st Academy Awards aired recently, and the show defied expectations by not sucking. Many tuned in just to observe what was shaping up to be the worst telecast yet, and they were probably disappointed to find that everything went off without a hitch. There were no accidental winners (i.e., the ‘La La Land’ & ‘Moonlight’ controversy), the runtime did not overstay its welcome (clocking in at 3 hrs. and 22 min., roughly a half-hour shorter than 2018’s ceremony), and Lady Gaga & Bradley Cooper KO’d viewers with their performance of “Shallow” (for which they won, in the evening’s most obvious decision, Best Original Song). It was a pretty decent night of television.
That said, the Oscars always do two things: showcase the world’s most popular cinematic talents in dashing clothes & dress, and piss everybody else off. Even though the production went smoothly (the only misstep being Rami Malek falling off the stage after the cameras stopped rolling, fortunately suffering no injuries), this may be the most frustrating and baffling year for winners since “Crash” won Best Picture in 2005.
The abysmally reviewed “Bohemian Rhapsody” won the most awards of the evening: Sound Mixing, Sound Editing, Film Editing, and Best Lead Actor (Rami Malek). This was surprising, not only because “Bohemian Rhapsody” is a ridiculously bad movie, but because Bryan Singer, since allegations of pedophilia resurfaced last fall, has been persona-non-grata from the film industry.
“Bohemian Rhapsody” winning numerous awards echoes the controversy of the 2003 ceremony, when Roman Polanski’s “The Pianist” won three awards, despite its creator being a convicted sex offender.
But the biggest winner of the night was “Green Book”, taking Best Picture, Best Original Screenplay, and Best Supporting Actor (Mahershala Ali). Don’t get me wrong, “Green Book” is a delightful movie with impressive acting, but it was not 2018’s best movie. It had the production quality of a Redbox film, the screenplay lacked any subtlety or nuance, and director Peter Farrelly’s last two movies (“Dumb and Dumber To” & “Movie 43”) were satanically awful. It’s a definite crowd pleaser, but one can’t help but see shades of the naive and condescending 1990 Best Picture winner “Driving Miss Daisy” in its screenplay. Why it won is no mystery since the Academy loves to champion tearjerkers and feel-good journeys you can take your grandparents to see, but daring, beautiful, immensely artistic films “Roma” and “Black Panther” deserved “Best Picture” infinitely more than this year’s winner.
Now, for a rundown of all the major categories:
Won: Rami Malek for “Bohemian Rhapsody”
Should have won: Either Christian Bale for his admittedly great performance as Dick Cheney in the otherwise underwhelming “Vice” or Bradley Cooper for his liquor-soaked, effectively miserably performance in “A Star is Born”.
Not nominated: Ryan Gosling for his restrained, grieving, guilt-wracked performance in “First Man”.
Won: Mahershala Ali for “Green Book”
Should have won: Sam Elliot for his foul-mouthed, man-tears-aplenty role in “A Star is Born”.
Not nominated: Brian Tyree Henry for his scene-stealing role in “If Beale Street Could Talk”, a role that will go down as one of the greatest “brief” (less than 20 minutes, but more than a cameo) performances in history, alongside Beatrice Straight in “Network” and R. Lee Ermey in “Full Metal Jacket”.
Won: Olivia Coleman for “The Favourite”
Should have won: Yalitza Aparicio, who despite being a first-time actress delivered the performance of a lifetime in “Roma”.
Not nominated: Viola Davis for her badass yet melancholy performance in “Widows” (which was criminally nominated for nothing).
Won: Regina King for “If Beale Street Could Talk”
Should have won: Nobody. King absolutely killed it in “If Beale Street Could Talk”. She will tear your heart out, give it a hug, and return it to you gift-wrapped.
Not nominated: Jong-seo Jun for her mysterious, sexy, mesmerizing performance in “Burning”.
Won: Alfonso Cuaron for “Roma”
Should have won: Cuaron deserved this one. This is the sort of film most directors dream of making but never pull off. This is the “Gravity” director’s most personal film, as well as one of the best cinematic gifts of this generation.
Not nominated: Ryan Coogler for his stylish, powerful direction of “Black Panther”, by far the most artistic and satisfying Marvel Cinematic Universe film to date.
Won: “Shallow” from “A Star is Born”
Should have won: “Shallow”. People knew from the minute they heard this song in the first trailer that it would win the award. That, and the song kicks major ass.
Not nominated: None. Very solid category.
Won: Ludwig Goransson for “Black Panther”
Should have won: Nicolas Britell’s overwhelming score for “If Beale Street Could Talk”. Find the album on Spotify and weep.
Not nominated: Daniel Pemberton’s score for “Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse” works extremely well with the exhilarating action sequences. A tremendous amount of work went into every moment.
Won: “BlackKklansmen” by Spike Lee, Charlie Wachtel, David Rabinowitz, and Kevin Willmott
Should have won: Spike Lee and company were the correct choice for this one, and not only because Lee has deserved an Oscar for the longest time; the film is timely, sharp, painful, hilarious, and disturbing, and only Lee could have pulled it off.
Not nominated: Lynne Ramsay deserved recognition for the blunt, brutal, devastating “You Were Never Really Here”.
Won: “Green Book”
Should have won: “First Reformed”, which marks the return of the problematic and controversial Paul Schrader (legendary screenwriter of “Taxi Driver” and “Raging Bull”). Despite his being a certified curmudgeon, “First Reformed” was one of the strongest motion pictures of 2018, and he deserved the award.
Not nominated: Rafael Casal and Daveed Diggs for the intense, free-flowing, surprisingly funny dialogue in “Blindspotting”.
Won: “Green Book”
Should have won: “Roma”, which was undoubtedly the best film of 2018.
Not nominated: “Widows”, “Blindspotting”, and “First Man” were all amongst 2018’s best, and all three were leagues ahead of “Green Book” in terms of quality, emotion and excitement. They were emblematic of what an impressive year for film 2018 was and have joined the pile of innumerable great films to be snubbed and ignored by the award show that claims to honor the best-of-the-best movies.