Last night's Green Book's Best Picture win spoiled the 2019 Academy Awards for many viewers. But before that film, which has been widely criticized for its "white savior" story line, took home the night's biggest prize, the Oscars seemed to be making improvements in acknowledging both diverse nominees and fan favorites.
That trend began with the first award of the night, which honored talented screen veteran Regina King for her role in If Beale Street Could Talk. In her speech, she thanked director Barry Jenkins, the Miami filmmaker whose Moonlight won best picture in 2017. "James Baldwin birthed this baby," she said, referring to the novel on which Beale Street is based, "and, Barry, you nurtured her. You surrounded her with so much love and support."
King's win was a highlight of last night's ceremony, both because King was overdue for recognition from the Academy and because it was the sole Oscar given to Beale Street, a film many critics expected to receive nods in major categories such as best picture. Instead, it was nominated for only three: supporting actress, original score, and adapted screenplay. King's win was the film's only award.
But her victory also launched a diverse run of winners, a departure from the usual stream of white dudes accepting golden statuettes. Legendary director Spike Lee finally took home his first Oscar for writing the adapted screenplay of BlacKkKlansman. Mexican filmmaker Alfonso Cuarón won for best directing. Black Panther made history several ways, with costume designer Ruth Carter and production designer Hannah Beachler taking home trophies — both were the first black person to win in their respective categories, and with King, they made last night's awards the first time in history that three black women have won.
Other high points included Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse's win for best animated feature, which was not a surprise but still inspired raucous cheers in the Dolby Theatre, and a surprise triumph for Olivia Colman of The Favourite, whose best actress award was widely expected to go to Glenn Close. Colman's tearful, self-deprecating speech was both moving and hilarious.
Then, of course, there was "Shallow." Bradley Cooper and Lady Gaga's duet from A Star Is Born was one of the Oscars' most anticipated moments, pairing the most ubiquitous song to come out of a movie since "My Heart Will Go On" with Hollywood's biggest night. And the pair absolutely nailed it, singing with eyes locked on each other, appreciating the hell out of the song and the moment. Maybe you didn't see the movie; maybe you're sick to death of hearing Gaga's ahh's and ohh's refracted a million ways in pop culture references. But last night's rendition proved there's a reason that song won't die: It's compelling and sexy as hell.
Of course, one of the biggest controversies surrounding this year's Oscars was the ceremony's lack of a host. The gamble to go host-free mostly paid off: The awards were over shortly after 11 p.m. and seemed to move at a steady pace, relative to past broadcasts that could stretch past four hours.
But cutting the host didn't automatically cut the boredom. There were a few genuinely funny bits by presenters — Maya Rudolph, Tina Fey, and Amy Poehler were predictably hilarious, as was Melissa McCarthy in a royal getup inspired by The Favourite — but most fell flat. It's not that a host would've improved things exactly. But what hosts do is provide distractions, for better or worse, from the monotony of handing out awards, many of which are for technical skills few viewers fully understand. Without those, it's just the hit-or-miss speeches, the presenters' bits, and the musical numbers. "Shallow" may have won every award pop culture has to offer, but there are some miracles a song just can't accomplish.
Here's the full list of winners:
Best picture: Green Book
Directing: Alfonso Cuarón (Roma)
Actress in a leading role: Olivia Colman (The Favourite)
Actor in a leading role: Rami Malek (Bohemian Rhapsody)
Actress in a supporting role: Regina King (If Beale Street Could Talk)
Actor in a supporting role: Mahershala Ali (Green Book)
Animated feature film: Spider-Man: Into The Spider-Verse
Cinematography: Alfonso Cuarón (Roma)
Costume design: Ruth Carter (Black Panther)
Documentary (feature): Free Solo
Documentary (short subject): Period. End of Sentence.
Film editing: Bohemian Rhapsody
Foreign language film: Roma (Mexico)
Makeup and hairstyling: Greg Cannom, Kate Biscoe, and Patricia DeHaney (Vice)
Music (original score): Ludwig Göransson (Black Panther)
Music (original song): "Shallow," by Lady Gaga, Mark Ronson, Anthony Rossomando and Andrew Wyatt (A Star Is Born)
Production design: Hannah Beachler and Jay Hart (Black Panther)
Short film (animated): Bao
Short film (live action): Skin
Sound editing: John Warhurst and Nina Hartstone (Bohemian Rhapsody)
Sound mixing: Bohemian Rhapsody
Visual effects: Paul Lambert, Ian Hunter, Tristan Myles and J.D. Schwalm (First Man)
Writing (adapted screenplay): Charlie Wachtel, David Rabinowitz, Kevin Willmott and Spike Lee (BlacKkKlansman)
Writing (original screenplay): Nick Vallelonga, Brian Currie, Peter Farrelly (Green Book)
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Ciara LaVelle is New Times' arts and culture editor. She earned her BS in journalism at Boston University, moved to Florida in 2004, and landed a job as a travel writer. For reasons that seemed sound at the time, she gave up her life of professional island-hopping to join New Times' staff in 2011. She left the paper in 2014 to start a family, but two years and two babies later, she returned in the hopes that someone on staff would agree to babysit. No takers yet.