Oscars in review: Shinola's mention, Aretha's snub and awkward triumph of 'Green Book'
Shinola received a major shout-out, Olivia Colman delivered the night’s biggest shocker and “Green Book,” a well-made if obvious and old-fashioned film about racial tolerance, was awarded Best Picture during Sunday night’s Academy Awards.
It was a deeply diverse telecast that did its best to clean up the mess from the rocky lead-up to the host-less show. The crowning win of "Green Book," however, was far from a progressive choice, and is seen as an example of the Academy, yet again, being the same old Academy.
For its part, the Academy was probably just happy to get through the show without a fire breaking out on stage. Months of embarrassing hiccups — from the announcement and cancellation of a "popular film" category to the announcement and cancellation of Kevin Hart as host to the announcement and cancellation of a plan to hand out several awards during commercial breaks — made this year’s Oscars the Show That Could Do No Right.
That wasn’t exactly the way things played out, however. Here’s what Sunday's Oscars got right and wrong, along with some of the other major talking points of the show.
Right: Spreading the love – No single film dominated this year’s winner’s field; “Bohemian Rhapsody” won four awards, while “Green Book,” “Black Panther” and “Roma” each won three. The wide range of winners was similar to last year, when “The Shape of Water” led all winners with four awards and “Dunkirk” followed with three.
Right: Diversity all around – Still reeling from the “Oscars so white” controversy of four years ago, diversity was spread throughout the broadcast, from the nominees and winners to the presenters. Regina King and Mahershala Ali won the Best Supporting Actress and Actor trophies; Rami Malek, whose parents immigrated to America from Egypt, won Best Actor, and “Black Panther’s” Hanna Beachler and Ruth E. Carter won for Best Production Design and Best Costume Design, respectively. Mexico’s Alfonso Cuaron was a three-time winner, and Best Documentary Short went to “Period. End of Sentence,” a film about a village in India where women are fighting against the social stigma of menstruation. There were political messages aplenty, with several winners discussing the need to come together, and civil rights leader John Lewis, a presenter, received perhaps the night’s biggest ovation when he hit the stage to introduce a clip of “Green Book.”
Wrong: “Green Book’s” win – “Green Book” is a well-meaning film but not the most sophisticated when it comes to racial politics, which has led many to compare it to “Crash,” the most maligned Best Picture winner of the last 20 years before “Green Book’s” win. The film hit several stumbling blocks during its awards season campaign, from Viggo Mortensen using the “N” word at a Q&A session for the film to the family of the film’s subject, Don Shirley, attacking the film’s accuracy, and its "white savior" storyline has been criticized for its adherence to old Hollywood cliches. “Green Book” is proudly square entertainment, and its win is representative of Hollywood trying to do the right thing when it comes to representation but not always getting there. In the film's favor, its domestic tally of $70 million makes it the highest-grossing Best Picture winner since “Argo” in 2012.
Wrong: “Bohemian Rhapsody’s” wins – The clumsy Queen biopic, which is VH-1 level in execution, was the night’s biggest winner. Look, it’s a good concert, but as a movie it’s a mess. (Live Aid was not a reunion gig for Queen, for starters.) Aside from Malek’s win, “Bo Rhap” won in the Best Editing, Best Sound Editing and Best Sound Mixing categories; all those wins and the film’s problematic director, Bryan Singer, didn’t receive a single mention from the stage. Look at it this way: at least it didn’t win Best Picture.
Right: Moving things along – The show's lack of a host and the decision to cut back on the kinds of clips packages that routinely bloat the evening made the show move along quickly; the show wrapped up in about three hours and 20 minutes, roughly 40 minutes shorter than last year’s telecast. People hoping to catch the Best Picture winner could do so and be in bed by 11:30 p.m., and that’s a win.
Wrong: No host, no center – The telecast lacked the cohesion a host brings to the proceedings, and the way a host injects a narrative thread into the night that helps tie everything together. In a fun bit, “SNL” alums Tina Fey, Amy Poehler and Maya Rudolph hit the stage early with a routine that poked fun at typical host-style banter, but it was jarring when a disembodied voice said, “welcome to the Oscars” at the top of the broadcast. The Academy would do well to pick a host for next year now and spend the next nine months combing over their past tweets before announcing its choice, because the show feels flat without a host.
Right: Olivia Colman’s win – Glenn Close (“The Wife”) was the heavy favorite to win Best Actress, so it was a legitimate surprise to see “The Favourite’s” Olivia Colman win the award, and no one was more tickled than her. “This is hilarious,” the English actress said. “I've got an Oscar!” She went on to deliver the night’s most genuine and self-deprecating speech, which included a shout-out to Lady Gaga just because she was there. As for seven-time nominee Close, she’s now the most-nominated living actor to have never claimed a statue.
Wrong: Aretha’s snub – Where was Aretha Franklin in the “In Memoriam” segment? You guys saw “The Blues Brothers,” right? For shame, Academy.
Right: “Shallow's” deep performance – Lady Gaga and Bradley Cooper steamed up the stage with a dramatic performance of their “A Star is Born” collaboration, which found Gaga missile-locked onto Cooper’s eyes. Handheld cameras swirled around the pair, who casually strolled up to the stage from their seats in the front row, and it finished with a close-up of their two faces nearly cheek to cheek while they sat on Gaga's piano bench. From a production standpoint, the other nominated performances didn’t come close, and it was no surprise when Gaga won the award several minutes later.
Wrong: No “All the Stars” – The Kendrick Lamar and SZA collaboration from “Black Panther” was the only Best Original Song nominee not performed from the stage. Lamar and SZA offered a vague reason for not attending the ceremony to perform the song, and since no one else offered to fill their spot, it awkwardly went unperformed.
Right: Thanks Mom and Dad – By far the most-thanked people of the night were mom and dad, who were always there to offer support to their young creatives. Good job, guys.
Other talkers from the show:
Shinola’s big moment –“Green Book” director and co-writer Peter Farrelly included Detroit’s Shinola in his long list of “thank yous” during his Best Original Screenplay win, pointing to the watch on his wrist. “Tom Kartsotis and Shinola watches, unbelievable. They’re saving Detroit,” he said. Farrelly has been a supporter of Shinola for years – he included the company in a scene in 2014’s “Dumb and Dumber To” – but the line about saving the city didn’t go over so well for some Detroiters. “Say what? Please stop with this disrespectful & hurtful narrative that we 1) need saving & 2) that billionaires are the ones to do it,” U.S. Rep Rashida Tlaib wrote on Twitter.
Netflix wins big – While the streaming service didn’t land a Best Picture win for “Roma,” the film won three Oscars, and the short film “Period. End of Sentence.” marked the company’s fourth win for the night. The company also aired its first teaser for “The Irishman,” Martin Scorsese’s upcoming film (starring Robert De Niro, Al Pacino, Harvey Keitel and Joe Pesci), which is due on Netflix in the fall, and could be the service's entrant into next year's Best Picture race.
Viva Mexico – Alfonso Cuaron’s Best Director win for “Roma” marks five Best Director wins for Mexican-born filmmakers in the last six years. Cuaron himself kicked things off when he won for “Gravity” in 2013, followed by two-timer Alejandro G. Inarritu for “Birdman” and “The Revenant” (in 2014 and 2015) and Guillermo del Toro for last year’s “The Shape of Water.” Busting up the party is Damien Chazelle, who won for “La La Land” in 2016.
Big-up to Brooklyn – Barbra Streisand and Spike Lee shared a moment when, while introducing a clip from “BlacKkKlansman,” Babs shouted out their mutual hometown of Brooklyn, much to the pleasure of Lee. Lee’s win for Best Adapted Screenplay for the film marked his first-ever Academy Award, and in his acceptance speech he made a plea to "make the moral choice between love and hate" and to "do the right thing." He also did the right thing by hitting the stage in a pair of gold Air Jordans.
A Marvel-ous night – “Black Panther’s” multiple awards marked the first-ever Oscar wins for Marvel, which prior to Sunday night was only able to measure its success in its billions of dollars of box office grosses.