sun 21/07/2019

Oscars 2019: Olivia Colman crowned queen of Hollywood | reviews, news & interviews

Oscars 2019: Olivia Colman crowned queen of Hollywood

Oscars 2019: Olivia Colman crowned queen of Hollywood

Green Book and Rami Malek also rise in a hostless, diverse and shorter ceremony

Anne the winner is

The 91st Academy Awards began with a rousing concert appearance from Queen to kick off a show from which Bohemian Rhapsody led the field with four trophies. Three host-free hours later, the ceremony got a surprise shot of adrenaline from the unexpected Oscar that went to The Favourite’s Olivia Colman for playing a queen. What came between was a scattershot affair marked out by numerous Oscar firsts, repeated standing ovations – from that Queen opener to Rami Malek’s prize for playing Freddie Mercury – and a shorter and sometimes sharper Oscars: a good half-hour or more had been shaved from this same event last year.

The evening ended with the win (whether surprising or not is debatable) of Green Book as Best Picture – an apt bookend to the similar trophy won 29 years ago by Driving Miss Daisy, which tells much the same story but with the ethnicities reversed. A less middlebrow, more memorable victor came minutes before when Colman beat the heavily tipped, seven-times-nominated Glenn Close (The Wife) to prevail in the most estimable best actress line up in years.

“This is not how I wanted it to be; I think you’re amazing, and I love you very much,” a clearly stunned Colman remarked from the podium to Close, who seemed visibly to appreciate the shout-out. Close had certainly dressed for success and resembled nothing less than an ambulatory Oscar in a gold gown reported to weigh 42 pounds. Colman, coupling her now-familiar habit of grasping for words with winning self-deprecation, made it clear, she said, that “this is not going to happen again”. I wouldn’t be so sure: Hollywood seems genuinely to adore the distinctive amalgam of awards-season wit and awe that Colman has made her own, so who can say what the future holds?

At the same time, I’d be surprised if the Academy doesn’t decide that a compere-free Oscars may be the way forward. Their choice, Kevin Hart, bailed from the job amid a Tweet-driven cloud of controversy that resulted for the first time in 30 years in no one tour guide, so to speak, to take us through the evening.

A shared opening turn allowed Maya Rudolph, Tina Fey, and Amy Poehler to do their jointly comic bit, but not before Rudolph made the first of many ripostes to Donald Trump’s much-vaunted border wall. (Presenter Javier Bardem was among several who picked up the theme later on.) And it was left to the final presenter, Julia Roberts, doing the Best Picture honours, to wrap things up in haste.

The downside may have been the absence of the sort of identity that longtime Oscar devotees associate with those ceremonies hosted by, say, Bob Hope or Billy Crystal. A definite plus was a renewed focus on the films themselves, free of the silly, increasingly gimmicky distractions of late where one host or another has seen fit to pose for a selfie or order out for pizza.

For a ceremony preceded by its fair share of controversy, the show didn’t rattle too many cages. Sure, there will be those red state viewers for whom the emphasis on inclusivity and diversity is all too much, in which case why are they watching to begin with? After the ill will created by various decisions that were made and then abandoned – the move, for instance, to relegate four awards to the commercial breaks – it was a pleasure to see all the prizes handed out on air. It’s just a shame that one of those awards (Best Makeup and Hairstyling) prompted a cringe-making turn at the podium from a trio of winners for the Dick Cheney biopic Vice, none of whom seemed to know what to say or even how to read. (Note to winners: keep specs at the ready.)

Four years after #OscarsSoWhite, history was made by Black Panther bringing Oscars to the first African-Americans ever to win in the categories of costumes (Ruth Carter) and production design (Hannah Beachler). The eclectic parade of presenters of the eight nominees for Best Picture ranged from Queen Latifah (weighing in on that Queen Anne historical jag, The Favourite) to Serena Williams and John Lewis, the Georgia congressman and civil rights leader who has sparred not infrequently with Trump.

Both supporting performance awards went to African-Americans, Mahershala Ali (pictured above) winning for Green Book a scant two years after he nabbed the same prize for Moonlight. The supporting actress prize went to a popular choice in If Beale Street Could Talk’s Regina King, though I for one thought this – and not leading actress – might be the category to result in an upset. Spike Lee all but leapt on to presenter Samuel L Jackson when he won his first competitive Oscar for scripting BlacKkKlansman, before voicing a choice expletive that must have sent American broadcasters into a tizzy.

Three separate wins, including a second Oscar for directing to follow his earlier one for Gravity, allowed Roma’s magnificent begetter Alfonso Cuarón (pictured left) to pay tribute to the Mexico from which he and his film sprang while also alluding to Billy Wilder and Howard Hawks: clearly no borders exist in creative terms for him. Amusingly his young son was glimpsed yawning on more than one occasion.

And for all that Lady Gaga has long been thought to be a study in self-fabrication, the actress-singer provided the most movingly intimate, unscripted sequence of the night. Seen performing alongside her Star is Born co-star and director, Bradley Cooper, on the song “Shallow” that went on to win the Oscar, Gaga stepped directly out of the audience and on to the stage, positioning herself at the piano to join Cooper on a duet delivered directly from the heart, as was her acceptance speech minutes later.

In context, it seemed unsurprising in due course when Colman capped her own speech by looking at fellow nominee Gaga in amazement as if she didn’t quite know what to say. “Being here doesn’t get old,” Cuarón remarked during his third visit to the podium, and the enthusiasm communicated by the likes of him, Colman, Lee, and Gaga made an annual event fast approaching its 100th birthday seem – dare one say it – forever young.

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