The 91st Academy Awards today threw up several surprises and upsets as well as some reasons for cheer – and the resultant emotional upheaval played out on social media.
The Best Picture win for Peter Farrelly’s Green Book, which had been dogged by multiple controversies in the run-up to the Oscars, left many stunned. Farrelly’s comedy-drama, based on true events, follows black pianist Don Shirley and his Italian-American driver-bodyguard Tony Vallelonga as they go on a road trip to the racially segregated American South in the 1960s. “Remember when Green Book won Best Picture? Man, that choice did not age well,” a Twitter user said, reflecting a sentiment shared by many.
The Green Book surprise was the crowning glory of an Oscars ceremony preceded by a string of controversies. Farrelly’s movie, starring Viggo Mortensen and Mahershala Ali, was nominated alongside Alfonso Cuaron’s Roma, Adam McKay’s Vice, Ryan Coogler’s Black Panther, Spike Lee’s BlackKkKlansman, Bradley Cooper’s A Star Is Born, Yorgos Lanthimos’s The Favourite and Bryan Singer and Graham King’s Bohemian Rhapsody. Of these, Roma was widely perceived as the forerunner, while The Favourite was another strong contender.
The 91st Academy Awards were held in Los Angeles on Sunday evening (Monday morning in India).
Green Book was a commercial success but opened to mixed reviews, with some critics saying its examination of racism barely scratched the surface and others saying it fell prey to the “white saviour” narrative. Soon after the film’s release, the family of pianist Don Shirley (played by Mahershala Ali) said they had not been consulted on the project and that the film portrayed him inaccurately. More trouble followed when an old anti-Muslim tweet by Nick Vallelonga, Tony Vallelonga’s son and the film’s co-writer and producer, surfaced online. Then came allegations of past sexual misconduct against director Farrelly, which he apologised for.
The irony of Spike Lee (whose BlackKkKlansman was nominated for Best Picture) losing out to another film about a road trip involving black and white persons after Driving Miss Daisy in 1990 also did not go unnoticed. Lee remarked backstage : “Every time somebody is driving somebody, I lose”. Lee had been nominated for Best Screenplay for Do the Right Thing, but lost to Driving Miss Daisy, which also won Best Picture that year.
Comedian Hari Kondabolu pointed out that Green Book’s win was symptomatic of the Donald Trump era.
Bohemian Rhapsody, the biopic of Queen lead singer Freddie Mercury, had the most wins of the night, including Best Actor for Rami Malek and Oscars for Sound Mixing, Sound Editing and Film Editing categories.
While Malek’s win was expected, many on Twitter were not impressed by Bohemian Rhapsody’s sweep.
Veteran Glenn Close’s snub for Best Actress also upset some fans. With seven nods and zero wins, Close is the most-nominated living actor without an Oscar. Close for nominated for The Wife. The award went to Olivia Colman for Yorgos Lanthimos’s The Favourite.
One anguished fan went on to change Close’s Wikipedia credentials to express their disappointment. The section dedicated to her awards and nominations now says “robbed” next to The Wife.
However, Colman’s delightful off-the-cuff acceptance speech won over many. She began with a nervous laugh, giggled several times along the way and sheepishly acknowledged that she was exceeding her time limit. This was Colman’s first Academy Award and first nomination. The British actress played Anne, the queen of England in the early 18th century, in Lanthimos’s period comedy.
Colman also rooted for her esteemed rival in her speech: “Glenn Close, you have been my idol for so long and this is not how I wanted this to be,” she said, drawing cheers.
The Oscars ceremony also had some bright spots and history-making moments. Hannah Beachler, who won in the Production Design award for Marvel’s Black Panther, became the first African American to win an award in the category. In an emotional speech, she said, “I did my best and my best is good enough.” Many on Twitter, including celebrities, were moved.
South African comedian and political commentator Trevor Noah sneaked in a joke while presenting the montage for Black Panther in the Best Picture category. “Growing up as a young boy in Wakanda, I would see T’Challa flying over our village, and he would remind me of a great Xhosa phrase,” Noah said, mocking people who mistake Wakanda for a real country. He followed that up by explaining the meaning of the phrase in Xhosa, the South African language. “In times like these, we are stronger when we fight together than when we try to fight apart,” he translated.
Zimbabwean TV host Makho Ndlovu was quick to point out the line’s actual translation: “White people don’t know I’m lying.”
Lady Gaga, who won the Best Original Song for Shallow from A Star Is Born, wore her emotions on her sleeve for her first Oscar win. “If you have a dream, fight for it,” she said. “There’s a discipline for passion, and it’s not about how many times you get rejected or you fall down, or you’re beaten up. It’s about how many times you stand up, and are brave, and you keep going.”
Indian co-production Period. End of Sentence won the Academy Award in the Best Documentary (Short Subject) category and Twitter users poured in appreciation for the menstruation docu-short.
This was the first host-less Academy Award ceremony in 30 years – comedian Kevin Hart was chosen for the job but dropped out after old homobhopic tweets of his resurfaced online. An opening monologue of sorts was delivered by Amy Poehler, Maya Rudolph and Tina Fey and some Twitter users wished they had been chosen as the hosts.
Many others preferred the host-free and fast-paced format – the ceremony wrapped in within three hours this year – and some pointed out that this left more room to focus on films and filmmakers.
Priyanka Chopra, who did not attend the Oscars, ticked all the right boxes with her black sheer gown at the Vanity Fair post-event party. Husband Nick Jonas wore a navy blue suit.
On the pre-event red carpet show, musician and actor Billy Porter (Pose) emerged as the star of the night. Porter sashayed onto the red carpet in a flowing tuxedo dress by Christian Siriano.
Singer-songwriter Kacey Musgrave also caught the eye of social media users for her baby pink frilly ensemble. There was praise – and some unflattering comparisons.
Family members of the nominees had their red-carpet moments. Roma lead Yalitza Aparicio, who was nominated for Best Actress, was accompanied by her mother, while the Mexican film’s director Alfonso Cuaron walked onto the red carpet with his children, who used the occasion to photo-bomb their father. Cuaron went on to win three awards, for cinematography, best director and best foreign film.
Javier Bardem’s enthusiastic response to Queen and Adam Lambert’s opening musical act also drew Twitter’s attention. Captain America Chris Evans, meanwhile, won over fans with his chivalry.
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