The best and worst night in film finally arrived, with the annual Academy Awards held on the 24th of February. At its best, the Oscars are ultimately a night to celebrate the best in film, so let’s start positive. In Oscar’s history only three black women have won an award for anything other than acting, and two of them were this year, with Black Panther winning Best Costume Design and Best Production Design. In another win for black talent, Spike Lee finally got a non-honorary Oscar, and Samuel L Jackson’s reaction to announcing his name was ecstatic. Seeing the legendary director jump on the actor in celebration was a high point of the night. The academy were very strict with cutting people off after 90 seconds, but when Spike Lee tells you ‘Do not turn that motherfucking clock on’, you listen.
Surprising nobody, A Star Is Born took home Best Original Song for ‘Shallow’, and Lady Gaga and Bradley Cooper delivered the best performance of the night in their performance of it. The chemistry between the pair is so strong it borders on uncomfortable, especially knowing that Bradley Cooper’s wife Irina Shayk was watching in the audience. In an actual surprise, Olivia Colman took home Best Actress for her role in The Favourite, making Glen Close a record holder for the most times an actress has been nominated for an award without winning. Colman’s co-star Emma Stone and her husband were both in tears as she delivered the best acceptance speech of the night, addressing how we have all dreamed of our own Oscar’s attendance speech, and ending with the immortal words “Ooh Lady Gaga.”
Now onto the bad; Bohemian Rhapsody, a critically panned film, directed by an accused paedophile, wins Best Editing, Best Sound Design and Sound Editing, and Best Actor. Rami Malek’s Best Actor acceptance speech may be one of the weaker parts of the night, to win an award for portraying a man who died before his time due to Aids and not to mention Freddie Mercury by name, or the disease that took him, is odd. Especially compared to the previous night’s Independent Spirit Awards, where Richard E Grant dedicated his award to ‘that generation of men that were wiped out by that disease’, it is clear that Malek could and should do better. In an awards season punctuated by the Bohemian Rhapsody cast either refusing to address questions about their director, Bryan Singer, or defending their right to work with a paedophile, it may come as slight cathartic to see that Malek did at least fall off the stage.
Finally, the downright ugly; Green Book wins Best Picture. A surprise win, and maybe the most embarrassing Best Picture win since Crash in 2005. When the win was announced, Spike Lee was spotted trying to walk out of the theatre, and later commented that ‘the ref made a bad call’. Like Bohemian Rhapsody, Green Book’s award run has been stalked by controversy, including Viggo Mortensen saying the n-word at a screening, and the family of Don Shirley openly condemning the film, causing Mahershala Ali to call them personally to apologise. Writer Nick Vallengona semi-addressed this in the post-show press conference, stating he didn’t realise that Shirley had any remaining family, which reads more as laziness on his part rather than a reasonable excuse. The best encapsulation of this film would be their acceptance speech, where there were three black people on stage, not talking, in a film supposedly about racism and violence against black people. In this case, I agree with Spike Lee, definitely a ‘bad call’, in what I’m sure will be an embarrassment for the academy for years to come.
Film is of course subjective, and award season highlights this, with the Oscars only ever celebrating a tiny fraction of film. It is telling that no female directors were nominated this year, in a year of Lynne Ramsay’s You Were Never Really Here and Marielle Heller’s Can You Ever Forgive Me? this is inexcusable. But hey, at least the director of Dumb and Dumber is now an Oscar winner.