20 Best, Worst and Most WTF Oscars 2019 Moments – Rolling Stone
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20 Best, Worst and Most WTF Oscars 2019 Moments

From some truly history-making wins to the wrong movie winning Best Picture — the highs, lows and genuine headscratchers of the 2019 Academy Awards

THE OSCARS® - The 91st Oscars® broadcasts live on Sunday, Feb. 24, 2019, at the Dolby Theatre® at Hollywood & Highland Center® in Hollywood and will be televised live on The ABC Television Network at 8:00 p.m. EST/5:00 p.m. PST. (ABC/Ed Herrera)LADY GAGA, BRADLEY COOPER

Lady Gaga and Bradley Cooper perform a scorching version the 'Star Is Born' hit "Shallow" — a highlight of the 2019 Oscars.

Ed Herrera/ABC

Well, we’ll say one thing for this year’s Oscars: They were pretty quick — like ripping-off-a-Band-Aid kind of quick. But is anything truly painless in the year of our Lord 2019? For the first time in 30 years, the Academy Awards ceremony found itself sans emcee after intended host Kevin Hart stepped down in a storm of controversy earlier this winter. The lack of host made for a swifter night by far — the credits ran well before midnight — but it also made for a ceremony that felt a little disjointed and incoherent.

As for the awards themselves, the night’s two big winners — Green Book, which won Best Picture, and Bohemian Rhapsody, which took home the most statuettes — were alike mired in controversy: two films based on true stories with iffy relationships to the truth of their subject matters, each with directors who have had sexual misconduct allegations leveled against them. (That, and neither of them are particularly good movies. Yeah, we said it.)

Still, Oscars night was far from all bad. Black Panther‘s costume and production designers were the first African-American women to win in their respective categories; Alfonso Cuarón’s masterful Roma nabbed well-deserved accolades, including Best Director; Spike Lee finally won the Oscar he should’ve gotten decades ago; and first-time nominee Olivia Colman won Best Actress for The Favourite in a joyous upset. In other news, Chris Evans was a total mensch, Keegan-Michael Key flew in on an umbrella and did you hear Lady Gaga hit those high notes on “Shallow” from A Star Is Born? Read on for our rundown of the best, worst and WTFs of the 91st Annual Academy Awards.

HOLLYWOOD, CA - FEBRUARY 24:  In this handout provided by A.M.P.A.S., Oscar decor is seen during the 91st Annual Academy Awards at the Dolby Theatre on February 24, 2019 in Hollywood, California.  (Photo by Matt Petit - Handout/A.M.P.A.S. via Getty Images)

Matt Petit - Handout/A.M.P.A.S./Getty Images

Best: Hosts? We Don’t Need Hosts

The Kevin Hart fiasco and the inability to find a replacement became a blessing in disguise for the telecast. With rare exceptions, Oscar hosts tend to take more off the table than they add, and even the good ones eat up valuable time that would otherwise be spent honoring the nominees and winners. Maya Rudolph, Tina Fey and Amy Poehler’s compressed version of what this year’s Jimmy might have tried got well-deserved laughs, but when they were done, the show felt lighter, relieved of the burden to keep going back to them or anyone else. As a result, the emphasis was on the winners, the proceedings moved briskly, fewer honorees got played off by the orchestra and things still ended close to on time. As various presenters scored with their banter, Twitter lit up with “They should host next year’s Oscars!” But this year’s show was an indication that maybe the Oscars should never have a host again. AS

THE OSCARS® - The 91st Oscars® broadcasts live on Sunday, Feb. 24, 2019, at the Dolby Theatre® at Hollywood & Highland Center® in Hollywood and will be televised live on The ABC Television Network at 8:00 p.m. EST/5:00 p.m. PST. (ABC/Craig Sjodin)JULIA ROBERTS

Craig Sjodin/ABC

Worst: Actually, Some Hosts Might Have Been Nice…

Let’s make one thing clear: Having no host at all is better than having Kevin Hart host, who responded to a series of homophobic tweets being unearthed with apologies so hollow you could practically hear an echo. But it would’ve been nice if the Academy had found somebody to take up Master-of-Ceremonies duty for the big night. (Given Julia Roberts’ graceful Best Pic presentation, maybe the Pretty Woman star wants to take up the mantle next year?) A good awards-show host gives shape and coherence — and yeah, a little bit of flavor — to what can easily become a repetitious evening of nominee announcements and speeches. A host is the comma in the run-on sentence, the cuckoo in the clock, the cigarette break between work shifts. [Editor’s note: Don’t smoke, kids!] The hosting gig might be a thankless one, but honestly? We didn’t realize how much we missed those wonky little bits between Hollywood self-congratulation sessions until they were gone. JS

THE OSCARS® - The 91st Oscars® broadcasts live on Sunday, Feb. 24, 2019, at the Dolby Theatre® at Hollywood & Highland Center® in Hollywood and will be televised live on The ABC Television Network at 8:00 p.m. EST/5:00 p.m. PST. (ABC/Craig Sjodin)MAYA RUDOLPH, TINA FEY, AMY POEHLER

Craig Sjodin/ABC

Best: Maya, Tina and Amy’s Fake Hosting Gig (That Should’ve Been Real)

Maya Rudolph, Tina Fey and Amy Poehler strutted out onstage near the top of the show, and … wait, were we getting hosts after all? No dice, but we did get one of the highlights of the evening. “Good evening and welcome to the one millionth Academy Awards!” Fey quipped. “We are not your hosts, but we’ll stand here a little too long so the people who get USA Today tomorrow will think that we hosted.” The SNL alums gave us a tasting menu of what their hosting job would have looked like, with one-liners about Fyre Festival cheese sandwiches, Bradley Cooper wetting his pants, Trump’s dumb wall and, yes, a Wakanda pun. Fey and Poehler’s Golden Globes hosting stints are the stuff of legend; along with last year’s Emmys, this now marks the second time Rudolph has fake-hosted an awards show. Can all of them please just do it for real next time? JS

A mock up of the stage designed by David Korins, Production Designer for the 91st Oscars.91st Annual Academy Awards, Press Day, Los Angeles, USA - 20 Feb 2019

Michael Buckner/Variety/REX/Shutterstock

WTF: That Oddly Sinister Set Design

The 2018 Academy Awards set was so pointy and unnavigable that we wonder if some producer gave the note: “No sharp edges next year!” However it came to be, the sinuous, poufy golden proscenium arch resembled nothing so much as a King Kong-sized version of Donald Trump’s hair. On the stage itself, the curving lines had a pleasingly topographical effect — but the big, blond waves looming overhead were downright sinister. And then there were the oversized red statuettes placed here and there, giving the impression that they’d been drenched in the blood of sacrificed nominees. Here’s hoping that the 2020 Oscars stage won’t look like it’s ready to eat the winners alive. JS

Alfonso Cuaron, (Best Directing: Roma)91st Annual Academy Awards press room at the Dolby Theater in Hollywood, California on February 24, 2019. (Photo credit should read P. Lehman / Barcroft Images / Barcroft Media via Getty Images)

P. Lehman / Barcroft Images / Barcroft Media/Getty Images

Oscars Best: Best: ‘Roma’ Gets (Some of) the Honor It Deserves

With a deeply felt connection to its subject matter, an incredible first performance by Yalitza Aparicio and a handful of shots that look like living paintings, Roma is one of the best films of the century, let alone of 2019. Alfonso Cuarón’s semi-autobiographical masterwork won in three major categories: Foreign Language Film, Cinematography and Director (though not, alas, Best Picture). Over the course of his three speeches, Cuarón paid tribute to his love of cinema (namechecked: Claude Chabrol, Billy Wilder, Jaws) and thanked the Academy for “recognizing a film centered around an indigenous woman.” In his Best Director address, Cuarón offered the evening’s most profound takeaway: “As artists, our job is to look where others don’t. This responsibility becomes even more important at times when we are told to look away.” JS

Peter Farrelly, center, and the cast and crew of "Green Book" accept the award for best picture at the Oscars, at the Dolby Theatre in Los Angeles91st Academy Awards - Show, Los Angeles, USA - 24 Feb 2019

Chris Pizzello/Invision/AP/REX/Shutterstock

Worst: ‘Green Book’ Wins Best Picture

That collective groan you heard at 11:15 p.m. ET was the sound of movie fans around the world reacting to this reductive, retrograde buddy movie taking home the Best Picture award. There was considerable backlash against the film, both from moveigoers looking for a more nuanced take on race relations and from the family of Don Shirley (played by Mahershala Ali), who disputed the movie’s characterization of the classical pianist as a man out of touch with the black community. But it picked up steam throughout awards season, leading to a sense of dread that it would prevail over the category’s bolder offerings. And in a tone-deaf move that served to underscore the film’s dated depiction of racism viewed from a white man’s perspective, director Peter Farrelly (white dude) began his acceptance speech by saying that the film wouldn’t have existed without Viggo Mortensen (white dude). None of the producers thanked Shirley. MF

THE OSCARS® - The 91st Oscars® broadcasts live on Sunday, Feb. 24, 2019, at the Dolby Theatre® at Hollywood & Highland Center® in Hollywood and will be televised live on The ABC Television Network at 8:00 p.m. EST/5:00 p.m. PST. (ABC/Craig Sjodin)OLIVIA COLMAN

Craig Sjodin/ABC

Best: Long Live the Queen (and Best Actress Winner) Olivia Colman

We’ve been itching to hear another lovely, endearing Olivia Colman speech ever since she won a Golden Globe last month … but we didn’t think we’d get it so soon. Her win for The Favourite was anything but a shoo-in; Glenn Close was so favored to take home the award for The Wife that she even dressed like an Oscar. It was the biggest surprise of the night. “Oooh, it’s genuinely quite stressful. This is hilarious. I got an Oscar!” a gobsmacked Colman began. She also gets credit for being the first Oscar winner to apologize to Glenn Close and blow a raspberry in the same speech. Long live the queen. JS

THE OSCARS® - The 91st Oscars® broadcasts live on Sunday, Feb. 24, 2019, at the Dolby Theatre® at Hollywood & Highland Center® in Hollywood and will be televised live on The ABC Television Network at 8:00 p.m. EST/5:00 p.m. PST. (ABC/Ed Herrera)LADY GAGA, BRADLEY COOPER

Ed Herrera/ABC

Best: That Insanely Hot ‘Shallow’ Performance

People throw around the phrase “our next performers need no introduction,” but last night it proved true. Oscars producers knew there was so much anticipation for Lady Gaga and Bradley Cooper’s duet of “Shallow,” their monster ballad (and eventual Best Song winner) from A Star Is Born, they cut right to the chase. Crew members were hustling to set up a piano and stool as the song’s first notes were strummed from the orchestra pit. Then Gaga and Coops casually walked to the stage from their front-row seats — and proceeded to blow everyone away with a performance dripping in chemistry and emotional intensity. They sang the final lines seated on Gaga’s piano bench with their foreheads touching, as if they were alone at home … not, say, in front of hundreds of Hollywood’s biggest stars and millions of viewers around the world. How they were not ferociously making out at the end of it is a mystery to us all. MF

THE OSCARS® - The 91st Oscars® broadcasts live on Sunday, Feb. 24, 2019, at the Dolby Theatre® at Hollywood & Highland Center® in Hollywood and will be televised live on The ABC Television Network at 8:00 p.m. EST/5:00 p.m. PST. (ABC/Craig Sjodin)QUEEN, ADAM LAMBERT

Craig Sjodin/ABC

Worst: Queen’s Opening Number Did Not Rock Us

The last time the Oscars were hostless in 1989, the opening number was a 12-minute-long travesty that went down in infamy. But what we wouldn’t give for such an ambitious shitshow rather than the boringness we got, in which the remaining members of Queen — plus American Idol runner-up Adam Lambert — performed abridged versions of the band’s two most basic songs: “We Will Rock You” and “We Are the Champions.” It felt less like a tribute to the late, legendary Freddie Mercury than a not-so-subtle announcement of the Academy’s favoritism toward Bohemian Rhapsody above the other nominees. Between this and the thousands of times that “Bohemian Rhapsody” guitar solo played on the speakers throughout the night, the 2019 Oscars almost made us hate Queen. And we freakin’ love Queen! JS

THE OSCARS® - The 91st Oscars® broadcasts live on Sunday, Feb. 24, 2019, at the Dolby Theatre® at Hollywood & Highland Center® in Hollywood and will be televised live on The ABC Television Network at 8:00 p.m. EST/5:00 p.m. PST. (ABC/Craig Sjodin)CHARLIE WACHTEL, SPIKE LEE, DAVID RABINOWITZ, KEVIN WILLMOTT

Craig Sjodin/ABC

Best: Spike Lee Finally Wins

Before presenting the Best Adapted Screenplay award, Samuel L. Jackson had some fun at the expense of his good buddy Spike Lee by pointing out that Lee’s beloved Knicks had just ended an 18-game home losing streak. Moments later, Jackson announced the end of a much longer and more frustrating streak: the Academy’s failure to award Lee an Oscar in competition. (He won an honorary award in 2015.) Lee — who literally leapt into Jackson’s arms when he reached the stage — was bleeped before his speech even began, reportedly for ordering producers not to turn the “motherfucking” clock on, then launched into a passionate story of how his family went from slavery to the Oscar stage within four generations. He ended by exhorting the audience to vote in the next presidential election, referencing the film for which he should have won an Oscar close to 30 years ago: “Let’s do the right thing! You know I had to get that in there.” AS

Barbra Streisand91st Annual Academy Awards, Show, Los Angeles, USA - 24 Feb 2019

Rob Latour/REX/Shutterstock

Best: Babs Steps Out for ‘BlacKkKlansman’

What could get the reclusive Barbra Streisand to leave her Malibu mansion and step onto a global stage again? A groovy movie about a black police detective and his Jewish colleague infiltrating the KKK of course! When the two-time Academy Award winner took the stage to introduce the nominated BlacKkKlansman, the audience leapt to its feet, stunned. Their surprise turned to delight as Streisand launched into a passionate pitch for the film (“It was so real, so funny and yet so horrifying”) and engaged in some chummy banter with its director, Spike Lee, from the stage. Explaining the friendship that developed after she’d tweeted her compliments about the film, she said to laughs, “The conversation was very easy because we’re both from Brooklyn.” Then, pointing to her sparkly beret, she added, “And we both love hats.” Can someone please write this buddy movie? JP

THE OSCARS® - The 91st Oscars® broadcasts live on Sunday, Feb. 24, 2019, at the Dolby Theatre® at Hollywood & Highland Center® in Hollywood and will be televised live on The ABC Television Network at 8:00 p.m. EST/5:00 p.m. PST. (ABC/Craig Sjodin)MELISSA MCCARTHY, BRIAN TYREE HENRY

Craig Sjodin/ABC

Best: Melissa McCarthy and Brian Tyree Henry in Costume

Sure, having the presenters for the costume award come out wearing ridiculous costumes is a pretty stock bit. But Melissa McCarthy and Brian Tyree Henry’s over-the-top get-ups — mostly referencing The Favourite and Mary Queen of Scots, with nods to Mary Poppins and Black Panther too — made them the night’s most memorable presenters. Both actors completely committed to the bit, playing it utterly deadpan and trusting that the outfits would generate all the laughs that were necessary. More importantly, though, there were the copious stuffed rabbits covering McCarthy’s dress and train. Even if you hadn’t seen The Favourite and understood the prominence of rabbits in the story of Queen Anne, that one of them was made into a hand puppet for McCarthy took the absurdity to another level — and went even further when she had difficulty opening the envelope because of that fuzzy little bunny. AS

Rami Malek91st Annual Academy Awards, Governors Ball, Los Angeles, USA - 24 Feb 2019

Michael Buckner/REX/Shutterstock

Worst: ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’ Takes Four Categories

The Queen biopic has been an awards season juggernaut, with Rami Malek sweeping the best actor categories for his portrayal of Freddie Mercury, so it was little surprise that he nabbed that award. But Bohemian Rhapsody’s wins for Film Editing, Sound Editing and Sound Mixing had even casual movie fans rioting on Twitter. Adding a queasy note was the elephant in the room: The film’s director, Bryan Singer, was fired before it wrapped and now faces several sexual misconduct allegations. No one had the guts to address the issue in their acceptance speeches, including composer and editor John Ottman, who’s worked with Singer on numerous films going as far back as 1995. Ottman instead quoted Mercury’s parents from the film: “Good thoughts, good words, good deeds.” No, good night. JP

Chris Pizzello/Invision/AP/REX/Shutterstock

WTF: Wayne and Garth Do Black Tie

It felt like an endearingly nostalgic conceit to have Mike Myers and Dana Carvey introduce the Best Picture montage for Bohemian Rhapsody. Their singalong to the title tune in the first Wayne’s World movie helped maintain the omnipresence of the song (and of Queen) in the years after Freddie Mercury’s death. But it already felt awkward to have the duo reprise their roles as Wayne and Garth at the SNL 40th anniversary back in 2015, when they were at least wearing the familiar wigs and wardrobe. Asking them to do the voices and recite the old catchphrases while looking like two aging rich guys in tuxedos was the kind of thing Wayne and Garth would have eagerly mocked back in their public access days. AS

Regina King91st Annual Academy Awards, Press Room, Los Angeles, USA - 24 Feb 2019

Lexie Moreland/WWD/REX/Shutterstock

Best: Regina King Wins for ‘If Beale Street Could Talk’

We’re still baffled that the lush, heartbreaking If Beale Street Could Talk wasn’t nominated in more major categories — for example, Best Picture. But at least the unstoppable Regina King took the Best Supporting Actress prize for her turn as the film’s fierce matriarch. Helped onto the stage by a gentlemanly Chris Evans, King gave a moving speech dedicated to director/screenwriter Barry Jenkins and author James Baldwin, who penned the novel the movie was based on. “I’m an example of what it looks like when support and love is poured into someone,” King said, drawing attention to the vital fact that no one, in Hollywood or otherwise, rises up alone. After more than three decades of powerful work onscreen, she has more than earned it. JS

Ruth E. Carter accepts the award for best costume design for "Black Panther" at the Oscars, at the Dolby Theatre in Los Angeles91st Academy Awards - Show, Los Angeles, USA - 24 Feb 2019

Chris Pizzello/Invision/AP/REX/Shutterstock

Best: Historic Costume, Production Design Wins for ‘Black Panther’

When it comes to design, the Marvel superhero film arguably had a more ambitious task than any other nominated film. The creative team had to build Wakanda from scratch, drawing on African cultural influences while creating something entirely new. Costume designer Ruth E. Carter and production designer Hannah Beachler earned wins in their respective categories, and they were the first black women to in history to do so. They also gave two of the night’s most heartfelt speeches: Carter thanked longtime collaborator Spike Lee for giving her her start and spoke of using costume design to turn Marvel’s first black superhero into “an African king”; in a teary address, Beachler paid tribute to Black Panther director Ryan Coogler. “I did my best,” she declared, “and my best is good enough.” It certainly is. JS

THE OSCARS® - The 91st Oscars® broadcasts live on Sunday, Feb. 24, 2019, at the Dolby Theatre® at Hollywood & Highland Center® in Hollywood and will be televised live on The ABC Television Network at 8:00 p.m. EST/5:00 p.m. PST. (ABC/Craig Sjodin)LAURA DERN

Craig Sjodin/ABC

Worst: That In-Show Academy Museum Ad

Listen, there are some basic rules of respect you have to follow when you’re dealing with a cool and powerful legend like (two-time Oscar nominee!) Laura Dern. Rule number one is: Don’t use Laura Dern to do free marketing for you. Laura Dern has better things to do with her time than stride out to the Jurassic Park theme only to deliver what amounts to a glorified advertisement for the Academy Museum of Motion Pictures, the AMPAS organization’s future L.A. exhibition space. And look, she did a great job delivering boardroom-penned lines like “The dream is a reality!” and “Enter the technicolor land of Oz!” and “Coming soon!” like a champ, because she’s Laura Fucking Dern. But really? Geez. JS

For editorial use only, no marketing or advertising is permitted without the prior consent of A.M.P.A.S.Mandatory Credit: Photo by Matt Petit/A.M.P.A.S./REX/Shutterstock (10112936ir)Awkwafina and John Mulaney91st Annual Academy Awards, Backstage, Los Angeles, USA - 24 Feb 2019

Matt Petit/A.M.P.A.S./REX/Shutterstock

Best: Presenter Duos Doing It Right

Melissa McCarthy and Brian Tyree Henry may have stolen the show as the most committed pair of the night, but there were plenty of inspired mash-ups that kept the evening from sucking. When Helen Mirren and Jason Momoa presented the documentary award, the British actress was tickled that the towering hunk next to her was also wearing shades of pink. Awkwafina and John Mulaney were deliciously awkward together and even coined a catchphrase: “It’s a big one!” Mulaney cracked as they presented Best Animated Short and Documentary Short. Sarah Paulson and Paul Rudd served up their own humble pie as they explained the power of visual effects. “This is the kind of magic that allows the audience to believe that I was actually obliterated by a truck in Bird Box,” she began. “And the same kind of magic that allows an audience to believe that I am an actor,” Rudd quipped. Score another victory for the host-free setup. JP

Bob Persichetti, Peter Ramsey, Rodney Rothman, Phil Lord and Christopher Miller - Animated Feature - 'Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse'91st Annual Academy Awards, Press Room, Los Angeles, USA - 24 Feb 2019

Christopher Polk/REX/Shutterstock

Best: ‘Spider-Verse’ Wins Best Animated Feature

As producer Christopher Miller relayed, 800 filmmakers were the power behind the culturally groundbreaking  Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse — and with its singular visual aesthetics and a multifaceted Afro-Latino protagonist, the animated movie offered a sui generis take on what it means to be a superhero. To wit: Anyone can be Spider-Man, not just the white dude who started doing the web-slinging back in 1962. “When we hear that somebody’s kid was watching the movie and turned to them and said, ‘He looks like me,’ or ‘They speak Spanish like us’ … we feel like we already won,” cowriter Phil Lord said in his speech. It felt like a victory for many, not just those few folks onstage. JS

Melissa Berton, Rayka Zehtabchi. Melissa Berton, left, and Rayka Zehtabchi accept the award for best documentary short subject for "Period. End of Sentence." at the Oscars, at the Dolby Theatre in Los Angeles91st Academy Awards - Show, Los Angeles, USA - 24 Feb 2019

Chris Pizzello/Invision/AP/REX/Shutterstock

Best: “I Can’t Believe a Film About Menstruation Just Won an Oscar!”

In a sign of progress for all, the Documentary Short winner Period. End of Sentence. — which began as an effort by L.A. students to help fund sanitary pads for girls in the developing world who are otherwise kept out of school while they’re menstruating — had women talking about one of the world’s most taboo topics from one of the world’s biggest stages. “I’m not crying because I’m on my period or anything … I can’t believe a film about menstruation just won an Oscar!” said 25-year-old director Rayka Zehtabchi to laughs and cheers from the audience. Producer Melissa Berton called back to the Netflix doc’s tagline to close out the acceptance speech: “A period should end a sentence, not a girl’s education.” Right on. MF

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