Five hard truths (and five silver linings) we came to live with at the 2019 Oscars

Joshua Rothkopf
Written by
Joshua Rothkopf

Hard truths? Why the frowny face? Adam Lambert sang with members of Queen. “Shallow” sounded like the “Shallow” we all wanted to hear. Gaga did the wooh-ohhh thing. It brought down the house.

Still, some of these winners stung. Names not read stung even more. And the disparity between expectations and reality was wider than ever. Here’s why this year’s Oscars felt like such a heartbreaker:

1. Glenn Close does not win Oscars. Though widely seen as a shoo-in this year, she didn’t win for The Wife, nor did she win for performances in such classics as Dangerous Liaisons, The World According to Garp or Fatal Attraction. Close and Amy Adams (now a six-time nominee without gold) will have the last laugh, by outplaying their competition to the bitter end.

(Silver lining: The Favourite’s Olivia Colman is a worthy winner and you’ll want to get to know her before the forthcoming season of Netflix’s The Crown.)

2. No foreign-language film has ever won Best Picture. Fellini, Bergman, Kurosawa, Renoir—none of these giants ever won the Oscars’ biggest prize. So why did we allow ourselves to believe that Roma (shot in black-and-white with no recognizable stars) was going to triumph? It was wishful thinking taken to extremes.

(Silver lining: Writer-director Alfonso Cuarón became the first filmmaker in history to win a cinematography Oscar for shooting his own film. His acceptance speeches spoke to inclusiveness and diversity.)

3. Green Book connects in a mysterious way. Critics were incensed that the movie ended up at the podium at the end of the night winning Best Picture. In a deeper sense, Green Book’s simplistic both-sides-ish racial politics made it feel Trumpian and insensitive to a great many viewers.

(Silver lining: Spike Lee, no stranger to awards “robbery,” finally won his first competitive Oscar for co-adapting the screenplay for BlacKkKlansman.)

4. Truth isn’t so important if you’re good at karaoke. That might sound harsh in reference to Rami Malik’s Oscar-winning turn as Freddie Mercury in Bohemian Rhapsody, but for a biopic about a glamorous dreamer who broke all the rules, the film plays it depressingly safe, avoiding the realities of Mercury’s illness and debauchery. Still, audiences loved it.

(Silver lining: Free Solo, a documentary about dangerous rock climbing—and the ethics of filming it—was honored for its complex truth-telling.)

5. Hollywood will dodge honoring even its most important legends. Stanley Donen, codirector of the mighty Singin’ in the Rain, died only days ago, but how hard would it have been to add a clip to the end of the memorial reel? Too hard, evidently. The omission revealed a pettiness on the part of the show’s producers, who refused to improvise.

(Silver lining: They did walk back their earlier bad decision, airing all 24 categories and allowing for some choice moments.)

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