2019 Oscars Sparks Criticism and Praise

Lulu Gebbie, Contributor

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There were eight nominees for best picture award at the 91st Oscars, each different in its own way. The entire award show hosted much more diversity in winners and nominees than ever before – a superhero movie about a black king was nominated for best picture, a documentary about menstruation won an academy award, and a black and white film entirely in Spanish received ten nominations. Yet with eight choices to award the coveted title of Best Picture, the academy somehow chose the worst nominated film.

Green Book is Driving Ms. Daisy reversed, a black concert pianist is driven in the South by a white chauffeur who acts as his white savior. It’s a watered-down feel good movie for white audiences.

Spike Lee tried to leave the theater when Green Book was announced the winner for the most coveted prize of the night. The winner for best adapted screenplay for BlackKklansman and loyal Mets fan commented, “I thought I was courtside at the Garden. The ref made a bad call.”

The bottom line is Hollywood loves themselves. They award anything that puts themselves in a good light. In 2016, a LA Times article exposed The Academy of Motion Arts and Pictures was 91 percent white and 76 percent male. The academy appoints members for life who decide which films have the highest designation of film honor. Green Book appealed to this demographic and made them walk out of the theater feeling a little less guilty for being a white man. Let’s face it – that’s what movies are for, really good ones can be an escape from reality and transport the audience to another era. But phenomenal, Oscar worthy contenders should do these things and challenge the audience to think critically about the subject. Not all of the Best Picture nominees did this, but more than one did. Green Book was not one of them.

The Best Picture award is the highest honor of the night and awards the most exceptional film from the prior year. Black Panther was the first superhero movie nominated for this category and deservedly so. The outstanding film incorporated phenomenal costume and set design, a futuristic soundtrack to match the storyline, and a plot that was challenging and exciting.

This unique Marvel edition sets itself apart from other films in the Marvel universe and in the Best Picture category. Like other great movies, the audience was transported into Wakanda and more importantly believed it was real. Unlike other superhero movies, Black Panther was action packed and grappled with modern issues that all nations deal with, not just one whose king is a superhero.

The only person happy about the award is Kevin Hart who finally has a target off his back.

Two days after Kevin Hart was announced to host the award show, his homophobic tweets from the past decade resurfaced and went viral. On January 11, 2011, he tweeted:

Following the discovery of these tweets, Hart refused to apologize again for his tweets costing him the coveted position to host the award show

The dust began to settle around Hart while the anticipation of a new host began to rise. On February 5th, the Academy announced that there would be no host and the presenters would carry the show. The public was weary about this announcement. The iconic awards show has had a host for the past thirty years. The exclusivity of the show is fostered by an a-list celebrity headlining the night.

The decision to go hostless turned out to be a good idea. Ratings were up from previous years and the host vacancy was filled with a gamut of well-known presenters. A different high profile celebrity introduced each best picture nominated film which added freshness and excitement throughout the show.

Tina Fey, Amy Poehler, and Maya Rudolph were the first presenters after an exhilarating performance from Adam Lambert and Queen. The comedians set the stage for a more laid back evening than the usual uptight, prestigious, and lengthy evening. They teased the nominees, the academy, and made light of political issues, hitting the mark perfectly. Maya Rudolph joked, “Don’t worry Bradley Cooper, after four kids, I, too have peed myself at the Grammys,” in reference to his portrayal in A Star is Born. Their two minute banter was the perfect amount of time to keep the audience engaged.

Other highlights of the night included Spike Lee’s acceptance speech for best adapted screenplay. His ecstatic celebration with presenter Samuel L. Jackson was felt through the TV screen. Trevor Noah introduced Black Panther to the audience with jokes about his childhood in Africa and the infamous “Wakanda Forever” phrase. He ended his introduction with of the thoughtful Xhosa phrase that he translated for the audience, “In times like these, we are stronger when we fight together than when we try to fight apart.” However, Twitter and Noah got the last laugh after translating the phrase to “White people have no idea I’m lying.” Lady Gaga and Bradley Cooper performed a show stopping version of their hit “Shallow” from the emotional drama, A Star is Born, which completely captivated the audience.  

The 2019 Oscars were bittersweet. The diversity and format of the night provided a much needed and refreshing take the audience didn’t know they needed. Despite the welcome changes, the academy never walks away a complete winner. This year’s show exemplified the progress the Academy is making, but they still have a long way to go.