Well, color me surprised.
After months of controversy and upheaval, the Academy pulled together an Oscars ceremony that was quite good. Despite a hiccup or three, it was a well-paced, somewhat eventful evening that put the focus back on what everyone really cares about: the winners (and losers). In reality, there was nothing especially bad about this year’s Oscars. However, for the sake of a recap, here are the best and relative worst moments from Sunday night.
BEST: Billy Porter on the red carpet
Emmy nominee Billy Porter has been using this awards season as his own personal fashion show, and he pulled out every single stop available on the Oscars red carpet. The Pose star stunned audiences and set Twitter alight early with a voluminous black tuxedo-gown hybrid by designer Christian Siriano. It was a staggering, instantly legendary statement that rendered the rest of the red carpet utterly pointless. If Ryan Murphy isn’t already writing a role for Porter based on this outfit alone, he isn’t doing it right.
WORST: Queen’s not-so-rocking opener
Queen is great. Queen and Adam Lambert are great. Queen and Adam Lambert at the Oscars are…not great. While not technically bad, the much-touted opening number by the legendary band simply didn’t work for the ceremony’s traditional atmosphere (honestly, I don’t think it would’ve even worked for the Grammys). It was a culture clash that threatened a similar tone for the rest of the evening; thankfully the other powerhouse group that is Amy Poehler, Tina Fey and Maya Rudolph set us at ease.
BEST: No Host? No Problem!
Speaking of those three, they went through great pains to assure us they weren’t the night’s surprise hosts. Even if we wanted them to be in the moment, the Oscars proved surprisingly capable without them or anyone as master of ceremonies. Without a hit-or-miss monologue, charming but pointless audience gags, and “real people” segments, this year’s telecast was efficient without being disrespectful of the occasion. They were even able to fit in the requisite clips package. It turns out the Kevin Hart debacle was a blessing in disguise.
BEST: Chris Evans helps Regina King up the stage
If there were any doubt about who was the “best Chris”, Mr. Evans put them to rest when he stood up and assisted Regina King on her way to claim her Oscar for Best Supporting Actress. It’s not the first time Evans revived chivalry (he famously supported Betty White as she accepted a lifetime achievement award at the People Choice Awards), but the image of him lending the nervous King a bent arm and guiding her to her moment of glory was down right irresistible.
BEST: Melissa McCarthy and Brian Tyree Henry present Best Costume Design
Just because there was no host didn’t mean the telecast was a sterile snoozefest. Case in point: Best Actress nominee Melissa McCarthy and Atlanta star Brian Tyree Henry were paired up as presenters of the Best Costume Design trophy, and dressed the part. McCarthy and Henry donned a frightful and hilarious mish-mash of Oscar-nominated garb with the intensity of a veteran thespian. Their dedication – from Henry’s tribal makeup from Black Panther to McCarthy’s seventeen bunnies from The Favourite – was deserving of an Oscar in its own right.
BEST: Lady Gaga and Bradley Cooper’s iconic “Shallow” perfomance
I’m not saying that Lady Gaga and Bradley Cooper are secretly in love, but many people who watched their first televised performance of “Shallow” definitely thought they were. The pair sang their Oscar and Grammy-winning smash bathed in golden brown light around a piano, shot from behind in a callback to A Star is Born. The achingly intimate performance would’ve been the best of the night anyway, but the ending truly launched it into legend, with Gaga and Cooper effectively nuzzling over the song’s final notes and setting social media into an absolute frenzy. Swoon-worthy, stunning uncomfortable, painful for Cooper’s girlfriend and Gaga’s ex-fiancée: however you rendered the performance, it was unforgettable.
WORST: The other Best Original Song performances
To be fair, no one was really watching for anything other than “Shallow”. Still, the promise of a Gaga-Cooper moment (romantic or otherwise) overshadowed the rest of the nominees. The performances ranged in quality, from not good (Jennifer Hudson’s “I’ll Fight”) to pretty good (Bette Midler’s “Where the Lost Ones Go”), but they were largely forgettable.
BEST: Olivia Colman’s speech
In what may be one of the most delightful Oscar upsets ever, Olivia Colman won Best Actress for The Favourite. The saucy British actress appeared in a near-daze upon arriving on stage, and delivered a charming, emotional rambler of a speech that paid tribute to fellow nominees Glenn Close and Lady Gaga, her family, her cast and crew and acknowledged the shock of her win (“This will never happen again,” Colman quipped).
WORST: Glenn Close and Bradley Cooper lose
As phenomenal as Olivia Colman is and truly deserving, one can’t help but feel for Glenn Close, who was once again passed over for an Oscar for her performance in The Wife. After an awards season that seemed like a victory lap for the seven-time nominee, seeing Close nod graciously along during Colman’s speech (while wearing that gold dress, no less) was terribly bittersweet. Joining her in the evening’s big-time loser club was Bradley Cooper, who went home empty-handed for A Star is Born despite receiving multiple nominations. Maybe the two of them can join forces and storm the 2021 Oscars?
BEST: People of color win lots of things
Regina King for Supporting Actress, Mahershala Ali for Supporting Actor, Spike Lee for Adapted Screenplay, Ruth Carter for Costume Design, Hannah Beachler for Production Design, Rami Malek for Actor, Peter Ramsey for Animated Feature; it was an incredible night for people of color, with history being made at nearly every turn. This year’s unprecedented slate of winners of color proved that their stories and their talent are deserving of recognition. While Green Book‘s Best Picture win was an unforced error, this was a night at least headed in the right direction, baby steps and all.