The waiting is over, the votes have been cast, and the awards have been given. So, who were the winners and losers at this year’s Oscar ceremony…
Best Picture is the most prestigious award of all. This year, the field was pretty open, with 8 very diverse nominees. Green Book and Bohemian Rhapsody had already won at the Golden Globes and Roma had won the BAFTA, so both of those films came in with expectations. However, there were also other strong contenders, including Spike Lee’s amazing BlacKkKlansman; Britain’s own fantastic modern twist on the period film genre, The Favourite; and the highly regarded Dick Cheney political biopic, Vice. A Star is Born was a great crowd pleaser, but always unlikely to win in this category, and it was generally thought that Black Panther had already made history just by being nominated (as the first comic book film to be nominated for Best Picture).
In the event, the award for Best Picture went to Green Book, bringing its tally to 3 Oscars in total (Best Film, Best Supporting Actor and Best Original Screenplay) out of 5 nominations received. By any standards, Green Book shook off the accusations of racial insensitivity and won the hearts of the Oscar voters!
All 5 nominees this year were credible potential winners, but the two front runners were definitely Alfonso Cuaron (for Roma) and Spike Lee (for BlacKkKlansman). Cuaron had picked up this award at both the Golden Globes and the Oscars, so he definitely went into the Oscars as the one to beat. However, in any short list that also includes Yorgos Lanthimos (The Favourite), Pawel Pawlikowski (Cold War) and Adam McKay (Vice), there really was no possibility of anyone being a ‘sure thing’!
However, on this occasion, the bookies’ favourite came through, and the award for Best Director went as anticipated to Alfonso Cuaron. Since Roma is such as personal project for Cuaron (’delivering an artful love letter to the women who raised him’) this victory must have special significance for him, even more so than his first Oscar win for Gravity in 2014.
Rami Malek had already won a Golden Globe and a BAFTA for Best Actor in the role of Freddie Mercury in Bohemian Rhapsody, with Christian Bale winning the other Golden Globe. Viggo Mortensen had support for his portrayal in Green Book, and Bradley Cooper had given an impassioned performance in A Star is Born (for which he had learned to play guitar and sing, both to very great effect). Sadly, few people in the UK will have had the opportunity to see Willem Dafoe’s portrayal of Vincent van Gogh in At Eternity’s Gate, which has been unavailable in cinemas or via paying streaming services in the weeks leading up to the Oscars. Surely, a lost opportunity for the film’s producers?
The eventual winner of the prestigious Oscar for Best Actor was Rami Malek, completing his hat-trick of Oscar, Golden Globe and BAFTA awards. Malek comes across as a very sincere young man, and he gave a talented and sensitive portrayal of Freddie Mercury. However, it is a surprise to some critics (myself included) that he has achieved this level of recognition for Bohemian Rhapsody. Much of the praise seems to be reflecting the affection in which the late Freddie Mercury and Queen are held, rather than for Malek’s acting performance. Sadly, Christian Bale’s stellar turn as the extremely unlikeable Don Cheney did not win through this time!
This category, Best Actress, contained the most fiercely contested completion between 2 actresses whose roles could not have been more different: Olivia Coleman in her first ever nomination for the rousing and highly risky performance in the role of a lifetime as Queen Anne in The Favourite versus the elegant Glenn Close, standing in for her seventh Oscar nomination without a win to date for her heartbreakingly restrained and understated role in The Wife.
Who should we have been rooting for? Could this be Olivia’s only chance of Oscar glory? But, on the other hand, how often could poor Glenn Close be overlooked by the Academy, always the bridesmaid and never the bride? In the end, the winner of the Oscar for Best Actress was Olivia Coleman, a fantastic and much-reserved result which surprised many of the audience, including Olivia! She was literally overcome at the result, and endearingly modest and irreverent in her rambling and breathless speech (including making an apology to Glenn Close, her idol).
BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR
This was one of the highest quality categories, with 5 great performances from Mahershala Ali (Green Book), Adam Driver (BlacKkKlansman), Sam Elliot (A Star is Born), Sam Rockwell (Vice), and the inimitable Richard E Grant (Can You Ever Forgive Me?). Any of the nominees would have been a creditable winner (and the charming and self-effacing Richard E Grant would have won any popularity award), but the smart money was always on Mahershala Ali. However, Sam Rockwell made a determined effort to make it ‘2 in a row’ after his win in the same category in last year’s Oscars for his role in Three Billboards Outside Ebbing Missouri, and Adam Driver proved his acting prowess yet again as the Jewish police officer tackling the Klu Klux Klan in BlacKkKlansman. However, once again, Mahershala Ali stood head and shoulders above everyone, and was the recipient of the Oscar for Best Supporting Actor. Mahershala (who had previously described it as the ideal film role) gave a thoughtful speech, wearing a very odd beanie style hat which seemed at odds with his elegant suit. Perhaps Spike Lee’s hat wearing is catching on?
BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS
With no disrespect intended to the amazing work done by Best Supporting Actress nominees Amy Adams (Vice), Emma Stone (The Favourite) and Marin de Tavira (Roma), this category was all about the battle between Regina King (If Beale St Could Talk) and Rachel Weisz (The Favourite). The standard was high, but those two performances stood out.
On the night, Regina King was a popular winner for her role as the mother in If Beale St Could Talk, in which she gave a powerful and moving performance. However, it was very sad to see Rachel Weisz lose out after her fantastic performance in The Favourite.
BEST ADAPTED SCREENPLAY
The Ballad of Buster Scruggs, BlacKkKlansman, Can You Ever Forgive Me, If Beale St Could Talk and A Star is Born were the 5 nominees for this year’s Best Adapted Screenplay Oscar.
Spike Lee, David Rabinowitz , Charlie Watchel, and Kevin Willmott won the Best Adapted Screenplay Oscar for BlacKkKlansman. The reception they received in the room was the most rousing of all, and Spike Lee made a lengthy speech about racial history (after threatening the Oscar authorities not to dare put him ‘on the clock’!). It was his first ever Oscar win (apart from the ‘Honorary’ Oscar award he was given in 2016) so it looked like Spike had kept the speech ready for a very long time!
BEST ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY
The nominees for Best Original Screenplay were The Favourite, Green Book, Roma, Vice, and First Reformed
Nick Vallelonga, Brian Currie and Peter Farrelly won the Oscar for Best Original Screenplay for Green Book. Green Book had received equally strong support for its warmth and humour, and criticism for its light touch handling of the horrific racial background to the story, so there was always a risk that it could go either way. However, the support won through in the end, and this became one of the 3 major awards given to Green Book on the night (Best Film, Best Supporting Actor and Best Original Screenplay).
BEST DOCUMENTARY FEATURE
With the greatest of respect to Fathers and Sons, Mind the Gap and Hale County-This Morning,This Evening, the Documentary Feature category this year was very clearly a two horse race between Free Solo (about free climber Alex Honnold’s attempt to climb the seemingly impossible cliff El Capitan in Yosemite National Park) and RBG (about the life and achievements of the indomitable Ruth Bader Ginsberg, US Supreme Court Judge and legal equality pioneer)
In the event, Free Solo was a very worthy winner for filmmakers Elizabeth Chai Vasarhelyi and Jimmy Chin. It is a stunning film, sponsored by National Geographic, visually brilliant and full of genuine, nail-biting tension. It is also one of the most commercially successful documentary films of all time. The film’s aerial shots were done over years, using mainly professional climbers as cinematographers. (I saw Free Solo in IMax and would recommend that to you if you ever have the chance – it is quite breathtaking, and is exactly the kind of film that IMax excels in). The subject of the film, Alex Honnold, appeared on stage alongside the film makers. Despite coming across as reserved and socially awkward in the film, Honnold has apparently become an in-demand speaker during the award season. And at the end of the day, the technical achievements of this documentary, however exceptional, are dwarfed by the enormity of Honnold’s climbing feat.
BEST FOREIGN LANGUAGE FILM
The Foreign Language films nominated were Roma (Mexico), Capernaum (Lebanon), Cold War (Poland), Never Look Away (Germany), and Shoplifters (Japan).
Not surprisingly, the Oscar for Best Foreign language Film went to Roma, which was also nominated for the more prestigious Best Picture (which it lost out on). Roma had a huge advantage over the other nominated films in terms of reach (via Netflix) and publicity. However, it was a lovely film, and this category (rather than Best Picture) was the right place to recognise it.
BEST ANIMATED FEATURE
Isle of Dogs and Mirai were both interesting nominees for this year’s Best Animated Feature, and Incredibles 2 and Ralph Breaks the Internet were fairly standard Hollywood fare, but most of us thought that there was only one possible winner – Spiderman, Into the Spider-verse. Fortunately, the Academy voters agreed and Bob Persichetti, Peter Ramsey, Rodney Rothman, Phil Lord and Christopher Miller took the 2019 Oscar for Best Animated Feature. This animation was truly innovative in style and presentation, and had a great storyline. It has moved animation forward – what more could we ask of a worthy Oscar winner?
BEST ANIMATED SHORT
It is very difficult for film makers to get coverage and recognition for short animated films, but this year one of the nominees (Bao) was uniquely privileged to get a full global release as an opening feature for Incredible 2. Bao was a very pleasant film, but some of the other nominees (Animal Behaviour, Late Afternoon, One Small Step, and Weekends) deserved more attention. One Small Step was an excellent look at the raltinoship between a high flying daughter and her grounded father, and Weekends was an emotionally powerful look at the impact of divorce on a child, but for me the star was Late Afternoon. This 10 minute animation about a woman with dementia was made by Cartoon Saloon using digital tools to bring to life simple 2D hand-drawn sketches. To be honest, there was more pathos and emotion in the 10 minutes of Late Afternoon than in the majority of full length feature films.
So, I can’t help being a little disappointed that the winners were Dommee Shi and Becky Neiman-Cobb who made Bao for Pixar. It seems like the Academy missed an opportunity to recognise some of the unsung heroes working in the field without the advantages of a huge studio behind them.
BEST DOCUMENTARY SHORT
From a list which also included Black Sheep, A Night at the Garden, Lifeboat and End Game, the Oscar for Best Documentary Short went to Period. End of Sentence (by Rayka Zehtabchi and Melissa Berton). It’s a short film about a largely taboo subject, i.e. the negative impact of menstruation on girls’ education, particularly (but not exclusively) in third world environments. At one point, this worthy winner risked being overshadowed by the performance of the filmmakers. Poor Rayka Zehtabchi gets my ‘award’ for the most embarrassing acceptance speech. (Her crying throughout sounded so fake that I thought at first it was a prank). Oh well, never mind – it was a great documentary, a great cause, and she won. (But it would probably be better to never replay any video recording of the ceremony!)
BEST LIVE ACTION SHORT
Fauve, Marguerite, Mother, Skin and Detainment were the 5 films nominated for Best Live Action Short.
Israeli director Guy Nattiv and his wife Jaime Ray Newman picked up the Oscar for Skin, their Live Action Short. It focuses on the gang warfare which breaks out after a black man smiles at a white child in a supermarket. Nattiv dedicated his award to his grandparents, who were Holocaust survivors.
BEST ORIGINAL FILM SCORE
The nominees for Best Original Film Score were a very diverse group – Black Panther, BlacKkKlansman, If Beale St Could talk, Isle of Dogs, and Mary Poppins Returns.
The Oscar went to Swedish composer Ludwig Goransson for Black Panther. He has written for a number of films and TV series to date, including the Creed films, Venom and Communiy, but Black Panther was his first Oscar nomination.
BEST ORIGINAL SONG
Four of the five nominated songs were performed live on stage at the Oscar ceremony. Jennifer Hudson performed her song I’ll Fight from the documentary RBG; Bette Midler stood in for the cast of Mary Poppins returns in The Place Where The Lost Things Go; Gillian Walsh and David Rawlings sang When a Cowboy Trades his Spurs for Wings from The Ballad of Buster Scruggs; and Lady Gaga and Bradley Cooper gave a very powerful and stripped back performance of their song Shallow from A Star is Born. However, the big surprise was that there was no performance of All the Stars from Black Panther. Apparently, singer Kendrick Lamar was in Europe and did not feel that he had enough time to prepare properly, and the Oscar team felt that the song was too associated with him to ask someone else to perform it.
Despite this small controversy, the Oscar went, not surprisingly, to Shallow (Lady Gaga, Mark Ronson, Andrew Wyatt, and Anthony Rossomando) from A Star is Born. It was a very worthy winner, and had been considered to be the biggest certainty of the night. However, even alleged certainties can lose out, so Lady Gaga seemed to be very emotional and relieved. (And many of us are still wondering about ‘that’ look that passed between Lady Gaga and Bradley Cooper during their emotionally charged performance of Shallow!)
BEST MAKEUP AND HAIRSTYLING
Unusually, there were only 3 nominees for Best Makeup and Hairstyling this year – Vice, Mary Queen of Scots, and Border. The Oscar went to Greg Cannom, Kate Biscoe and Patricia Dehaney for Vice, recognising the authentic period look and amazing physical transformations that they were able to achieve in the movie. The winners, sadly, attempted to make a very lengthy 3 handed speech thanking a good proportion of the Western world, and ran out of time to the extent where deafening music had to be played over them to bring it to an end!
BEST COSTUME DESIGN
There were 5 nominees for Best Costume Design this year: Black Panther, The Favourite, Mary Poppins Returns, Mary Queen of Scots, and The Ballad of Buster Scruggs.
The Oscar was awarded to Ruth Carter for Black Panther, winning on her third attempt (after previous nominations for Amistad and Malcolm X). Black Panther had a very strong ‘look’ and this award was both well deserved and well received by the audience. Ruth also managed to overrun her allotted speech time, but was just able to fit in a late thank you to her 97 year old mother before she was subjected to musical ‘drowning’!
This year’s nominations for Best Cinematography were Roma, A Star is Born, The Favourite, Cold War and Never Look Away.
Despite some support for The Favourite and Cold War (a Polish film also shot in black and white) the Oscar went to Alfonso Cuaron for his work in Cinematography for Roma. Of all the things that Roma excelled in, Cinematography was very high on the list, and Cuaron had recently received the Golden Globe in that category, so no one was surprised by this win.
BEST FILM EDITING
The nominees were BlacKkKlansman, Bohemian Rhapsody, Green Book, The Favourite and Vice, all of which were strong films with multiple Oscar nominations.
In the end, the Oscar went to John Ottman for Bohemian Rhapsody, which was a bit of a surprise. Many had expected Vice to take this Oscar (as it had done at the Golden Globes). Bohemian Rhapsody was one of the night’s more controversial winners.
BEST PRODUCTION DESIGN
Buoyed by a win at the BAFTAs, hopes were riding high for The Favourite, but Black Panther – a film whose magic was always about its unique look – was always going to be a tough challenge. The other nominees (Mary Poppins Returns, First Man and Roma) seemed to be underdogs in this category.
The Best Production Design Oscar went to Hannah Beachler for Black Panther, the second award of the evening for that movie. She gave a very emotional acceptance speech about empowerment.
BEST VISUAL EFFECTS
This is a category made for films that look special, and it usually includes films not seen anywhere else in the Oscar nominations, including comic book films . This year’s list was Avengers: Infinity War; Ready Player One; Solo: A Star Wars Story; Christopher Robin; and First Man. Interestingly, the list did not include Black Panther, which won at the Golden Globes in this category
On this occasion, the Best Visual Effects Oscar went to Tristan Miles, JD Schwalm, Ian Hunter and Paul Lambert for First Man. This was a film that had promised great success early in the year, but had subsequently been overtaken by others. This was the only Oscar received for First Man, out of 4 nominations.
BEST SOUND EDITING
Black Panther, Bohemian Rhapsody, First Man, A Quiet Place and Roma were all nominated for Best Sound Editing.
Despite a forlorn hope that A Quiet Place might win in this category, its only Oscar nomination, the Oscar went to John Warhurst and Nina Hartstone for Bohemian Rhapsody.
BEST SOUND MIXING
Black Panther, Bohemian Rhapsody, First Man, Roma and A Star is Born were all nominated for best Sound Mixing. Coming into the event, Bohemian Rhapsody had already bagged a BAFTA in this category and sure enough the Oscar for Sound Mixing, like Sound Editing, also went to Bohemian Rhapsody (Paul Massey, Tim Cavagin and John Casali)
Other random highlights – Mike Myers and Dana Carvey appeared to introduce best picture nominee Bohemian Rhapsody, in homage to their Wayne’s World alter egos, looking depressing old, which doesn’t augur well for the rest of us.
How did the big films perform, overall?
Bohemian Rhapsody (4), Roma (3), Green Book(3) and Black Panther(3) picked up the most Oscars, whilst The Favourite (1) and Vice(1) had the most disappointing performance, alongside the Coen Brothers’ Ballad of Buster Scruggs and Mary Poppins Returns, which both had no wins at all. Here are the results by film:-
The Favourite – 1 win out of 10 nominations (Olivia Coleman, Best Actress)
Roma – 3 wins out of 10 nominations (Best Director, Cinematography and Foreign Language Film)
Bohemian Rhapsody – 4 wins out of 5 nominations (Best Actor, Sound Mixing, Sound Editing, and Film Editing)
BlacKkKlansman – 1 win out of 6 nominations (Best Adapted Screenplay)
Green Book – 3 wins out of 5 nominations (Best Film, Supporting Actor and Original Screenplay)
Vice – 1 win out of 8 nominations (Best Hairstyling and Makeup)
Black Panther – 3 wins out of 7 nominations (Best Original Score, Costume Design, and Production Design)
A Star is Born – 1 win out of 8 nominations (Best Original Song)
The Ballad of Buster Scruggs – 0 win out of 3 nominations
If Beale St Could Talk – 1 win out of 2 nominations (Best Supporting Actress, Regina King)
First Man – 1 win out of 4 nominations (Best Visual Effects)
A Quiet Place – 0 wins out of 1 nomination
Mary Poppins Returns – 0 wins out of 4 nominations
Can You Ever Forgive Me? – 0 wins out of 3 nominations
Mary Queen of Scots – 0 wins out of 2 nominations