The 91st Academy Award ceremony was held on Feb. 24, 2019, and it was unique for one simple reason: for the first time in over thirty years, there wasn’t a host. After initial host Kevin Hart stepped down from the position (after a series of homophobic tweets of his resurfaced), the Academy went back and forth about whether or not they even needed a host at all, and as it turns out…they don’t.
As the years go on, awards season generally feels less like celebrating filmmaking and more about celebrating celebrities. Who among us doesn’t like scrolling through the “best dressed” slideshows the morning after? However, the host-less night felt like it grounded the Oscars this year; there was less spectacle and celebratory patting-of-backs occurring.
Indeed, it was also a historic year for a few categories, namely production design and costume design. Hannah Beachler (production design) and Ruth E. Carter (costume design) both took home trophies for their work on “Black Panther,” and also became the first African-Americans (and African-American women!) to win in their categories. Alfonso Cuaron, director of Netflix-distributed film “Roma,” became the first director to also win an award for cinematography. Additionally, legendary filmmaker Spike Lee won his first Oscar for Best Adapted Screenplay for his film “BlackkKlansman.”
However, it wouldn’t be an awards show without some contention. “Green Book,” starring Viggo Mortensen and Mahershala Ali, won Best Picture, which spawned thousands of impassioned tweets. The film has been criticized for its portrayal of race, and Mortensen (who is white) received backlash when he used a racial slur during a promotional panel for the film. When Spike Lee was asked his thoughts on the Best Picture win, he replied, “No comment,” and equated it to “being courtside at the Garden when the ref makes a bad call.” Additionally, Queen biopic “Bohemian Rhapsody” won four awards — the most of the night — despite the sexual abuse allegations against director Bryan Singer, whose name was conspicuously absent from acceptance speeches.
“The Favourite,” Yorgos Lanthimos’ period drama about Queen Anne and her lovers was nominated for ten awards and only took home one, Best Actress for Olivia Colman. Charming viewers everywhere, Colman laughed and cried, before ending her acceptance speech with an awe-filled whisper of “Lady Gaga!” who was sitting in the front row.
Overall, the 2019 Academy Awards could have been worse — but they also could have been better. However, two things were clear: a host is no longer necessary for a successful awards show, and people will be watching the clip of Lady Gaga and Bradley Cooper performing “Shallow” (from “A Star is Born”) until the end of time.