Hostless, No-Frills Oscars Still Provide Surprises
February 25, 2019

Seth MacFarlane, Ellen Degeneres, Neil Patrick Harris, Chris Rock, Jimmy Kimmel, Jimmy Kimmel again, and then no none. These are the hosts of the Oscars since 2012—the last time Billy Crystal hosted. Crystal has to be considered the modern gold standard of hosts, but because of various circumstances, the annual ABC extravaganza was without a host this time around, which, only at a few certain times, was a little weird.

If you don't know the story, comedian Kevin Hart was in line to host the 91st Academy Awards this year, but withdrew (or was withdrawn depending on which reports you read or hear) because of tweets ten years that offended the gay community. He initially refused to apologize for them, and then offered an apology late last year when, according to him, he decided to step down. The network and the academy decided to try going without a host instead.

With no host, the biggest question one had to have was how the show was going to start. Getting through it without periodic wisecracks would be easy, but what about an opening number and/or a monologue? That was taken care of rather well with Queen's We Will Rock You/We Are the Champions, followed by a voice-over montage of many nominated films, and then the trio of Tina Fey, Amy Poehler, and Maya Rudolph coming out and telling jokes, officially as the first presenters.

Even though the show went over it's allotted three hours (3:17), it was fast paced, there were no lifetime achievement awards, and, it was up to the presenters to provide the comic relief, which really didn't happen in the second half of the show. The ending was a little awkward when the last of the awards speeches was apparently cut off in house, although we could hear it on TV, followed by Julia Roberts, who presented Best Picture, really not knowing what to do.

The fact that the audience didn't get pizza, or unsuspecting tourists weren't brought in from the building next door was fine, but you might think that the academy would look at this as a one-year experiment, and come back with a host next year. However, overnight ratings show an increase of about three million viewers (to 29.6 million), which although no means a record, is the first ratings increase since 2014.

The surprises came at the end, with the biggest being Olivia Colman's Best Actress win for The Favourite. Glenn Close was picked by many, although many of the 'experts' seemed to cite her body of work rather than her performance in The Wife. Roma, which really is a really a TV movie that had a very brief run in select theaters late last year to make it Oscar-eligible, was the odds-on favorite for Best Picture, but lost out to Green Book. Roma dealt with illegal immigration, and Green Book was set in the Jim Crow south—two topics, along with Bohemian Rhapsody's main character being gay, that really get voters' attention.

Although the orchestra tended not to play off some speeches when they went too long, and were too hasty to get rid of others, the awards, and this year's nominees, have been praised for being much more inclusive, compared to just three years ago when the Oscars were considered 'too white'. That and musical performances by Bette Midler for the older folks, and Lady Gaga and Bradley Cooper for the younger ones made Oscars 2019 a great evening. Maybe, though, Crystal will be available to make a comeback next year.

Best presenter: Although it was fun to see Wayne's World's Mike Myers and Dana Carvey , the nod has to go to Melissa McCarthy and Brian Tyree Henry for Costume Design. I'm not a big fan of hers, but McCarthy's insane rabbit dress and her delivery on how costumes affect movies in the “subtlest of ways” was by far the funniest moment of the night. Too bad it was only 30 minutes into the show.

Most enthusiastic speech: Jamie Ray Newman for Skin, which won Best Live Action Short. You have to love enthusiasm, especially in the so-called minor categories. Newman let out a big scream as she got on stage and yelled her thank yous in a positive way, It definitely broke up a little monotony in the show.

Most disappointing speech: Spike Lee. His reaction was great when he won his first career Oscar for BlackkKlansman and leapt into the arms of presenter and buddy Samuel L. Jackson, but then he stumbled through a written speech about the 400th anniversary of slavery, which could have been great. He did catch Donald Trump's ear though when he said people should “make the choice between love versus hate. Let's do the right thing.” Trump tweeted this morning that he has done more for black people than any other president. (I'm guessing he meant since Lincoln. Or Obama).

Best idea that didn't really work: Keegan-Michael Key descending from the rafters with an umbrella to introduce Mary Poppins Returns. He couldn't collapse the umbrella when he landed, but kept the wire attached, even though he wasn't lifted back up again.

Worst use of music: Bohemian Rhapsody won four Oscars, but they played the same 30-second clip of the song over and over again while winners took the stage. That song is quite a long one. They had plenty more to choose from.

Fashion: I'm always hesitant to go here, but what's the deal with the high backs on the dresses? Just curious... Roberts really made a splash as a blonde and wearing bright pink... I never thought Charlize Theron could look plain. In that grayish outfit, it's almost as if she wanted to be invisible.

Best quote: Jackson, before presenting for Original Screenplay, quoting the late William Goldman who said, “The easiest thing on Earth to do, is not write.” Kind of appropriate for this column.

Most refreshing change: Meryl Streep's name wasn't mentioned once.

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