In The End The 2019 Oscars Turned Out To Be An Epic Tease

When all was said and done, the most highly contested Academy Awards season in at least a decade was something of a tease.  The tease that a Foreign Language Film such as “Roma” could win Best Picture.  The tease that Glenn Close or Amy Adams could break their Oscars losing streak.  The tease that the Academy would take the controversies over “Green Book” or “Bohemian Rhapsody” into consideration when they voted.

READ MORE: “Green Book” wins Best Picture and the complete Oscars winners list

Even the telecast teased us with incredible highs such as Lady Gaga and Bradley Cooper’s performance as well as a not-so-official monologue from Maya Rudolph, Tina Fey and Amy Poehler which had us dreaming of them hosting in the future. Contrast that with the lows of a show that desperately needed a host to keep it moving along and some of the most awkward acceptance speeches in recent memory.  That being said, this is one season that will not be forgotten.

Perhaps not surprisingly, the 20th Century Fox, Fox Searchlight and NatGeo’s afterparty reflected that conflicted mood.  There was initial disappointment that “The Favourite” hadn’t fared better, but excitement over Olivia Colman‘s “upset” (more on that later).  The Best Actress winner never made it, which was regrettable, but Nicholas Hoult, Joe Alwyn and, yes, Taylor Swift did (no matter what you think of Ms. Swift she has supported Alwyn and this movie the entire season).  All of “Bohemian Rhapsody’s” sound winners made it to the party (and there were a lot of them) as well as producer Graham KingQueen members Brian May, Roger Taylor and Best Actor winner Rami Malek who swooped in before heading off to more exclusive pastures (although it’s clear Vanity Fair’s party isn’t really that exclusive anymore).

And, yes, we’re going to gloat on one subject just a wee bit.  This pundit predicted Colman was winning Best Actress for months as the media and other prognosticators drove a narrative that Close was finally going to crack the Academy ceiling.  In fact, people of all different sorts were not kind informing me of just how wrong I was.  And yet, Colman won.  Why do you ask?  Well, if you asked actual Academy members they would tell you.  One after another Academy members would volunteer they were voting for Colman.  When I’d ask about Close the response was almost uniformly, “For that performance? For that movie?”  This was another instance of the Academy proving they do not give out lifetime achievement awards during the ceremony itself. It’s been a misnomer that if a role is just “good enough” the membership will give someone a long-deserved Oscar.  But, in reality, members don’t think that way.  They almost always vote based on the performance itself or the work in question.  For example, you may not think Malek’s portrayal of Freddie Mercury in “Bohemian” was stellar, but members and actors especially have been raving since November.  And we just don’t mean working SAG members.  We’re talking actors revered by even the most hardcore cinephiles.  And that takes us to Best Picture.

Here’s the thing about “Roma.”  It didn’t lose because it was on Netflix and the Steven Spielbergs of the Academy wanted to vote against it by making it their seventh or eighth ranked choice.  There just aren’t enough members who will do that.  The movie was in theaters weeks before it was on the streaming service, many members actually saw it on the big screen and the critical acclaim since Venice was deafening.  Netflix and their awards team actually did every possible thing they could have to bring home the win.  And the two semi-unexpected acting nominations for Yalitza Aparicio and Marina de Tavira were indicators that the Academy’s largest branch, the actors, supported or loved (take your pick) the movie. But the rest of the Academy were clearly less enthused.  Sure, they were fine with it potentially getting nominations in their individual branch, but there wasn’t enough overall passion to put it over the top.  Did “Roma” earn more first-place votes than “Green Book” in the organization’s preferential voting for Best Picture?  We’ll never know for sure, but the Peter Farrelly melodrama likely dominated with second place votes and that’s enough to seal the deal.  You may not have to have everyone love you, but you have to have them love you enough to vote you first, second or even third.  While insanely respected, “Roma” clearly didn’t have that overall passion.  But, hey, Netflix won its first non-narrative Oscars this year which is a huge step for a company that couldn’t even land nominations outside of the documentary category two years ago.  Those aren’t baby steps, those are leaps.

There is a lot more to uncover about this season that we’ll dive into in my annual New Rules piece on Wednesday.  But let’s celebrate the great moment of the show for a moment can we?  There was the coronation of Regina King as America’s next great respected actress.  Diversity ruled as more People of Color, women, gays and lesbians were in the winner’s circle than straight white men.  Marvel Studios proved with the right film (and perhaps directors with true creative control) it can absolutely compete on an awards stage.  And future AMPAS president Laura Dern showcased an Academy Museum that is shaping up to be more exciting than many of the skeptics want to admit.  And there was Spike Lee jumping into Samuel L. Jackson’s arms after finally winning for “BlacKkKlansman.”  Lady Gaga and Bradley Cooper freaking killing it with an Emmy-worthy performance.  And Colman’s truly wonderous speech.  This Oscars teased joy even if the fact “Green Book” won might have left a dirty taste in your mouth.  Frankly, that’s nothing to scoff at.

Click here for more from our Oscars 2019 coverage.