During the past two decades or so, movie awards shows have multiplied at a freakish rate, diluting the importance of the Oscars and diminishing its legendary status. Snarky naysayers had written it off - but naysayers be damned! The show rebounded this year. And fabulously. The 2019 Oscars was professional, polished, elegant -and, once again, inarguably iconic.
Kudos go to Academy president John Bailey; the show's director, Glenn Weiss, and Weiss's team of (all-female) art directors Alana Billingsley, Margeaux Lapresle and Amanda Stephens. Their sets for the Dolby Theater stage were handsome and sleek, unfussy and unostentatious.
Basic. Much like the show itself.
And Bailey and company proved conclusively that an awards show does not need a host. Again: An. Awards. Show. Does. Not. Need. A. Host.
This is not a radical idea. For years, The Golden Globes got by without a host. A host gets in the way. The standard opening monologue eats up time with predictable (hit-or-miss) jokes about the stars in the audience. The 2019 Oscars had an unseen announcer who introduced the presenters who introduced ... the winners. Basic. It was all about the awards. Period.
There were any number of memorable moments. The show had an electric opening with Adam Lambert performing Queen's 1977 double-sided single, “We Will Rock You” and “We Are the Champions” with original members of the band that's celebrated in Bryan Singer's "Bohemian Rhapsody."
Following quickly was the three-way hilarity of Maya Rudolph, Tina Fey and Amy Poehler who announced the supporting actress nominees, while assuring everyone that, no, they were absolutely, definitely not hosts.
And, despite the usual unavoidable omissions, the In Memoriam sequence this year was especially touching, with musical accompaniment of a composition by John Williams - played hauntingly by the Los Angeles Philharmonic Orchestra, with Gustavo Dudamel conducting.
Best of all, among the winners was the year's underdog, "Bohemian Rhapsody," a terrific film (dismissed by clueless critics) which took home the most awards of the evening - four - in the actor (Rami Malek), film editing, sound mixing, and sound editing categories. This wasn't supposed to happen. The evening was supposed to belong to "A Star Is Born."
Easily the silliest movie awards show, the Spirit Awards is a gig where art-house celebs have no qualms bounding on stage to embarrass themselves, inevitably shouting some school-yard obscenities and trying desperately to be cool. This show has a host and this year it was Aubrey Plaza, who has no trouble trying to be cool because Aubrey Plaza actually is cool. She was the show's sole saving grace.
Watching it this year, it occurred to me that, unlike other awards shows with which I'm familiar, I had no idea who picks the nominees and eventual winners of the Spirit Awards. I mean we know who makes up the Oscar voting block and who votes for the SAG awards and the Directors' Guild, but who votes for the Independent Spirit Awards, which the astute Anne Thompson of IndieWire has described as "the alternative to the Oscars"?
So I reached out to friends, one of whom is a member of Film Independent, the force behind the awards. Apparently, the public - average moviegoers - makes up a sizable portion of Film Independent.
Which, I guess, makes it nothing more than a variation on The People's Choice Awards.
Anyway, if I had to compare the Indie Spirits show to a movie character it would be Baby Jane Hudson - weird and slightly terrifying. The Golden Globes, meanwhile, is like Auntie Mame - madcap and unpredictable.
And the Oscars? Easy. Margo Channing - legendary and unattainable.
Oscar! It's back on top, baby.
Note in Passing: While, the 2019 Oscarcast received enthusiastic reviews from The New York Times, Variety, The Hollywood Reporter, The Philadelphia Inquirer, and IndieWire, among others, there were the usual naysayers who, this time out, complained about the length of some acceptance speeches. Bulletin! No one really has any control over how long a winner goes on or how many people he/she thanks. Jeez. It's an awards show. "Thank you's" are to be expected, see? But I doubt if any of the naysayers can appreciate or process that. It's unlikely that any of them will be in a position to win an award of any kind.
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~photography: ABC/ The Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences 2019©
~Melissa McCarthy and Brian Tyree Henry, in costume, presenting the costume design award
~photography: Chris Pizzello/Invision/AP 2019©
~photography: IFC/Film Independent 2019©