It’s finally over. At times, the 2019 awards season felt like it might last forever, but it appears we’ve seen our last televised performance of “Shallow” and the last thank you to Bradley from Lady Gaga for the foreseeable future.
Green Book winning the Oscar for Best Picture Sunday night seemed like a particularly sour ending to such a storied and diverse moment in the film industry. With films like Black Panther, BlacKkKlansman, The Favourite, and A Star Is Born all nominated for Best Picture, it felt strange to watch the night’s biggest award to go to a film with such old-fashioned views on race and gender, and made primarily by white men — a fact which was made clearly visible on stage during the film’s acceptance speech.
Perhaps to cope with the Oscars problematic end — and the Academy ignoring the many accomplishments of my personal favorite If Beale Street Could Talk — I suggest we take a moment to focus on the positives of the hostless 2019 Academy Awards.
With my usual male red carpet muse, Timothée Chalamet left out of this year’s Oscar race, I did not have particularly high hopes for the men on this year’s carpet. However, Billy Porter’s tuxedo gown and Jason Momoa’s pink velvet tuxedo — paired with a matching pink scrunchie — stood out as bold fashion choices outside of the typical binaries of gender. Porter has notoriously made exciting genderfluid choices this year, but his choice of wearing a Christian Siriano dress on Hollywood’s biggest night solidified the gay actor as a permanent red carpet legend. While Momoa’s pink suit is not nearly as revolutionary as Porter’s pluming genderfluid gown, seeing Aquaman sport a coral tux during the Oscars’ telecast felt like an important moment for male self-expression. Aquaman may be butch, but his masculinity is not toxic! *An honorable mention to If Beale Street Could Talk actor, Stephan James, whose own velvet ensemble paired with white boots looked incredible.
Drag queen and A Star Is Born star, Shangela, capped off her prolific awards season run in an intricate purple gown with a train supported by none other than Hollywood legend, Jennifer Lewis. Lewis, who dawned a glittering copper suit of her own, has been good friends with the perennial Drag Race alum for years and even let her crash at her house for a time. Watching these two tearing up the carpet amongst the typical Oscar crowd gives a strong argument for more cinematic drag queen moments.
Out singer Adam Lambert played frontman for Queen during their opening number to the awards show. The spirited rock concert was a welcomed change from the usual tongue-in-cheek musical round-up delivered by the Oscars host. With no host, Queen was free to rock the interior of the Dolby Theatre with some LGBTQ energy provided by Lambert.
While any one of these SNL ladies could have played dutiful host for the evening, it was a comfort just to briefly see the comedy legends before embarking on a hostless awards show. These women could have honestly said pretty much anything and still have made it on this list, but their jokes packed plenty of punch. If going hostless means getting a yearly visit from these Amy Poehler in a power suit, I might be all in favor.
During the singular — brief — moment in my life when I did not think Amy Adams should have an Oscar, Regina King won her first Academy Award for her performance in If Beale Street Could Talk. The film, based on the novel of the same name by queer literary legend James Baldwin, received three Oscar nominations, but King was its only win. King began her speech by heralding Baldwin as “one of the greatest artists of our time.”
Since there was no host to wear an over-the-top presenting outfit — a true Oscars’ staple — Best Actress nominee Melissa McCarthy and Beale Street star Brian Tyree Henry delivered the goods themselves while presenting the award for Costume Design. The presenting duo sported ridiculous outfits inspired by the category’s nominees including The Favourite, Black Panther, Mary Queen of Scots, and Marry Poppins Returns in what was the certainly the most laugh out loud segment of the show. McCarthy’s look, which made reference to the rabbits from The Favourite, including a furry hand puppet.
LGBTQ audiences were in for a sweet treat as gay icon and recent Grammy winner Kacey Musgraves and her voluptuous cotton candy-like Giambattista Valli gown made several cameos in the audience during the awards’ telecast. Musgraves also appeared onstage to introduce Gillian Welch and Dave Rawlings, whose song “When a Cowboy Trades His Spurs for Wings” from The Ballad of Buster Scruggs was nominated for Best Orginal Song. While some may have been yearning for a performance of “Space Cowboy” instead, any appearance by the inclusive country queen feels like an LGBTQ win.
Green Book actor Mahershala Ali won Best Supporting Actor for his turn as queer pianist Don Shirley. While Green Book won several awards, Ali was the only winner to openly acknowledge Shirley in his speech saying, “I was trying to capture Dr. Shirley’s essence, which was a reflection of the person he was and the life that he lived.” While Green Book had many problematic elements, Ali’s performance was never really one of them and his touching tribute to Shirley was definitely welcomed.
While Kendrick Lamar and SZA did not perform their nominated-song and radio hit “All Of The Stars,” Bette Midler and Jennifer Hudson delivered particularly powerful performances of other nominated songs from Mary Poppins Returns and RBG. Midler accompanied out composer Marc Shaiman — who was nominated for two awards last night — to perform “Where the Lost Things Go” from Mary Poppins Returns. Hudson lent her own vocals to Diane Warren’s ballad “I’ll Fight” from the Ruth Bader Ginsberg doc, RBG. While Hudson’s singing was impressive, her relatable reaction to Lady Gaga’s acceptance speech may have been her most memorable moment of the night.
Out bi actress Tessa Thompson along with queer entertainers Amandla Stenberg and Sarah Paulson all had onstage roles in the Oscar production. Thompson presented the award for Best Orginal Score, with Paulson presenting the award for Achievement in Visual Effects and Stenberg, accompanied by Congressman John Lewis, introduced Green Book. While queer woman being nominated for and winning awards is always more exciting, seeing these out actresses on stage was a much welcomed moment of queerness.
With this year’s Best Actress race stacked with the likes of Glenn Close, Lady Gaga, and Melissa McCarthy it was hard to choose someone to root for. However, Oliva Colman’s surprise win for her portrayal of a queer Queen Anne, who engaged in a significant amount of queer sex on-screen in The Favourite, was a delightful occurrence. Her teary-eyed and hysterical speech — complete with shoutouts to her fellow nominees Glenn Close and Lady Gaga — delivered a moment where everybody won.
The moment we were all waiting for finally came and it was... incredible. Lady Gaga and Bradley Cooper’s performance of “Shallow” delivered all of the “AHS,” “HAAS,” and “HAA-WAAHS” as one could want with palpable electric chemistry. The only person who may have not been living for the performance was Cooper’s girlfriend.
While her win shocked literally no one, Lady Gaga’s emotional acceptance for the Academy Award for Best Original Song for “Shallow” warmed many hearts. The bi multihyphenate — who is one step closer to an EGOT triumph — put her all into this awards season delivering stunning fashion looks and touching speeches on a near-weekly basis. Gaga’s Oscar win and triumphant performance felt like the real closure we all needed to end this awards saga.
While the night’s conclusion did not feel like a particularly gratifying moment for diversity, all was not lost! Women of color won several awards including Black Panther production designer Ruth E. Carter, Black Panther costume designer Hannah Beachler, Regina King, Animated Short Bao director Domee Shi, and Live Action Short Period. End of Sentence director Rayka Zehtabchi. Also, Spiderman: Into the Spiderverse won Best Animated Feature showing the power of highlighting Black and Spanish-language stories in mainstream blockbuster features.
Barbra Streisand made a surprise appearance as the presenter for Best Picture nominee BlacKkKlansman — and not A Star Is Born. The songstress wore sequined look with a matching black beret as she introduced Spike Lee’s feature. While Streisand’s affiliation with BlacKkKlansman was a little unclear, Spike Lee — who earned his first Oscar for Best Original Screenplay and delivered several moments of excitement throughout the night in a purple Prince-inspired suit — looked elated by Streisand’s appearance and words about his film. Later in the night, Streisand bumped into Best Supporting Actor nominee and her die-hard fan Richard E. Grant.