It started with a bang, and gradually lost steam, almost derailing completely towards the end. That’s how the host-less 91st Academy Awards, or the Oscars, played out on Sunday night (early morning Monday for those watching live in the UAE) at the Dolby Theatre, Los Angeles. But the three-hour-long ceremony was not entirely joyless. Here are our top moments of the night:
RAMI MALEK WINNING HIS FIRST OSCAR
Rami Malek won his first Oscar on Sunday as best lead actor for his portrayal of singer Freddie Mercury, the flamboyant late frontman of the British rock band Queen, in the musical drama ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’. Malek, 37, had emerged as a favourite for the Oscars in recent weeks after winning the Golden Globe, Screen Actors Guild and British Bafta awards.
A Los Angeles native of Egyptian descent, Malek took on the role of Mercury, born to ethnic Parsi parents from India who moved their family to England when their son was in his late teens.
“We made a film about a gay man, an immigrant, who lived his life just unapologetically himself, and the fact that I’m celebrating him and this story with you tonight is proof that we’re longing for stories like this,” Malek said. “I am the son of immigrants from Egypt. I’m a first-generation American, and part of my story is being written right now.”
UAE WINS AN OSCAR
A film produced by the ImageNation Abu Dhabi called ‘Free Solo’ won the best documentary Oscar, making it the first ever UAE-supported film to win an Academy Award. ‘Free Solo’ follows rock climber Alex Honnold on his quest to perform a free solo climb of El Capitan in June 2017. The film won the people’s choice (documentaries) at the Toronto International Film Festival.
BLACK PANTHER MAKING HISTORY
‘Black Panther’ already made history as one of the first superhero films to be nominated for an Oscar best picture. The film went back-to-back into the Oscar history books on Sunday evening. Ruth E Carter and Hannah Beachler became the first African-Americans to win in their respective categories. Carter was first up as she took home an Academy Award for costume design, then Beachler followed her with a win in production design at the 91st annual Academy Awards at the Dolby Theatre in Los Angeles.
“I dreamed and prayed for this night,” said Carter, who was the lead costume designer behind the Afro-futuristic wardrobes in Ryan Coogler’s ‘Black Panther’. “This has been a longtime coming. Marvel may have created the first black superhero. But through costume design, we turned him into an African king.”
Beachler, who had worked with Coogler on other films, thanked him and said he “made me a better designer, a better storyteller, a better person.”
“We wanted to bring the world of Africa to life,” Beachler said.
LADY GAGA WINS HER FIRST OSCAR
She is a Grammy winner many times over, but on Sunday, Lady Gaga became an Oscar winner, taking the trophy for best original song for her power ballad ‘Shallow’ from ‘A Star Is Born’. Before accepting the award at the Dolby Theatre, Gaga belted out the number with her co-star Bradley Cooper.
On stage, she was tearful. “There’s not a single person on the planet that could have sang this song with me but you. Thank you for believing in us,” she said to Cooper, who also directed the film, the latest reimagining of the classic Hollywood tale.
“This is hard work. I’ve worked hard for a long time, and it’s not about, you know, it’s not about winning. But what it’s about is not giving up. If you have a dream, fight for it,” Gaga told the audience.
MAHERSHALA ALI WINS SECOND OSCAR
Mahershala Ali took home his second supporting actor Oscar in three years on Sunday night, for his role as black pianist Don Shirley in ‘Green Book’, a film that has been one of the most heavily criticised of awards season. The movie tells the story of Shirley, his white driver, Tony Lip (Viggo Mortensen) and their friendship as they toured the South in 1962. Ali joined Denzel Washington as the only other black actor to win multiple Oscars.
In his acceptance speech, Ali thanked Shirley, saying that trying to capture his essence “pushed me to my ends.”
OLIVIA COLMAN WINS FIRST OSCAR
Turns out Olivia Colman, not Glenn Close, was ‘The Favorite’ at the Oscars. The British actress was a surprise winner as best actress on Sunday night for her role as Queen Anne in ‘The Favourite’. She beat out Close, who arrived at the Dolby Theatre as the heavy favourite to win her first Oscar in seven nominations for ‘The Wife’. Instead, a stunned Colman took the stage. She gazed at Close in the audience and said, “You’ve been my idol for so long and this is not how I wanted it to be.”
COMEDY QUEENS ON STAGE
Tina Fey, Amy Poehler and Maya Rudolph were the first to take the stage and — while explaining they were not the hosts — gave a mini-performance that drew relaxed laughter from the audience and seemed to make the case that the three women should be hired to co-host next year, pronto. The three actresses wasted no time before joking about the various curveballs the Academy Awards faced in the lead-up to the ceremony. In particular, they noted how the Oscars were hostless, how no awards would be presented during commercial breaks and, with the first Trump dig of the night, mentioned that Mexico would not be paying for that wall. The trio also teased just what sort of bits they would have included had they been tasked with the hosting job. They also posed long enough to make it seem like they were the hosts of the show. In a quick segue, they began presenting the Oscar for best supporting actress at the show’s eight-minute mark. Last year, it took the show 18 minutes just to get through Jimmy Kimmel’s monologue.
ADAM LAMBERT AND QUEEN ROCK THE OSCARS
Iconic rock band Queen and singer Adam Lambert opened the 91st Academy Awards on Sunday with a brief, yet rousing performance of ‘We Will Rock You’ and ‘We Are the Champions’ that had the audience on its feet from the start. ‘American Idol’ veteran Lambert stepped in for late Queen frontman Freddie Mercury, who was portrayed by lead actor nominee Rami Malek in the musical film ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’. “Welcome to the Oscars!” Lambert shouted as images of Mercury lit up behind him.
WOMEN MAKE HISTORY
13 women captured Oscars on Sunday. The Academy says the previous record was set in 2007 and matched in 2015. Lady Gaga’s win with Mark Ronson, Anthony Rossomando and Andrew Wyatt put the number at 14.
ALFONSO CUARON TRIUMPHS AGAIN
Alfonso Cuaron’s intimate family drama ‘Roma’ triumphed at the Oscars on Sunday, winning for best foreign film, best director and best cinematography.
The film, shot in a mixture of Spanish and the indigenous Mixtec language, had earned a total of 10 Oscar nominations, and is the crown jewel in Cuaron’s already illustrious award-winning career.
“This award belongs to Mexico,” Cuaron told reporters. “It’s a Mexican film on every single front.”
GREEN BOOK IS SURPRISE WINNER
The segregation-era road-trip drama ‘Green Book’ was crowned best picture at the 91st Academy Awards on Sunday, handing Hollywood’s top award to a film seen as a feel-good throwback by some and ridiculed as an outdated inversion of ‘Driving Miss Daisy’ by others.
In a year where Hollywood could have made history by bestowing best-picture on Netflix (‘Roma’) or Marvel (‘Black Panther’) for the first time, the motion picture academy instead threw its fullest support behind a traditional interracial buddy tale that proved as popular as it was divisive. But Peter Farrelly’s ‘Green Book’ weathered criticism that it was retrograde and inauthentic to triumph over more acclaimed films and bigger box office successes.
SPIKE LEE’S FIRST COMPETITIVE OSCAR
Veteran director Spike Lee on Sunday won his first competitive Oscar, taking home a statuette for best adapted screenplay for the film ‘BlacKkKlansman’.
The audience erupted into applause for the 61-year-old who until Sunday had earned an honorary Oscar in late 2015 for his “extraordinary contribution” to film — but no other Academy Awards. For more than 30 years, Lee has captivated audiences — and sometimes angered them — with his provocative, frank depictions of black America infused with his signature mix of entertainment, activism and rage.
‘BlacKkKlansman’ is a searing yet sometimes hilarious broadside against racism with the stranger-than-fiction true story of an African-American police officer who managed to infiltrate the highest levels of the Ku Klux Klan.
Lee got political, looking ahead to the upcoming presidential vote.
“Let’s all mobilise, let’s all be on the right side of history. Make the moral choice between love versus hate,” he said. Lee was wearing rings on Sunday that bore the two words. “Let’s do the right thing!” he concluded, referring to his acclaimed 1989 film about simmering racial tensions in New York’s Brooklyn borough. “You know I had to get that in there,” he said with a smile.
— With input from agencies.