The end of awards season feels as abrupt as its launch is protracted. While it doesn’t get in full swing until January when the big ones, such as the Golden Globes announce their nominations and winners, but awards season now takes half the year, starting in the summer with the film festivals in Telluride, Venice and Toronto, and ending on the night of the Academy Awards. This year was rife with controversy, tension, and stakes for studios and smaller companies alike. Let’s see who really won and lost at the 2019 Oscars.
1. Olivia Colman won the 2019 Oscars.
This is perhaps the most important bit of news to take away from the 2019 Oscars. Olivia Colman, in a last-minute upset, beat Glenn Close and won the Best Actress statuette. Her speech was endearing, shellshocked, and all-around simply touching and genuine. While Colman has been recognised on this side of the Atlantic for a while, being the actor with most wins in the history of the British Independent Film Awards, her stateside success has only come with The Favourite.
She also won while not being able to campaign as aggressively as other nominees due to her commitment with seasons three and four of The Crown in the UK. Her performance in the film was exceptional enough, and her win almost solely for her performance is even more exceptional.
2. Glenn Close lost
The only unfortunate side of Colman winning the gold and everyone’s hearts in the process is that Glenn Close, the legendary actress with seven nominations and zero wins lost once more. While everybody recognised that her purported win for The Wife would have been akin to a “lifetime achievement award”, she wasn’t any less of a shoo-in.
No amount of subtlety in The Wife, of scheming in Dangerous Liaisons, or bunny-boiling in Fatal Attraction managed to get her the much-deserved award and the low profile of this year’s film (especially in comparison to The Favourite) certainly can’t have played in her favour.
3. Disney won
Disney had a bit of a year with the Oscars. They tried, through ABC, one of the channels they own and the historical broadcaster of the Oscars, to add a “popular film” category in order to recognise the blockbuster fares that take audiences by storm, rake in insane box office proceeds but are rarely recognised by critics or awards. This would also have enabled the studio to win more Oscars itself through its Marvel franchises, which were bound to be nominated. This uninspired decision may have fortunately been “postponed” sine die, it still managed to remind everyone that Black Panther could be a film worthy of people’s attention at this time of year.
The film, a landmark for representation of black communities, nabbed several nominations, including for Best Picture, and won three awards. Those wins made history with the first wins by African Americans in the history of the Oscars in the Costume Design and Production Design categories, for Ruth E. Carter and Hannah Beachler respectively, the latter having won with Jay Hart. Disney’s push for representation and for its film both won.
4. Netflix lost
It might not seem obvious that Netflix’s major awards contender Roma made the streaming service a loser on this Oscars night. After all, its charismatic director Alfonso Cuaron won the awards for Best Director, Best Cinematographer, and Best Foreign Language Film. But it didn’t win the best picture prize, contrary to what had long been anticipated by awards watchers.
Netflix has been ruffling the feathers of established players since it moved into content creation in 2013; first in the TV industry and now in film. Yes it may be producing a bunch of Adam Sandler comedies, but it has now also backed projects by the Coen Brothers, Alfonso Cuaron and Martin Scorsese. Winning the best picture prize would have been a significant turning point for the streaming giant, and the old guard within the Oscars academy members may have been reluctant to hand them this victory, despite their films’ qualities.
5. Spielberg won
No, Steven Spielberg was nowhere in sight at this year’s Oscars ceremony, and wasn’t nominated himself (his film Ready Player One was nominated in the visual effects category only) but he was the kingmaker. Green Book had a long, twisted journey to the screen (what hasn’t), despite the involvement of industry veteran Peter Farrelly as writer, director and producer.
The film’s helmer made it clear that this film wouldn’t be where it is without the support of Spielberg and his studio, Amblin Entertainment. Once the legendary filmmaker got involved, the film got slated to screen at TIFF, where it won the audience award and started building word-of-mouth. Despite a very controversial awards campaign, it got out on top and still managed to win the last award of the night.
6. China won
China has been more and more involved in Hollywood for many years now, but this year’s Oscars ceremony marks a turning point. Chinese company Alibaba Pictures, through a minority ownership of Spielberg’s Amblin, had stakes in the best picture winner Green Book, and also invested in Capernaum and On the Basis of Sex.
Another Chinese company, Perfect World Entertainment had stakes in BlackKklansman and First Man. China also claimed victory when Chinese-centric Bao won the best animated short award. With all those stakes in Hollywood, and more factors (see this Variety article), China is now getting more and more aligned with Hollywood.
8. Representation still has some way to go
This was a fairly landmark ceremony as far as diversity and representation are concerned. Black women made history with notable wins in the costume design, production design, and supporting actress categories. Equal representation for minorities is now a central part of the conversation in the film industry, and this is progress in and of itself. While Spike Lee won his first competitive award for writing, the best picture winner was a movie accused of twisting the truth about the real-life characters that it depicts and simplifying (to put it gently) race relations in the United States. The fact that most of the key creative team was white also sparked controversy.
What is more, the film that won the most awards on Sunday, Bohemian Rhapsody has been publicly pilloried for the liberties it has taken with Freddie Mercury’s life. (Read this article explaining why the supposed dramatic license taken by the filmmakers seems more like outright lying.) It is the highest-grossing film in the world with a gay main character, and this should be a victory. But while the film may have technical merits, does it deserve to be known in history as having more Oscars than The Godfather?
Another awards season has gone, and another one will start soon enough. The Oscars are always an excellent indicator of the temperature of the top players in the industry. But let us not forget that the most nominated film this year was a small, British independent film that took the world by storm. It was also one of the most original films in recent times, and entirely led by women in front of the camera.
If you’re looking for award shows that are actually exciting, and where love for films shines more than the stars’ jewelery, how about following the Spirit Awards or BIFA? Independent film is where the future is.