Monday, February 25, 2019

Special Oscar Report

Oscars 2019: "THE LAST WORD" by Diane Clehane

Gaga & Cooper

The only thing people are really talking about after this year’s Oscars is Lady Gaga and Bradley Cooper. We are right there with you. But first, let’s get some housekeeping out of the way.

Having covered the Oscars for longer than I care to mention, I admit that I didn’t go into this year’s broadcast with high hopes. There were all kinds of reasons to think the show was going to be a disaster. All the off-stage drama surrounding this year’s awards that threatened to overshadow the proceedings was the result of several fires of the Academy’s own making. It started with the ill-conceived (and blatantly pandering) idea of giving out a new award for Most Popular Film which was quickly scuttled, then came the reversed announcement that only a selection of Best Original Song nominees would be performed which was followed by the ill-advised (and, yes, sidelined) decision to give out some awards such as those for editing and cinematography during commercial breaks.

In the midst of those missteps was the seemingly endless embarrassing predicament over who would host the show. Last December, two days after getting the gig, actor Kevin Hart stepped aside following an outcry erupted over past homophobic tweets. The Academy issued him an ultimatum: apologize or quit and the comedian chose the latter telling an interviewer he chose to pass on the apology “because I’ve addressed this several times.” Hart posted a photo of himself giving a punching bag a serious beating on Instagram during the broadcast. But no hard feelings, right?

So, after putting out several offers and being rebuffed (What Hollywood ego would possibly take on the job knowing they were the fifth or sixth choice?), the Academy announced it would go without a host for the first time since 1989. Given that this year’s broadcast came in at a relatively economical three hours and twenty minutes and an eclectic (to say the least) assortment of presenters kept things moving, it seems as if the powers that be just may have stumbled on the first real improvement in the show in a long time.

By opening with a performance from Queen or rather a modern-day iteration of the iconic rock band, it felt a bit like the Grammys when former American Idol contestant Adam Lambert performed a medley of covers (including “We Will Rock You” and “We are the Champions”) and rocked the theater with the rest of the band bringing more energy to the auditorium than any host could. The stars in the audience clearly enjoyed the mini-concert especially Javier Bardem (Christian Bale, not so much). At a time when most viewers are sick to death of this exhausting 24/7 news cycle, the band’s performance was a welcome respite from the usual political jokes and silly, scripted banter.

The Academy poked fun at itself by bringing out the first presenters Tina Fey, Amy Poehler and Maya Rudolph to present the Best Supporting Actress Award. “We are not your hosts, but we’re going to stand here a little too long so that the people who get USA Today tomorrow will think that we hosted,” said Fey before she handed out the evening’s first gold statuette to Regina King who gave an emotional acceptance speech directed towards her mother, who was her date for the evening. Parents and grandparents were the key figures in many acceptance speeches throughout the night which ranged from touching to tiresome.

I have no idea what the solution is, but people who are not famous (sorry, but it’s true) should not blather on and on if they are lucky enough to win an Oscar. And for Pete’s sake, if you come up as a pack, don’t have one-person hog this once in a lifetime moment while the other poor souls are forced to shout over the music used to play them off stage. This year, the Academy took it one step further and dimmed the stage lights on a few long-winded winners. Awkward, but oh so necessary. I vote for a trap door next year.

The first two hours of the show felt like a dress rehearsal as odd camera angles and a few backstage handlers occasionally wandered into view of the camera. The pacing was brisk but a tad choppy. And I must admit, there were an awful lot of people giving out awards whose names I’d be hard pressed to know. It really didn’t feel like the biggest night in Hollywood when the show was nearly half over. Except for Helen Mirren, who was inexplicably paired up with the very large, long haired guy from Aquaman, there was no sign of any other big star until Michael Keaton showed up to present the award for Best Editing almost an hour and a half into the broadcast.

Then it was finally time for the moment we have all been waiting for. Lady Gaga and Bradley Cooper performed, “Shallow,” the hit song from A Star is Born, and everything changed. Gaga and Cooper got up from their seats in the front row and holding hands, took to the stage. Gaga sat behind a piano while Cooper perched on a stool across from her. Their performance was shot upstage with the audience as the backdrop mirroring the stylistic feeling of their film. (Whoever thought of that, good on you!) After Gaga reached the song’s crescendo, Cooper walked around the piano, slid on to the bench beside her and slipped his hand around her waist. The two locked eyes and she gave him a look that would melt medal. Their faces were as close as they could be without kissing, but they were singing. The whole thing was even hotter than we anticipated. It felt as if we were witnessing an intimate moment between real-life lovers. When it was over, the audience gave them a standing ovation and at home, millions of people all over the world needed a cigarette. Twitter freaked out.

Gaga and Cooper’s crazy, off the charts chemistry has been well-documented throughout this awards season and has fueled plenty of talk that the pair are involved -- or about to be. Adding fuel to the fire, Gaga announced she and her fiancé, talent agent Christian Carino, had spilt last week. At the awards Cooper’s girlfriend, model Irina Shayk, sat between them and smiled gamely the entire time. A friend of mine suggested Shayk should get her own statuette for Best Performance at the Oscars. No argument there.

As expected, Gaga gave a passionate and tearful acceptance speech when “Shallow” was named Best Original Song thanking Cooper saying, “Bradley, there is not a single person on the planet that could’ve sang this song with me but you.” And then, “Thank you for believing in us.” Alrighty then.

Given his Golden Globe and SAG Award wins, it was no surprise Rami Malek took Best Actor for his career-making performance in “Bohemian Rhapsody” as Queen front man Freddie Mercury. Malek gave an articulate and heart-felt acceptance speech where he said he was a “first generation American” and the son of Egyptian immigrants. “We made a film about a gay man, an immigrant, who lived his life just unapologetically himself,” he said. “The fact that I’m celebrating him and this story with you tonight is proof that we’re longing for stories like this.”

The evening’s biggest shocker came when Olivia Colman was announced as the winner in the Best Actress category. "It's genuinely quite stressful. This is hilarious, I've got an Oscar,” she said laughing and crying at the same time when she got to the stage.

Frontrunner Glenn Close, who chose a gold couture gown with a sweeping cape and train by Carolina Herrera, was seated front and center. We felt her pain. Having scooped up the Golden Globe, SAG Award and the Independent Spirit Award for her performance in The Wife (she was good; the film was not), she was all but a shoo-in for the Oscar. No one seemed more shocked than Colman herself who, in giving the best Oscar acceptance speech of all time, apologized to Close saying, “Glenn Close – you are my idol, and this is not how I wanted it to be.” She won me over for life for everything that she said including: “Any little girl who's practicing their speech on the telly - you never know! I used to work as a cleaner I used to love that job.” And then she blew a raspberry when told to wrap up. Love, love, love her.

Julia Roberts (who looks younger every time I see her) floated on stage to present the last award of the night for Best Picture. “Green Book,” the story of the unlikely friendship between a bigoted bouncer and a black musician, was the winner having garnered momentum as this awards season wore on. In an extremely competitive year, the Universal Pictures release bested a list of formidable challengers to take home the top prize besting the critical darling, “Roma.” Netflix reportedly spent more than $25 million campaigning for an Oscar for “Roma.” Producers all over Hollywood let out a collective sigh of relief when the studio picture beat back the competition from the subscription service-slash-studio that is poised to take over the world.

I loved that Roberts, the night’s biggest movie star in attendance, gave a sweet good-night to her children and a nod to Bradley Cooper’s mother, Gloria Campano. “I would like to say congratulations to all the nominees, and goodnight to Bradley Cooper’s mother and my children. And thank you for watching!” As far as I’m concerned Roberts can do the no-host hosting duties every year.

And oh yes, this year’s fashion show was better than expected. I especially loved the incredible jewelry. My 14-year-old daughter recognized the rock around Gaga’s neck as the ‘Tiffany diamond’ that is usually encased on the main floor of the Fifth Avenue store. Kudos to Cartier, Chopard, Bulgari and Harry Winston for some glittering beauties on the red carpet.

As for the clothes, my picks for ten best dressed are: Pretty Woman Julia Roberts (Elie Saab), Helen Mirren (Schiaparelli Haute Couture) Emilia Clarke (Balmain), Lucy Boynton (Rodarte), Lady Gaga (Alexander McQueen), Olivia Colman (Prada), Jennifer Lopez (Tom Ford), Brie Larson (Celine by Hedi Slimane), Ashley Graham (Zac Posen) and Allison Janney (Pamela Rolland).

A few parting thoughts …

The 2019 Academy Awards were notable for one particularly historic milestone – it marked the highest number of Oscars won by black women in the same year. The show’s overall tone was inclusive, inspirational and not overtly political. Well done.I love Mahershala Ali who won his second-Best Supporting ActorOscar in three years for his performance in “Green Book,” but I could have done without that beanie. Rami Malek was the night’s best dressed man in Saint Laurent by

Anthony Vaccarello. He and his costar and girlfriend Boynton were the Best Dressed Couple.

The surprise appearance of Bette Midler to sing the nominated song, “Where the Lost Things Go” did not work. Sorry, it didn’t. Emily Blunt brought me to tears with her version in “Mary Poppins Returns.” I don’t know why she wasn’t asked to sing it at the Oscars. That charming film got the short shrift this year.

And speaking of short shrift, Bradley Cooper may have been snubbed across the board during this awards season, but he may find some consolation in knowing there are millions of women (and plenty of men, I’m guessing) who went to bed last night hoping he would make a guest appearance in their dreams. And if this acting thing doesn’t work out, he could always join Gaga in her residency in Vegas. We’d pay big bucks to see that.

- End

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