The 91st Academy Awards will cap off an awards season that’s both celebrated the last year in film (and TV and music) and also seen its share of controversy. This season featured several films that were both critical darlings and box-office hits, like A Star Is Born and Black Panther, both of which are nominated for Best Picture at the 2019 Oscars. With some record-breaking nominations, contentious races and hearty disagreement about who deserves top honors, there’s a lot to watch out for in this year’s ceremony.
Here’s everything to know about the 2019 Oscars.
When are the 2019 Oscars?
The 91st Academy Awards will take place on Feb. 24 at 8 p.m. E.T., broadcast live from the Dolby Theatre in Los Angeles. Red carpet coverage will begin prior to the ceremony.
How can I watch the Oscars?
Who’s hosting the Academy Awards?
The question of “Who is hosting?” has rarely yielded such a complicated answer. For the last two years, the Academy Awards ceremony has been hosted by Jimmy Kimmel. But the original host for the 2019 Oscars, Kevin Hart, stepped down from the gig in December, after homophobic tweets he had posted in the past resurfaced online. “I sincerely apologize to the LGBTQ community for my insensitive words from my past,” he wrote on Twitter.
Ellen DeGeneres, who is openly gay and hosted the Oscars herself in 2014, came to Hart’s defense during an interview with the comedian. “I called the Academy today, because I really want you to host the Oscars,” DeGeneres told Hart when he appeared on The Ellen Show. “There are so many haters out there. Whatever is going on on the Internet, don’t pay attention to them,” she said. Hart said that he has learned from his mistakes. “I’m wrong for my past words,” the comedian said.
Though Degeneres voiced support for Hart, other reactions were mixed. Actor and comedian Billy Eichner, who is also openly gay, took to Twitter to express his concerns. “I hope Kevin’s thinking has evolved since 2011,” Eichner wrote. Some critics said Hart’s response to the controversy rang hollow, or did not adequately express remorse and personal growth. Some said that it was not the place of Degeneres, who is a white woman, to forgive Hart when his insensitive jokes did such harm to queer black people.
Despite Degeneres’ alleged call to the Academy, Hart will not be hosting the Oscars, and the Academy did not enlist another Hollywood A-lister for a job that many consider to be high risk and low reward. The Academy will rely on performances, skits and presenters to move the program along without an emcee, Variety reported in January.
This will not be the first time the Oscars goes on sans host. The 61st Academy Awards in 1989 was also host-less, and the show opened with an emotional monologue from then-President of the Academy Richard Kahn. Between 1969 and 1971, the Oscars experimented with a group of celebrities who shared hosting duties.
Who’s nominated for Oscars?
The Favourite and Roma lead the nominations, tied with ten each, and Vice and A Star Is Born are close behind with eight each. Six of this year’s eight Best Picture nominees are at least loosely based on true events, as are several nominees for other awards, including the Neil Armstrong drama First Man and Lee Israel film Can You Ever Forgive Me?
Yalitza Aparicio, the breakout star of Roma, and Lady Gaga of A Star Is Born, are both first-time nominees, for Best Actress in a Leading Role. The pop star is also nominated for Best Original Song with the hit “Shallow,” which she co-wrote for the film. Rami Malek, who won the Golden Globe and BAFTA for Best Actor for his role as Freddie Mercury in Bohemian Rhapsody, is a frontrunner to win at the Oscars.
As far as surprises go, Sam Elliott’s nomination for Best Actor in a Supporting Role is one that was welcomed by many fans of A Star Is Born, if not quite expected. Elliott is nominated for playing the brother of Jackson Maine (Bradley Cooper). Cooper, who directed the film, has said that he modeled his character’s voice after Elliott’s real-life voice. Marina de Tavira, Aparicio’s co-star in Roma, was also a surprise pick when her name was announced among the field of nominees for Best Actress in a Supporting Role.
Any historic Oscar nominees?
For the first time in movie history, a superhero movie has been recognized with the ultimate honor. Black Panther, the Marvel movie starring Chadwick Boseman, Michael B. Jordan and Lupita N’yongo, is the first superhero film to be nominated for Best Picture at the Academy Awards. The film blends the technology and magic of the Marvel Cinematic Universe with music, costumes and art inspired by African traditions to tell a complex story about the African Diaspora. Black Panther is also the highest-grossing Marvel movie of all time and the third highest-grossing domestic film of all time. It’s already made waves through the awards circuit this season, winning the highest honor, Best Ensemble in a Motion Picture, at the Screen Actors Guild Awards and picking up two Golden Globe nominations.
This year’s group of Best Picture nominees makes history for a few more reasons, as well. Roma is the first Netflix-produced feature film to be nominated for the award, and its star, Aparicio, is nominated for Best Actress in her first-ever acting job.
This year’s class of Oscar nominees is also the queerest in history. Five of the eight Best Picture nominees include plot points that center on LGBTQ relationships or issues.
Spike Lee’s nomination for directing puts him in a position to become the first black director to win the award. It’s also the director’s first nomination in that category, in what many feel is overdue recognition for a career that’s spanned more than three decades.
The directing field also makes history for the number of foreign films nominated. With nods for Alfonso Cuarón for Roma and Paweł Pawlikowski for Cold War, this year’s Oscars mark the third time in history that two or more foreign films are included in this category. (It has only happened in 1977 and 2007, at the 49th and 79th Academy Awards, respectively—though the director for one of the two in the latter year, Letters From Iwo Jima, was Clint Eastwood, an American.)
Glenn Close is now the most-nominated living actor to never win an Oscar. Her nomination for Best Actress in this year’s The Wife is her seventh nod. (Amy Adams is close behind, earning her sixth nomination as Best Actress in Vice with no prior wins.) This may be Close’s year, though: She won the Best Actress in a Leading Role honor at the Golden Globes and the SAG Awards.
Any major snubs among the 2019 Oscar nominations?
There is no shortage of snubs in this year’s group of nominations. Many expected First Man to have a shot at Best Picture, but Damien Chazelle’s follow-up to La La Land saw no such luck. The Neil Armstrong biopic was, however, nominated for four other awards, including Best Sound Editing and Best Production Design. If Beale Street Could Talk, Barry Jenkins’ adaptation of James Baldwin’s acclaimed 1974 novel, was also left off the list for Best Picture, although it was nominated for three awards including Best Adapted Screenplay. In 2017, Jenkins won Best Adapted Screenplay, alongside Tarell Alvin McCraney, and was nominated for Best Director for Moonlight.
Another director, Bradley Cooper, failed to score a nomination for his directorial debut, A Star Is Born. Cooper was nominated for the directing award at the Golden Globes, though the award ultimately went to Alfonso Cuarón. In an interview with Oprah Winfrey, Cooper said that he was embarrassed by the snub. “Like, ‘Oh gosh, I didn’t do my job,’” Cooper said he felt upon learning he wasn’t nominated.
Who votes on the winners?
The Oscars are decided by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, an organization which supports efforts in cinema. The Academy is comprised of artists, actors, filmmakers, writers and anyone who contributes to the world of theatrically-released films within the Academy’s guidelines. In order to become a member of the Academy, artists have to be sponsored by two members of the branch one desires to join (e.g. actors or writers), but Academy Award nominees are automatically entered into the membership approval process.
This year, the Academy decided to save some paper, requiring members to vote online between Jan. 7 and Jan. 14.
Who’s presenting at the Oscars?
The Academy first announced that Awkwafina, Daniel Craig, Chris Evans, Tina Fey, Amy Poehler, Jennifer Lopez and more actors and comedians will present at the 91st Academy Awards. The second round of announced presenters includes Javier Bardem, Samuel L. Jackson, Angela Bassett, Chadwick Boseman, Laura Dern, Sarah Paulson and Keegan-Michael Key. Maya Rudolph will also be presenting, and if her monologue with Tiffany Haddish at the 2018 Oscars is any indication, her comedy may yet steal the show for the second year in a row.
At one point, the Academy appeared to be breaking with tradition when it was reported that last year’s acting winners, including Allison Janney and Gary Oldman, would not be presenting the categories for which they won. Allison Janney, who won Best Supporting Actress in 2018 for her role as Tonya Harding’s mother in I, Tonya, wrote in a now-deleted Instagram post that she was not asked to present at the 2019 ceremony, according to Vanity Fair. But in early February, the Academy confirmed that Janney, Oldman and fellow winners Frances McDormand and Sam Rockwell would present, after all.
The Academy faced a backlash when it announced that four categories—cinematography, film editing, live-action short and makeup and hairstyling—would be presented during commercial breaks, with speeches recorded and edited to air later in the broadcast. But after a group of prominent figures in Hollywood, including Quentin Tarantino, Spike Lee and Martin Scorsese, sent an open letter to the Academy calling the decision an “insult” to the craftspeople who have dedicated their careers to film, the Academy announced that each of these categories will, in fact, be presented live, in their “traditional format.”
Who’s performing at the Oscars?
Some of the Best Song nominees will be sung on the Oscars stage, but there’s a twist. Bette Midler — the musical theater icon who is just an Oscar short of an EGOT — will perform “The Place Where Lost Things Go” from Mary Poppins Returns, rather than Emily Blunt, who took on the number in the film, Variety reports.
Black Panther‘s nominated song “All the Stars” by Kendrick Lamar and SZA will not be performed during the show, according to Variety, citing “logistics and timing” as the reasons. The ceremony’s other four nominated songs will be performed. Due to the broadcast’s lack of a host, the show will rely disproportionately on such performances, including Lady Gaga and Bradley Cooper’s rendition of “Shallow.”
In addition to the nominated songs, the Academy announced that Adam Lambert and the surviving members of Queen will perform during the ceremony to celebrate Best Picture nominee Bohemian Rhapsody. Lambert, who rose to fame on American Idol and earned a Grammy nomination for the song “Whataya Want From Me,” has been touring internationally with band members Brian May and Roger Taylor since 2011.
Are there any controversies to watch for?
Despite their nominations for Best Picture—and high-performing box office releases—Green Book and Bohemian Rhapsody were both met with controversies. Many critics viewed Green Book‘s plot as a “white savior” story and have called moments from the film racially insensitive or oversimplified. Green Book, directed by Peter Farrelly, tells the story of Tony “Lip” Vallelonga (Viggo Mortensen), who accompanied black pianist Don Shirley (Mahershala Ali, a frontrunner for Best Supporting Actor) on a concert tour though the Jim Crow South. A few years out from the #OscarsSoWhite campaign, many say the movie, made by a team mostly of white filmmakers, feels out of touch.
Beyond critical criticism of Green Book, Don Shirley’s real-life relatives have raised concerns over how much of the biopic is fictionalized. Shirley’s great-niece, Yvonne Shirley, told the Hollywood Reporter that the film’s depiction of the pianist as estranged from his family, among other plot points, is false. “We know the truth of our loved one,” she said.
Despite all of this, the movie is still a favorite to win at the Oscars. In addition to its five nominations, Green Book has already won three Golden Globes, one Screen Actors Guild award, Best Film at the Producers Guild of America Awards and the People’s Choice Award at the Toronto International Film Festival.
Bohemian Rhapsody, another Best Picture nominee, has received mixed reviews from critics despite being a global box-office sensation. But the movie is wrapped up in the narrative surrounding its disgraced director, Bryan Singer. Allegations of sexual abuse have followed Singer for several years. One civil suit against him was dropped and another dismissed. In January, The Atlantic published a lengthy report including interviews with several men who claim to have been assaulted by Singer, with accusations dating back as far as 2000. Singer has denied all accusations against him.
Though Singer was fired before the movie completed filming, he remained its credited director and celebrated its Golden Globe win in a now-deleted Instagram post. Singer’s attachment to the film has made many in Hollywood question whether Bohemian Rhapsody should be considered for such accolades.
GLAAD disqualified the film from its Media Awards nominations because of the allegations against Singer. “This week’s story in The Atlantic documenting unspeakable harms endured by young men and teenage boys brought to light a reality that cannot be ignored or even tacitly rewarded,” the organization told TIME in a statement. “The team that worked so hard on Bohemian Rhapsody as well as the legacy of Freddy Mercury deserve so much more than to be tainted in this way.”
Most of the Bohemian Rhapsody team has kept quiet about Singer, but Rami Malek, who is nominated for Best Actor for his portrayal of lead singer Freddie Mercury, recently spoke out. “My heart goes out to anyone who has to live through anything like what I’ve heard and what is out there,” Malek said at the Santa Barbara International Film Festival on Feb. 1.
What’s predicted to win Best Picture?
In an awards season celebrating several films with successful theatrical releases, the one that is technically the least successful at the box office—Netflix’s Roma, released on the streaming service in addition to theaters—is a frontrunner in the competition for Best Picture. If it wins, it would be unprecedented not only because it’s a Netflix movie, but because it’s filmed in black and white and in Spanish, all of which have appeared to many to be obstacles to a consensus victory.
Roma won both the Foreign Language Film and Director of a Motion Picture awards at this year’s Golden Globes, as well as the top honor at the Director’s Guild of America Awards. But there is also a good chance that Academy voters will feel that Foreign Language Film and Best Director wins would suffice and favor other movies—Green Book in particular—for the night’s top honor.
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