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The 91st Academy Awards was a night of upsets and a night of predicted winners. “Green Book,” a film based on the true story of a road trip through the Deep South in the 1960s by a white and a black man, took home the best picture prize. In an even bigger upset, Olivia Colman received the Oscar for best actress for “The Favourite,” beating Glenn Close (“The Wife”). Close now holds the record for number of times nominated as an actress without a win, seven. Colman proceeded to deliver the most amusing acceptance speech of the evening. First-time nominee Rami Malek was crowned best actor for his swaggering bravura as Queen frontman Freddie Mercury. It is the performance of a man inhabited by a drunken god.
Most prognosticators expected several roads to lead “Roma” last night, and the film won for director, cinematography and foreign language film. But it did not become the first foreign-language film to win best picture as expected. It was also a big night for “Bohemian Rhapsody.” Notably, the band Queen opened the show live. To a rousing standing ovation at the Dolby Theater, Spike Lee received the first competitive Academy Award of his storied career for the adapted screenplay of “BlacKkKlansman,” the true story of a black man who infiltrated the Colorado Ku Klux Klan. Earlier on Regina King of “If Beale Street Could Talk” was named supporting actress as many had predicted for her performance as a fiercely devoted mother of a young pregnant daughter in the film based on a novel by the great James Baldwin. Obviously deeply moved, King thanked her mother in the audience and director Barry Jenkins. Mahershala Ali of “Green Book” picked up his second Oscar since 2017 for his impeccable turn as master musician Dr. Don Shirley, traveling in the Deep South in the company of a coarse, but jovial Italian-American bouncer in “Green Book.” Nominated for eight Oscars, “A Star Is Born” won only for original song. “Vice,” which had eight nominations, received the prize for Make Up and Hair.
Springfield’s own Ruth E. Carter made Oscar history and became the first African-American to win an Academy Award for best costume, shouting out a thank you to her 97-year-old mother back in Massachusetts. Hannah Beachler of “Black Panther” became the first African-American to win for production design. “Black Panther” also took best score. This year’s four-time nominee Alfonso Cuaron (“Roma”) picked up his first award of the evening for cinematography. Cuaron is a previous winner of the best director prize for “Gravity” (2013), and won again in that category. Cuaron also collected the foreign-language prize for “Roma” as many had expected. His velvety, black-and-white film is a fictional memoir of a privileged, if turbulent Mexico City childhood graced most prominently by a maternal, indigenous maid named Cleo (Yalitza Aparicio, the first indigenous best actress nominee). “Bohemian Rhapsody,” the biopic of the band – Queen – quickly, if predictably scooped up the trophies for sound editing and sound mixing and later for editing. Its director Bryan Singer was notably absent from the winners’ acceptance speeches. In a rare loss for Pixar, the arguably hipper “Spider-Man Into the Spider-Verse” took the trophy for best animated film. Beating off Avengers, Star Wars and Steven Spielberg, Damien Chazelle’s “First Man” picked up the award for visual effects. In addition to the large number of African-American winners last night, winning women filmmakers seemed everywhere, and films with a racial them or angle dominated the ceremony. The win for “Green Book” is a rebuke to its detractors, who have dismissed the film as an out of touch “white savior” fable, which it is not. In addition to best picture and supporting actor, “Green Book” won for original screenplay.
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