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Unconventionality: The Biggest Winner of the 2019 Oscars

This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at Seattle U chapter.

Heading into the Oscars last Sunday night, there was a feeling of unease and tension in the air. Given all of the pre-air controversies it seemed that the Academy had no idea what it was doing. Surprisingly, however, the 91st Academy Awards ran smoothly (I’ll admit I was a little disappointed not to see the Oscars in full meltdown mode). The 91st Academy Awards proved that change can be good. Whether it be accepting the superhero genre or allowing the presenters to shine in the absence of a host, the real winner of the Oscars was the ceremony itself. The gamble for an unconventional award show paid off big time.

The Total Absence of a Host

After failing to find a replacement host, the Academy decided that the 2019 Oscar ceremony would be host-less for the first time in 30 years. Instead, the ceremony opened with a Queen melody followed by a 3-minute comedy routine by Tina Fey, Maya Rudolph, and Amy Poehler. The last time the Oscars went host-less was in 1989; that ceremony was considered the worst Oscars ever. Instead of repeating the train wreck that was the 61st Academy Awards, the night proceeded so smoothly that the very role of a host now seems open to question. This is backed by the fact that Oscars ratings rose for the first time in 5 years. The 2018 Oscars had the lowest viewership numbers of all time. In order to increase viewership, the Oscars tried to implement three big changes which backfired almost instantly. First, the Academy tried to create a new award called “Best Popular Film”. Secondly, it was announced that unlike the past 90 years, last year’s acting winners were not going to present this year’s acting awards (best-supporting actor/ess and best actor/ress). Instead, high profile popular actors such as Marvel actors were going to present them. Lastly, the Academy announced some of the technical awards were going to be presented during commercials to shorten the telecast. This change was proposed because viewers complained about the length of the ceremony. All of the changes were met with instant and brutal feedback. Ultimately, the Academy backtracked on their plans canceling all three changes. The only thing that was different about the 91st Academy Awards as opposed to previous broadcasts was that there was no host. Therefore, it could be argued the increased rating was due to the Academy’s decision to have a host free night.

The Material and Presenters Could Shine

Like in previous years throughout the broadcast, each of the Best Picture nominees were highlighted. However, with more time to spare, the 2019 Best Picture nominees had more of a sincere introduction by fellow Hollywood creatives because the presenters could talk more about the significance of each Best Picture nominee. Additionally, in the past, the clips shown to highlight the Best Picture nominees were so short that audiences could not get the “flavor” of the works that were about to be recognized. Presenters could have more fun because there was no worry about overshadowing the host. A number of presenters, such as the presenters for Best Costume Design (Melissa McCarthy and Brian Tryee Henry), Keegan-Michael Key, and the comedy trio of Maya Rudolph, Tina Fey, and Amy Poehler, had great comedic moments.

Superhero Films are Legitimized

As The Ringer correctly states, “when Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse was nominated for Best Animated Feature alongside Black Panther’s seven nominations including Best Picture, it was a turning point for superhero movies, the moment in which the genre’s ultra-commercialism collided with critical appeal.” On Sunday, Black Panther took home three awards: Best Costume Design, Best Production Design, and Best Original Score. These awards have never been given to comic book movies. Superhero movies have been limited to the visual effects category in the past.

Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse’s Best Animated Feature win broke Disney Pixar’s grip on the category. For the first time since 2008, neither a Disney nor a Disney-owned Pixar movie won Best Animated Feature at the Oscars. The Academy Award for Best Animated Feature was first awarded at the 2002 Oscars. Not including Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse, only 3 films have beat Disney or a Disney-owned Pixar movie. Additionally, Oscar voters didn’t simply think Into the Spider-Verse was the best-animated film of the year; the voters felt that Into the Spider-Verse pushed the edge of the envelope creatively making it one of the greatest animated films ever and on par with this year’s Best Picture nominees. Whether the Academy likes it or not, the superhero genre is the defining genre of this era of film-making, thanks to its wide appeal and ability to discuss complex topics. In a decade, we’ve gone from Iron Man’s (2008) timely discussion of responsible weapons-making to the complex racial, social commentary and artistic excellence of Black Panther. Superhero movies are multilayered and are far more than just silly stories about heroes in spandex suits defending the earth from aliens. The recognition at the Oscars is confirmation of that.

Netflix and TV Actors: The New Hollywood

Netflix was legitimized with Roma’s win for Best Director, Best Foreign Film, and Best Cinematography. All four winners–Olivia Colman, Regina King, Rami Malek, and Mahershala Ali–are currently or have recently done TV shows. Along with many of the presenters like Constance Wu and Michael B. Jordan or other nominees like Bradley Cooper, past and present TV stars were everywhere. The line between movies and TV has been disappearing for many years. As the line between TV and movies blurs quality wise, working in TV is no longer a stigma when it comes to the entertainment industry, especially if an actor or actress chooses to act in a streaming service show. As Paste Magazine cleverly states, “Not only are TV stars equal to movie stars; movie stars are TV stars and TV stars are movie stars. Award-winning movies come into your home when they premiere (e.g. Netflix’s Roma), just like your favorite television shows.” The future of entertainment will be streaming services, so it’s nice to see that the Academy is taking steps to recognize the near future.

Sincerity Draws People In

One of the biggest surprise wins of the night was The Favorite’s Oliva Colman winning Best Actress, instead of the favored Glenn Close. Colman was genuinely shocked to win. She delivered a funny, heartfelt, off-the-cuff acceptance speech where she started her speech saying, “oh my this is genuinely quite stressful…this is hilarious…I got an Oscar!” She went on to thank her kids, but hoped they were sleeping which earned her many laughs. Her sincere speech will be one of the moments the 91st Oscars will be remembered by. Coupled with the frank humor of acceptance speech from Period. End of Sentence. filmmakers (“I’m not crying because of my period or anything”) and Spike Lee’s ecstatic invocation of Brooklyn, it’s clear that what draws people to watch the Oscars is when the winners are their most earnest. It’s not just the winners who were rewarded for their genuineness. Some of the most memorable moments from this year’s ceremony were Samuel L. Jackson’s reaction to Spike Lee’s first Oscar win as well as Spike Lee’s and other Marvel actors’ reactions to Black Panther’s wins just proves that everyone loves a feel-good moment.

Overall, the 91st Academy Awards has shown that the Academy is capable of adapting. The Oscars may never have the numbers it used to have. However, Oscar wins for Netflix, TV actors, and unconventional genres, as well as making changes due to feedback given by academy members when the Academy messes up will certainly help Academy be successful as the future of entertainment leans away from the traditional methods of Hollywood.

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Emily Berg

Seattle U '21

Anna Petgrave

Seattle U '21

Anna Petgrave Major: English Creative Writing; Minor: Writing Studies Her Campus @ Seattle University Campus Correspondent and Senior Editor Anna Petgrave is passionate about learning and experiencing the world as much as she can. She has an insatiable itch to travel and connect with new and different people. She hopes one day to be a writer herself, but in the meantime she is chasing her dream of editing. Social justice, compassion, expression, and interpersonal understanding are merely a few of her passions--of which she is finding more and more every day.