oscars 2019

David Edelstein on the 2019 Oscar Winners

Photo: Craig Sjodin/ABC via Getty Images

Nobody missed a host.

All hosts at a certain point in the evening look helpless as energy flags and the bad vibes of the non-winners spread around the auditorium. (Remember: For every one winner there are four non-winners.) Here, there was no one to project our grumpy feelings onto.

As for what everyone’s fulminating about: Spike Lee has seen another Driving Miss Daisy drive off with an Oscar but at least he has one of his own now. And there was a kind of symmetry in his sitting right there so prominently as it happened.

By the way, I liked Driving Miss Daisy. I also liked Green Book, especially the tag-team work of Mortensen and Ali. But among the things I have been taught this year is that telling a story about a racist whose consciousness is raised from a white point of view is no longer the sign of a raised consciousness. Maybe the problem with too many Best Picture nominees is that they split the vote in all kinds of ways. The older white segment of the Academy might well be fading in its influence but it had one favorite this year and united around it. And that was enough.

Rami Malek: so poised, so charming, so committed — as all the other Bohemian Rhapsody winners were — not to utter the name of the film’s credited director. The movie has many, many flaws, some unique, some par for the biopic course. But given its and Malek’s success, I feel somewhat vindicated in writing in my review, “If you’re immune to this music, I don’t want to know you. If you’re immune to Malek, there’s no hope for you. The actor might not be as handsome as Mercury and might not do much actual singing (it’s all Freddie), but he’s nearly as magnetic, and he makes you believe that that voice is coming out of that body — an amazing feat.”

That Glenn Close lost the Oscar everyone predicted for her is very odd. I thought The Wife was laughably bad but she was tremendous: You could see the sad, cynical soul under that hard “wifely” mask and feel her character being pulled in two different directions in every single scene. That said, when I named my favorite performance of the year in this magazine a few months ago it was Olivia Colman’s in The Favourite. And she gave one of the most charming award speeches I’ve ever heard.

Emily Yoshida and I considered the 15 short subject nominees this year and Emily rightly picked the doc winner. I was 0 for 3. That Bao could win over the marvelous Weekends is … I have no words except I wonder how many people actually watched Weekends. And then the live action short, Skin … You have to wonder. You also have to train yourself to remember that awards organizations are wrong more often than right. Just like voters in all the other arenas.

Gaga and Cooper were magic. Watching them together it was easy to see why A Star is Born worked despite a muddled second half. They have chemistry, that most elusive thing. But then, Cooper often has chemistry with his co-stars, male and female. Watch him in The Mule with Eastwood or anything with Jennifer Lawrence. He leans into his acting partners the way that most other leading men don’t. We watch him watching them. He has a generous artistic soul.

Dick Miller was left off the remembrance roll which means someone should be fed to a large plant.

Also worth noting: Paul Schrader still does not have an Oscar. Would it be weird instead of a “popular film” category to have a category for “retroactive Oscar?” Go back 40 or 50 years with a new slate of old nominees? The winner is … Paul Schrader for Taxi Driver!

David Edelstein on the 2019 Oscar Winners