USA TODAY film critic Brian Truitt predicts who will take home an Oscar this year and who really deserves it.
This year’s Academy Awards offers all the traditional reasons to tune in: Glimpses of the world’s biggest movie stars preening in couture gowns and borrowed diamonds. Great movies receiving the film industry’s highest accolade. Soaring speeches. Stunning upsets.
But for the 2019 edition, there’s an equally compelling reason to watch. It’s the final chapter to the year’s troubled, turbulent awards season. Live.
This Oscar season has been so fraught with missteps, backpedaling, Kevin Hart host-canceling, scandal, furor and controversy right up to this moment, that seeing it all come to a head-spinning conclusion in real time on television with a global audience is going to be a must.
All of that and Lady Gaga crooning “Shallow” with Bradley Cooper and Queen playing. I’m so there. With popcorn.
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If Oscar producers Donna Gigliotti and Glenn Weiss can pull off this host-less, ever-changing show with moments of poignancy, emotion and intended humor, they’re going to deserve an Emmy, a special Oscar and a guest appearance on “MacGyver.”
It’s going to be compelling live television, no matter what.
Adweek reports that advertisers have snapped up the full allotment of commercial time, running at $2.6 million for 30 seconds. Follow the money, because the people spending it know something.
Pulling off a host-less Oscars is the biggest hurdle and potentially most captivating scenario, bang at the show’s beginning. It’s like a figure skater stepping on the ice and attempting a triple axel jump.
In 2011, there was a host crisis when Eddie Murphy dropped out in November, before Billy Crystal rode in to save the day two days later. Still, many pondered if there would be enough time to pull off the show, which he did.
Hart flamed out of the host job in December following a furor over homophobic tweets revealed from his past. No one else wanted to step into the already thankless job, and the original idea of The Rock as host idea was genius, but he’s busy.
The internet is so hungry for someone to fill the void that it’s invented this scenario where Whoopi Goldberg, who’s gone missing from “The View,” is going to step in. Seriously? But wouldn’t that be something?
The last time we didn’t have a host for the Oscars was 1989 and the opening number featured the jaw-dropping scene of Rob Lowe dancing and singing with Snow White on a helium bender. Lowe is still banging his head against a wall about this.
Just seeing how the show’s producers handle the lack of host and opening when confronted with this kind of history is going to be worth ensuring you’re tuned in before the last A-lister waltzes off the red carpet into the Dolby Theatre.
Queen and Adam Lambert, whose performance was announced Monday with minimal ceremony and confirmed to USA TODAY as an opening act, could make people forget their host problem in one “We Will Rock You” stomp.
Then there’s the other drama that’s erupted this year around the major re-tooling of the show – revealing an energized, vocal (oh, and did we mention, very famous) Academy membership ready for some argy-bargy. Remember the “popular film” Oscar? That proposal was shot down faster than Greedo in “Star Wars.”
There have been other stands and hasty retreats by Academy officials. The decision that only two of the nominated songs would be performed – “Shallow” and Kendrick Lamar’s “All the Stars” – led to more umbrage. The Academy flipped to allow all nominated songs to be represented, but wasn’t able to secure Lamar’s participation because he’s out of the country and working on an album.
In another effort to cut down on the show’s run time, the Academy decreed that four awards would be handed out during commercial breaks, then replayed during the broadcast in abbreviated form. Cinematography, film editing, makeup and hairstyling and live-action short took the hit, and the outcry was sustained – from Brad Pitt and George Clooney to Martin Scorsese and Quentin Tarantino.
Just two weeks before the telecast, the show’s producers were told by Academy leadership that the show would be drastically changed once again by adding the awards back live.
“It would make for a good story if I had a nervous breakdown,” Gigliotti told The New York Times. “You find a new way.”
Watching live awards shows, and live TV productions like “Grease Live,” multiplies the thrills because there’s no safety net. Right now, there are seasoned pros sweating through an already tricky show, one that’s constantly changing in light of every new drama. They are so good that we usually only enjoy the slick product. But as Envelopegate showed us two years ago, when the wrong best-picture winner was announced, things can become regrettably, unforgettably unglued.
And who knows what other dramas will pop in the remaining time before the show finally starts. It’s crunch time, and anything goes.
Awards audiences are already tough and have a chip on their shoulder after fights to preserve their show – with the wild card of President Donald Trump watching with his thumbs on Twitter as liberal Hollywood steps out.
Not to mention the surprises which will happen and unknowables which have happened before: a streaker, Neil Patrick Harris onstage in his underwear, Jennifer Lawrence tripping up the stairs to receive her award.
All of this is on top of the vivid plot lines which have emerged this awards season. Popular hits “Black Panther,” “Bohemian Rhapsody,” “A Star Is Born,” and “Green Book” are in the running for best picture. And who the heck really knows who will win? Spike Lee could take home his first directing or best picture Oscar, Glenn Close could break her streak of being the most nominated living actress without a win. It goes on.
History of some sort will be made Sunday. The world waits.
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