Perhaps the biggest winner of the 91st Academy Awards was the telecast itself: After an unprecedented swirl of pre-air controversy, the ceremony went off without a hitch. (We’ll admit we were a little disappointed to miss out on the Oscars in full meltdown mode.) That doesn’t mean there weren’t plenty of highlights and lowlights to sort through, though. From Queen/Adam Lambert’s opening number to the night’s final award, Regina King’s expected victory to Olivia Colman’s upset, we’ve got the telecast covered from top to the bottom. Here are the 10 biggest winners and losers of this year’s Oscars:
With their engaging riff on the opening monologue, the night’s first presenters—Tina Fey, Amy Poehler, and Maya Rudolph, handing Best Supporting Actress to Regina King—reminded viewers that they were not, in fact, the hosts—though they easily could have been. (Next year, Academy willing!) It set the tone for the rest of the ceremony, as pair after pair of presenters ran with the baton: Helen Mirren and Jason Momoa (Documentary Feature) sent a charge through the room, as if prepping for a May/December sex farce; Awkwafina and John Mulaney (animated and documentary shorts) charmed as comic fish out of Oscar water; and Samuel L. Jackson spoke for us all as he intoned, “Spiiikkkkeee Leeeeeeeee!!!” upon his old pal finally winning a competitive Oscar for Best Adapted Screenplay. (One key exception: The utterly baffling and mostly stilted introductions of the Best Picture nominees, which had an air of Celebrity Roulette. John Lewis for… Green Book? Barbra Streisand for… BlacKkKlansman? Am I high?) The result was as breezy and relaxed an Oscars as I can remember, highlighted by Melissa McCarthy and Brian Tyree Henry presenting Best Costume Design to Ruth E. Carter. I hope they do this every year. —Matt Brennan
Kevin Hart’s decision to step down amid a controversy over past homophobic tweets left the Oscars host-less for the first time since 1989. Instead of being a recipe for disaster, though, the ceremony proceeded so smoothly that the very role of the emcee now seems open to question. After years of indifferent or outright ghastly turns in the (admittedly thankless) gig—remember Seth Macfarlane? James Franco? shudder—the 91st Academy Awards made clear that most of the host’s duties can be shouldered by others. (For my money, the last truly great Oscar host was Whoopi Goldberg, in the year of Shakespeare in Love. My entire case rests on the clip above.) Musical number? Bring in a band. Opening monologue? The former SNL gals have you covered. Hammy transitions and second-half gimmicks? Get rid of ‘em! Do I expect awards shows to go host-less from now on? No. Did last night prove that the role needs to be reinvented? Most definitely. Evolve or die. —Matt Brennan
While the decision to forgo an official host was born of necessity, the other proposed changes to this year’s telecast, produced by Donna Gigliotti and Glenn “I Proposed at the Emmys” Weiss, seemed designed to alienate the film buffs that comprise the ceremony’s core audience. There were modifications—last year’s acting winners were paired off, reducing their footprint by half—but in the end tradition won out, as ferocious criticism led Gigliotti and Weiss to backtrack on a series of decisions, most notably a move to award four prizes during the commercial breaks in order to keep the telecast under three hours. And, as per tradition, that proved impossible: Even this reasonably sprightly Oscars clocked in at 3 hours, 22 minutes. —Matt Brennan (Photo by Kevin Winter/Getty Images)
In addition to the obvious qualm that failing to give the awards for Best Editing and Best Cinematography their due would be shortchanging the two distinguishing features of the art form, last night offered a potent reminder that it’s not always the biggest categories that make for the best television. If the wet-fart-noise anticlimax of Green Book winning Best Picture and Julia Roberts shrugging I guess that’s it isn’t proof enough, consider that one of the best speeches of the night came for Best Documentary Short Subject winner Period. End of Sentence. (While this was not one of the four categories that producers planned to hand out during the commercials, it could have been: The four were chosen at random from the “lesser” categories.) Plus, giving unheralded heroes like documentary filmmakers, costume designers, production designers, composers, and others their moment in the spotlight seems only fair, since every other night in Hollywood is so focused on fame. The Oscars need to stop chasing a “young” audience that hasn’t been there for years and isn’t coming back, and start respecting their most loyal viewers. —Matt Brennan
Um, were we at the Emmys? Whether it was the winners (Regina King, Rami Malek, Olivia Colman, Jamie Ray Newman, Mahershala Ali), the nominees (Bradley Cooper) or the presenters (Constance Wu, Michael B. Jordan), past and present TV stars were everywhere. The line between movies and TV has been fading for years, but now there is no line of demarcation. Not only are TV stars equal to movie stars; movie stars are TV stars and TV stars are movie stars. (Hi, Julia Roberts!) Roma, one of the most acclaimed films of the year, is available to anyone with a Netflix subscription. Award-winning movies come into your home when they premiere, just like your favorite television shows. There can be no more snobbery. We are all one big happy family. (OK, maybe not—but the playing field is a lot more even.) —Amy Amatangelo
Do you remember when Jack Nicholson used to preside over the Academy Awards? He would sit in the front row and every winner would have to greet him as they went by. Every presenter would give him a shout out. The host would crack jokes about him. Do you remember when Meryl Streep was in attendance, and everyone gushed about her (as well they should)? Or Robert De Niro? Or Tom Cruise? Lady Gaga and Bradley Cooper tried to hold court, but the melodramatic entrance to their histrionic performance of “Shallow” was grating. (I’m delighted that their awards season has come to an end.) The Oscars used to be the most glamorous night of the year. Nothing compared to it. It was larger than life, a peek into the movie world. Now they’re much more approachable. That’s not a bad thing at all, but the changing of the guard felt palpable last night. —Amy Amatangelo (Photo: Kevin Winter/Getty Images)
At about 10:40 p.m. last night, I texted Paste TV editor Matt Brennan and asked, “Could this thing actually end on time?” It didn’t, of course. But the ceremony, once notorious for being bloated and never-ending, moved along at a clipped pace, with a high degree of efficiency. The musical performances were short and straightforward. There were no grand dance numbers and no snazzy special effects. Except for the Queen/Adam Lambert opener, none of them really popped. (Although I did love Bette Midler’s dress.) There were no groan-inducing skits or uncomfortable shtick from the host. The problem, of course, is that when your show is that efficient, something gets lost. —Amy Amatangelo
Jack Palance’s one-armed push up. John Travolta introducing “Adele Dazeem.” Faye Dunaway and Warren Beatty announcing the wrong winner. Sally Field gleefully exclaiming “You like me! You really like me!” No moment even came close to that this year. We can usually count on Frances McDormand to use her time in the limelight to great effect. Remember last year? She “had some things to say” and ended with the rallying cry of “inclusion rider.” This year, she made a point about not saying anything at all. The show was fin—a perfectly serviceable three-plus hours with a few nice speeches and some terrific (and not-so-terrific) winners. But I think, for the most part, this year’s ceremony will be quickly be forgotten. Really the only thing I’ll remember is that horrific stage. Once someone on Twitter said it looked like Donald Trump’s hair, I couldn’t unsee it. That’s my biggest take away from this year’s show. —Amy Amatangelo
No surprise that the night’s most memorable moment was also its biggest, well, surprise: The Favourite’s Olivia Colman, appearing genuinely shocked to have upset the favorite, Glenn Close, in the race for Best Actress, delivered the funny, heartfelt, off-the-cuff acceptance speech for which the 91st Oscars will be remembered. Coupled with the frank humor of the Period. End of Sentence. filmmakers (“I’m not crying because of my period or anything”) and Lee’s ecstatic invocation of Brooklyn, Black History Month, his grandmother, and Do the Right Thing, it’s clear that Oscars are still at their finest when they’re at their most earnest. —Matt Brennan
I suppose it’d be fair to call smarm the night’s winner, and not its loser: After all, Green Book, a film more or less disowned by the family of one of its subjects, won three major awards (Best Picture, Best Original Screenplay, and Best Supporting Actor), and Bohemian Rhapsody, a film shadowed by allegations of sexual assault against its director, Bryan Singer, took home Best Actor for Rami Malek, as well as three bewildering prizes in the crafts categories. Nonetheless, live television has a way of sifting the wheat from the bullshit. Malek’s cautious navigation of awards season, denying any knowledge of the Singer accusations and skirting the film’s questionable treatment of Freddie Mercury’s sexuality and HIV status, seemed especially carefully scripted against Colman’s unchecked amazement. And the sea of white faces on stage belied any of Green Book’s claims to serve racial reconciliation. The producers didn’t even thank Don Shirley. What else can you call that but smarm? —Matt Brennan
Matt Brennan is the TV editor of Paste Magazine. He tweets about what he’s watching @thefilmgoer.
Amy Amatangelo, the TV Gal®, is a Boston-based freelance writer, a member of the Television Critics Association and the Assistant TV Editor for Paste. She wasn’t allowed to watch much TV as a child and now her parents have to live with this as her career. You can follow her on Twitter (@AmyTVGal) or her blog .