The Best and Worst Moments of the 2019 Oscars

Written by on February 24, 2019

A more diverse winners’ list, a best-picture blunder, a joyous victory and misbegotten acceptance — these were the highs and lows as we saw them.

Regina King won best supporting actress for her role in “If Beale Street Could Talk.”CreditNoel West for The New York Times

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Regina King won best supporting actress for her role in “If Beale Street Could Talk.”CreditCreditNoel West for The New York Times

Who knew a hostless Oscars might turn out to be a good idea? Sunday’s ceremony, with its diverse winners’ list, made for a lively show, even if there were several head-scratchers. Here are the highs and lows as we saw them.

[See President Trump’s reaction to Spike Lee’s speech. | Read our film critics on “Green Book’s” win. | Check out the complete list of winners.]

We’re a long way from #OscarsSoWhite. On Sunday, the academy fielded an immensely diverse slate of winners. Three of the four acting winners were people of color: Regina King (“If Beale Street Could Talk”), Mahershala Ali (“Green Book”) and Rami Malek (“Bohemian Rhapsody”). Several filmmaker winners were, too: Alfonso Cuarón (best director and cinematography, for “Roma”) led a list that included winners for documentary feature, animated feature and animated short. The first African-American women to win best costume and production design, Ruth E. Carter and Hannah Beachler of “Black Panther,” made headlines. And of course there was the first competitive Oscar, best adapted screenplay, for Spike Lee (“BlacKkKlansman”). The gender diversity in the tech categories was notable too. — SOPAN DEB

Peter Farrelly accepting the academy’s top prize, for “Green Book.”CreditNoel West for The New York Times

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Peter Farrelly accepting the academy’s top prize, for “Green Book.”CreditNoel West for The New York Times

The essence of the Oscars is to give out long overdue awards to atone for its past mistakes while making new mistakes it will have to atone for years later. Nearly three decades after snubbing “Do the Right Thing” and naming “Driving Miss Daisy” best picture, the academy finally gave Spike Lee his Oscar (best adapted screenplay for “BlacKkKlansman”). Then, it handed its biggest prize to “Green Book,” which may as well have been titled “Driving Miss Daisy II.” Its director, Peter Farrelly (“Dumb and Dumber” and “Dumb and Dumber To”), was not required to produce a shelf of Oscar-worthy titles before receiving his own award. But the academy couldn’t resist another film in which American racism is neatly resolved through a white character’s proximity to a black one. See also: “Crash” (2004), which ranks among the worst best picture winners ever. If “Crash” were released today, would the academy stoop to reward it? On Sunday we got our answer. — AMANDA HESS

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Spike Lee accepting the award for best adapted screenplay for his film “BlacKkKlansman.”CreditNoel West for The New York Times

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Spike Lee accepting the award for best adapted screenplay for his film “BlacKkKlansman.”CreditNoel West for The New York Times

The New York Knicks won on Oscar night, and, in an even rarer occurrence, so did one of the team’s most loyal fans, Spike Lee. Announcing that best adapted screenplay was going to Lee and his collaborators for “BlacKkKlansman,” the actor Samuel L. Jackson shouted out his longtime collaborator’s name the way his “Do the Right Thing” character, Mister Señor Love Daddy, might have: “Spiiike Leeeeeeeeeeeee!” And Lee, who had won only an honorary Oscar in his 33-year feature career, was ready to celebrate, leaping into Jackson’s arms before delivering the speech he’d seemingly been waiting to make his entire career. That joy turned serious as he told the audience, “Before the world tonight, I give praise to our ancestors who have built this country into what it is today along with the genocide of its native people.” —MEKADO MURPHY

Glenn Close on the red carpet.CreditMonica Almeida for The New York Times

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Glenn Close on the red carpet.CreditMonica Almeida for The New York Times

Seven nominations later, Glenn Close remains Oscar-less, retaining her less-than-enviable title of most nominated living actor, male or female, without a win. Close, who on Sunday resembled an Oscar statuette herself in a gold dress that weighed over 40 pounds, had been the best actress favorite for much of awards season, but it was Olivia Colman of “The Favourite” who took the trophy Sunday night. “Glenn Close, you’ve been my idol for so long,” Colman said in her acceptance speech. “This isn’t how I wanted it to be.” — MAYA SALAM


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