By jove, they did it!
There was so much hand-wringing and back-pedaling on the way to Sunday night’s Academy Awards broadcast, it’s a wonder anyone in Hollywood had the strength to walk the red carpet, much less hand out any of those 8½-pound Oscar statuettes.
But after months of announcing controversial changes meant to save time and attract eyeballs — We’ll create a popular film Oscar! We’ll give out awards during commercials! We’ll only do two best-song performances! Please watch! — only to sheepishly rescind them later, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences pulled itself together and put on a show.
In fact, against many odds and in the face of much pressure (not all of it self-inflicted), the Academy — under lead producer Donna Gigliotti and co-producer and director Glenn Weiss — put on a fast-moving, diversely populated and warmhearted show worthy of the films and people who were in its sparkly spotlight.
After comedian Kevin Hart was relieved of his hosting duties over some old homophobic tweets, the Oscars decided to go host-free for the first time in 30 years. Disaster, right?
Nope. With Hart on ice, the show opened with fire. Instead of a monologue, we got power chords. We got Queen — with Mt. Carmel High School graduate and “American Idol” runner-up Adam Lambert on vocals — performing “We Will Rock You” and “We Are the Champions.”
It was rockin’ and glitter-packed. Even better, it was fun. And it gave the broadcast a fan-friendly energy that powered the whole show through its surprisingly swift 3 hours and 17 (or so) minutes.
It was an evening of mom and dad references, as winner after winner thanked the supportive parents who believed in them and taught them how to believe in themselves.
It was an evening where lead-off presenters Tina Fey, Maya Rudolph and Amy Poehler lampooned the broadcast’s many snafus, threw in a snappy jab at the Fyre Festival and were still presenting the Best Supporting Actress award to a tearful Regina King by 5:09 p.m.
(If we have to have an Oscar host next year, I nominated this terrific trio. Start working on your opening monologue now, ladies. Make it quippy!)
It was also an evening when the Oscars got creative.
In a great move, Gigliotti and company brought in unexpected performers to introduce the best picture clips. That meant smartly pairing Rage Against the Machine guitarist Tom Morello with “Vice”; Trevor Noah of “The Daily Show” with “Black Panther” (giving him the chance to make some sharp commentary about the mixed-bag power of “Wakanda forever!”); and a regal Queen Latifah with “The Favourite.”
We also got to see a passionate Serena Williams connect with “A Star is Born”; a ferociously committed Barbra Streisand give a shout-out to “BlacKkKlansman”; and “The Hate U Give” star Amandla Stenberg and civil-rights giant Rep. John Lewis doing right by “Green Book.”
If you opted out of this Oscar night, you actually missed some golden moments.
So get thee to your computer and look for the extravagantly costumed Melissa McCarthy having too much fun with rabbit puppets (and co-presenter Bryan Tyree Henry) while presenting the costume-design Oscar. Check out Rayka Zehtabchi and San Diegan Melissa Berton jubilantly accepting their documentary short film award for “Period. End of Sentence” by crowing, “I can’t believe a film about menstruation just won an Oscar!”
Look for best actor winner Rami Malek (of “Bohemian Rhapsody”) wondering at the miracle of a first generation American kid, the son of immigrants from Egypt, winning an Oscar for playing Freddie Mercury, a gay man and an immigrant.
And leave some time for the gobsmacked best actress winner Olivia Colman, taking home the Oscar for “The Favourite” when everyone thought it would go to Glenn Close. And look for Glenn Close being the most gracious non-winner ever.
As bumpy as the road to this year’s Oscar broadcast was, we all arrived in a pretty nice place. A place where disaster can be averted with talent, heart, a cast of many colors and a killer Lady Gaga ballad.
You made it, Oscars. It was a pleasure watching you pull it off.