The road to the 2019 Academy Awards was littered with controversy. Since the initial announcement in August 2018 of the new category “Outstanding Achievement in Popular Film” nothing has been on track for the Academy. Many believe their decision to include a popular film category was a way to circumvent awarding nominations to the long-overlooked category of films that did not fit the bill. This speculative list was believed to be a collection of films that were beloved by a large audience and made huge waves in the 2018 box-office such as Solo: A Star Wars Story, Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom, and Black Panther. Many believe the popular film category would have degraded a film’s worth to a less prestigious category than Best Picture. Previously I said speculative list because no real insight was given by the Academy on what this category would entail. Following immense backlash from critics and fans alike, the Academy reversed their decision a month later.
At the beginning of December 2018, Kevin Hart took to Twitter to officially announce his upcoming stint as host of the 2019 Oscars. Without retreading the work done by The Oredigger’s Jacqueline Feuerborn (available on oredigger.net) about past issues with the show’s production and the diversity issues the Academy faces, Kevin Hart was in a fantastic position to bring together the show in a comedic and genuinely fresh way. However, past tweets of homophobic remarks made by Mr. Hart resurfaced. While Mr. Hart apologized and fellow celebrities in the LGBTQ+ community came to his defense, Kevin Hart was fired as the host a few days later. This left the lingering question of who would take up the mantle of hosting duties. But in true Academy fashion, nothing was announced for two months after Mr. Hart was fired. From Feb. 4 to the big weekend, an all-star cast of A-List celebrities was announced to present awards. This move seemed to quell some audience fears and add a jolt of excitement to the award show.
Throughout the radio silence from the Academy following the failed popular films category and hosting duties, they announced the categories of Cinematography, Film Editing, Live Action Short, and Makeup and Hairstyling would not be shown to the public and the Best Song category would only play two nominees. This idea was a huge blow to the filmmaking community. The Academy was supposed to shine light on the work done by people behind the scenes. Again, the Oscars decided to pull back this decision and air the show in full. When the show was three days away and the damage done, Kendrick Lamar & SZA announced they would not be performing their song “All the Stars”. They cited a conflict of scheduling and not realizing the commitment for the show. Deciding not to perform ended up proving to be a good move personally and professionally. Their decision shined a light on the Academy playing favorites and a general unfairness to all parties involved.
Were the Oscars worth the air waves they took up from 7-10 PM? In short, yeah. Queen’s performance at the top of the show was awesome, the A-list celebrities were charming and fun when presenting, the snubs and upsets were a joy to follow along. While the Academy did play around with the biggest award show of the season, they called more attention to themselves and boosted ratings in the process.