Award Seasoning: The Lowlights Of This Year’s Oscars

The Lowlights Of This Year’s Oscars

Devin D. O'Leary
5 min read
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The Oscars are an annual opportunity for Hollywood in general—and the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences in specific—to celebrate the best writers, actors, directors, editors, costume designers and so on. Unlike in previous years, there are few connections between nominated films and the bustling production hub known as New Mexico. (The Ballad of Busters Scruggs, partially shot in our state, is up for Best Adapted Screenplay, Best Costume Design and Best Original Song.) But local movie fans will still find plenty to cheer for. Or boo at, as the case may be.

The Academy Awards are no stranger to controversy. As always, there was plenty of kerfuffle leading up to this Sunday’s telecast. It started back in December when comedian/actor Kevin Hart was named as this year’s Oscar host. Rather quickly some old tweets and several jokes from earlier in his career, all of them clearly homophobic, surfaced. Hart apologized (sorta, depending on your perspective), but the damage was done. Former Oscar host Ellen Degeneres actually tried to talk Hart into reconsidering his decision to step down, dismissing his critics as “haters”—which only landed the talk show host her own wave of LGBTQ backlash. In the end, the Academy opted to go without a host this year—proving that “Oscar Host” is Hollywood’s highest-profile, least desirable job.

The Oscars also got in the middle of an ugly incident when veteran Mexican actor Sergio Goyri called called up-and-coming actress Yalitz Aparicio “a f**cking Indian.” Aparicio, who stars in Alfonso Cuarón’s semi-autobiographical film
Roma, is the first indigenous woman ever nominated for an Oscar. The 25-year-old Aparicio responded to Goyri’s comments, saying, “I am proud to be an Oaxacan indigenous woman and it saddens me that there are people who do not know the correct meaning of words.” Goyri eventually apologized (not really, depending on your perspective), offering the now-standard “It was never my intent to offend anyone.” Goyri was the most vocal but certainly not the only person to denigrate Aparicio’s achievement. Late last year Aparicio appeared on the cover of Vogue México, the first Mixtec (a broad term covering most of Mexico’s indigenous Mesoamerican people) to do so. The magazine’s editor admitted to The New York Times that she worried spotlighting the young actress would only increase the number of hostile comments being lobbed at her. It’s great that the Academy is honoring Aparicio’s work in Roma, but it’s sad that the honor is also highlighting Mexico’s own battles with racism.

The next controversy was fully orchestrated by AMPAS itself. In early February, the Academy issued a statement saying it would cut four award categories—Cinematography, Film Editing, Live Action Short and Makeup & Hairstyling from the live Oscars telecast, handing out those awards during commercial breaks. The move was supposedly an effort to trim down the notoriously long-running three-hour show. But Academy members hit back at the idea. Guillermo del Toro, who won several Oscars last year for his film
The Shape of Water, took to social media, saying, “I would not presume to suggest what categories to cut during the Oscars show but—Cinematography and Editing are at the very heart of our craft. They are not inherited from a theatrical tradition or a literary tradition: they are cinema itself.” Stars from Brad Pitt to Spike Lee signed an open letter to the Academy last week denouncing the move. Thankfully—particularly for those nominated—the Academy reversed its decision, allowing all awards to be seen during the telecast.

AMPAS also stepped in it, briefly, when the organization said only two of the night’s Best Original Song nominees would be performed live on the telecast. That seemed like a bad decision, given the uncharacteristically high quality of this year’s song choices. That rash idea was quickly abandoned, allowing Lady Gaga and Bradley Cooper to perform “Shallow” on stage (duh). Joining them will be Bette Midler, performing “The Place Where the Lost Things Go” from
Mary Poppins Returns, Jennifer Hudson performing “I’ll Fight” from RBG, and Gillian Welch and David Rawlings performing “When a Cowboy Trades his Spurs for Wings” from The Ballad of Buster Scruggs. No confirmation yet on who will perform the fifth and final song, “All the Stars” from Black Panther.

And in an effort to make up for all the controversy—time limit be damned—the Academy is also welcoming to the stage Adam Lambert and the surviving members of Queen. They’ll undoubtedly perform something from
Bohemian Rhapsody—which won’t count as an original song, but will certainly be a highlight of the evening.
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