Biographical drama “Green Book”, the story of an unlikely friendship across racial divides, upstaged Alfonso Cuaron’s “Roma” to bag Best Picture Oscar at the 91st Academy Awards, which spread its four top awards among four different films.
Cuaron bagged the Oscar for Best Director while Olivia Colman got the Best Actress win for “The Favourite” and Rami Malek Best Actor for his turn as Queen musician Freddie Mercury in “Bohemian Rhapsody”.
The glittering ceremony, which went hostless for only the second time since 1989, began on a predictable note here Sunday evening but the Best Picture and Best Actress awards proved that anything can happen at the Oscars.
The India connect came with “Period. End of Sentence”, set in a village in western Uttar Pradesh’s Hapur district, walking away with Documentary Short win. The year’s best film “Green Book”, about the relationship between a black musician and his white driver, is backed by Anil Ambani-owned Reliance Entertainment’s Amblin Entertainment.
It also won Best Supporting Actor for Mahershala Ali and Best Original Screenplay.
“This is about loving each other despite our differences and finding out about the truth of who we are, we are the same people,” director-producer Peter Farrelly said while accepting the award.
British actor Colman edged out frontrunner Glenn Close (“The Wife”) with her portrayal of temperamental Queen Anne in “The Favourite”.
She was gracious in her shining moment when she acknowledged Close in her speech.
“…And to be in this category with these extraordinary women. And Glenn Close, you’ve been my idol for so long and this is not how I wanted it to be. And I think you’re amazing and I love you very much. I love you all,” she said.
In a heartfelt speech, Best Actor Malek spoke about reconnecting with rock legend Mercury over their shared immigrant roots – his from Egypt and Mercury’s from India.
“… We made a film about a gay man, an immigrant, who lived his life just unapologetically himself. And the fact that I’m celebrating him and this story with you tonight is proof that we’re longing for stories like this,” Malek said.
In a year where the awards were distributed to diverse films, “Bohemian Rhapsody” emerged champion with maximum four wins, including Film Editing, Sound Editing and Mixing.
The film was one of the biggest hits of the year, despite poor reviews and the drama surrounding the firing of its director Bryan Singer before the completion of the film.
Accusations of sexual exploitation against Singer almost derailed the film’s Oscar campaign.
“Roma” may have missed on the ultimate prize but it prevailed in other prominent categories, creating many firsts in the Academy’s history with Cuaron winning Best Director Oscar after accepting awards in the Foreign Language and Cinematography categories for the Netflix-produced Spanish film.
The Mexican director also became the first person to receive four nominations the same year and the first to win both Best Director and Cinematography honours.
Cuaron, who went up to the stage thrice, joked, “Being here doesn’t get old.”
The director expressed his gratitude towards working class women, who never occupy the centrestage in stories.
“I want to thank the Academy for recognising a film centred around an indigenous woman, one of the 70 million domestic workers in the world without work rights, a character that has historically been relegated in the background in cinema,” he said.
Documentary Short win of “Period. End of Sentence” made India proud at the ceremony.
The film depicts how local women took it upon themselves to produce low-cost sanitary pads. It is directed by Rayka Zehtabchi while India’s Guneet Monga’s Sikhya Entertainment co-produced it.
“Guneet Monga, know that you have been empowering women all over the world fight for menstrual equality,” the Iranian American director said in her acceptance speech.
Regina King won Best Supporting Actress for her role as a protective mother in Barry Jenkins’ “If Beale Street Could Talk”.
“Black Panther”, the first superhero film to be nominated for Best Picture in Oscars’ history, missed on the main trophy but walked away with three wins in Production Design, Costume Design and Original Score.
Ali, who won his career’s second Best Supporting honour, said, “Trying to capture Dr. Shirley’s essence pushed me to my ends.”
“Green Book” has been criticised as inaccurate by Shirley’s family, with the musician’s surviving brother, calling the film a “symphony of lies”. Other controversies related to the film include Farrelly’s past of exposing himself to actors and producer-writer Nick Vallelonga’s old anti-Muslim tweets.
Spike Lee, already an honorary Oscar winner, walked away with Best Adapted Screenplay Oscar for “BlacKkKlansman”.
While other winners spoke about diversity and inclusion, Lee, in the most political speech of the night, called on voters to be on the “right side of the history” in 2020 presidential campaign.
“The 2020 presidential election is around the corner. Let’s all mobilise. Let’s all be on the right side of history. Make the moral choice between love versus hate. Let’s do the right thing!” he said.
“A Star Is Born” had its only moment of glory when Lady Gaga was announced as the winner in Best Original Song category for “Shallow”.
While “Vice” won Make Up and Hairstyling honour, Damien Chazelle’s space drama “First Man” could only register a win in Best Visual Effects category.
Ending Disney-Pixar’s dominance, Sony’s “Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse” won Best Animated Feature Film.
The Best Animated Short Oscar went to “Bao” and “Skin” emerged Best Live Action Short Film winner.
“Free Solo” was adjudged Best Documentary Feature.
Adam Lambert and rock band Queen replaced the opening monologue of a usual Oscars night with the medley of ‘We Will Rock You’ and ‘We Are the Champions’. PTI