Reel Dad: Oscar's lessons for 2019

An Oscar season defined by scandal, second thoughts and surprise has finally come to an end.
With a couple of amazing Academy surprises.
And, at the awards ceremony Sunday evening, the controversies of the year seemed less important than the opportunity to honor the deserving winners.
Before we close the books on the Academy Awards for 2018, let’s take a look at what we learned from the movies, the people who make them, and the organization that honors them. And can surprise.
Yes, surprises happen
As Oscar night began, most observers (including this critic) believed that, with her seventh nomination, Glenn Close would finally win an Oscar for “The Wife.” But it was not meant to be. When Frances Mcdormand announced the winner to be Olivia Colman, for her comic turn as Queen Anne in “The Favourite,” the audience inside the Dolby Theater went wild with surprise. Because surprise makes Oscar fun.

Yes, surprise can happen twice
A few minutes later, when Julia Roberts arrived on stage, most observers (including this critic) expected her to award the Best Picture Oscar to “Roma,” making it the first film to win both Best Foreign Film and Best Picture. But, once again, it was not meant to be. “Green Book,” the warm and humorous look at race relations in the early 1960s, stunned the crowd by being named Best Picture.
Yes, live performances excite
What a delight to see Bette Midler, live, on stage, performing “The Place Where Lost Things Go” from “Mary Poppins Returns,” and to experience Jennifer Hudson singing the meaningful “I’ll Fight” from RBG. And the performance of the evening, no surprise, belonged to Oscar winner Lady Gaga and Bradley Cooper bringing the house down with “Shallow” from “A Star Is Born.”

Yes, Spike Lee rules
It was about time. Thirty years after securing an Original Screenplay nomination for “Do the Right Thing” — and two years after winning an honorary Academy Award — Spike Lee finally won a competitive Oscar for the adapted screenplay for “BlacKkKlansman,” for which he was also nominated for Best Director and for producing the Best Picture. Congratulations, Spike, for a much overdo honor.
Yes, all of Oscar’s categories matter
Okay. Maybe we do get the sound categories confused. And maybe hair and makeup are not the most exciting of races. But all categories matter on Oscar night and the people who win. Hopefully, the Academy will not try to make the same mistake again by suggesting that some awards can be presented during commercial breaks. Because the people who win deserve the winning moment. Broadcast live.
Yes, the New York Film Festival delivers
Each year, this fall tradition at Lincoln Center offers a curated collection of the best of cinema. Some years it also introduces future Oscar winners. This year’s Best Foreign Language Film winner, “Roma,” was the centerpiece of the festival while future Oscar winners “The Favourite” and “If Beale Street Could Talk” also played during key show times. And this makes us even more excited for this fall’s event.

Yes, the Oscar campaigns can make a difference
Now, Rami Malek was a popular winner of the Best Actor award. But I do fear that, years from now, when we look back at 2018, we may wonder how Malek defeated Christian Bale for Best Actor. But industry insiders say Malek mastered the art of Oscar campaigning with as much confidence as he mastered the gestures of Freddie Mercury. While Bale chose to let his work on screen do the talking.
Yes, the Oscar show can work without a host
As much as our Oscar memories are filled with remembrances of Whoopi Goldberg, Ellen DeGeneres, Billy Crystal, Johnny Carson and Bob Hope, the Academy proved it can deliver an entertaining (and shorter) awards show by skipping the emcee tradition. Thanks to some delightful presenters, especially Tina Fey, Maya Rudolph and Amy Poehler, the emcee-less Oscar never missed a beat.
So another year at the movies comes to an official end with the close of Oscar night. And now we must wait many months before we begin, again, to wonder which films may ultimately receive this special recognition. In the meantime, see you at the movies.

More Oscar surprises over the years

With the 2018 Oscars now history, the surprise wins for Olivia Colman and Green Book join a select list of stunning victories at recent Oscar ceremonies.

Here are a few of the shocks.

2016: Moonlight over La La Land for Best Picture

Most observers (including this critic) expected Damien Chazelle’s musical hit to be the movie of the year. And the victory seemed a sure thing when Chazelle was named Best Director and Emma Stone won Best Actress. So, when Warren Beatty and Faye Dunaway announced La La Land as the Best Picture winner, no one was surprised. Until everyone on stage discovered, in Oscar’s most memorable mistake, that Moonlight actually won. And the presenters read the wrong envelope. A most stunning surprise.

2015: Mark Rylance over Sylvester Stallone for Best Supporting Actor

Most observers (not including this critic) expected Sylvestor Stallone to score a sentimental victory reprising his role as Rocky Balboa in Creed. But it was not meant to be. And this critic, among many others, was thrilled when little known stage actor Mark Rylance was honored for his breathtaking work as a reluctant spy in Steven Spielberg’s Bridge of Spies. Some surprises are welcome.

2011: Meryl Streep over Viola Davis for Best Actress

Few observers (including this critic) expected Meryl Streep to finally win a third Oscar for her breathtaking turn as Margaret Thatcher in The Iron Lady. Most believed that Viola Davis would win for The Help. But who could resist this master class from Streep? The most nominated actor in Oscar history won her third Oscar to join earlier wins for Sophie’s Choice and Kramer vs. Kramer.

2005: Crash over Brokeback Mountain for Best Picture

No one expected a surprise at the Oscars in 2005. When Ang Lee was named Best Director for Brokeback Mountain, most everyone (including this critic) expected the film to be named Best Picture. Few, if any, observers expected Crash to be named the winner. It remains, by many observers, one of the weakest films to win the top prize. What a shocker.

2002: Adrien Brody over Jack Nicholson for Best Actor

Many observers (but not this critic) expected Jack Nicholson to win another Oscar for his adorable turn as a senior citizen in About Schmidt. But the Academy had something else in mine. And this critic, too. When Halle Berry announced the winner to be Adrien Brody for his striking portrayal of a Holocaust survivor in The Piano, the audience was thrilled. And this critic, too.

2000: Marcia Gay Harden over Kate Hudson for Best Supporting Actress

Most observers (not including this critic) expected Kate Hudson — the daughter of Oscar winner Goldie Hawn — to follow in her mother’s footsteps by winning an Academy Award for a supporting comedy role. But it was not to be. This critic was thrilled when Marcia Gay Harden became a deserving surprise winner for her devastating work as Lee Pollock in the bio-pic Pollock.

1998: Shakespeare in Love over Saving Private Ryan for Best Picture

Most observers (including this critic) expected Steven Spielberg’s exploration of the first days following the D-Day invasion to be named Best Picture, a projection confirmed when Spielberg won the Oscar for Best Director. But it was not to be. The light and engaging Shakespeare in Love, with its comic look at what could have inspired the playwright to create his stage works, was a surprise winner.

1996: Juliette Binoche over Lauren Bacall for Best Supporting Actress

Most observers (not including this critic) expected Lauren Bacall to finally win an Oscar for playing Barbra Streisand’s mother in The Mirror Has Two Faces. But Oscar had a surprise in mind with Juliette Binoche, a surprise winner for her engaging performance as a caregiver in The English Patient, the winner of the Best Picture award. And this critic was thrilled.

Yes, Oscar loves a good surprise. So does this critic.