Upper Darby’s Tina Fey did not host the Oscars this year with partners in comedy Amy Poehler and Maya Rudolph.
“We’re going to stand here a little too long, so the people who get USA Today tomorrow will think that we hosted,” said Fey, touching on a touchy subject for newspapers, whose first print deadlines, sadly, seldom play well with the Academy Awards.
Still, the 91st Academy Awards, freed of a host after the departure of Philly’s Kevin Hart, moved along briskly enough Sunday night, as a steady stream of presenters handed off to one another, none of them staying long enough to wear out their welcomes or waste precious prime-time minutes orchestrating stunts to help push the Best Picture announcement past most people’s bedtimes.
Best of all, they weren’t there long enough to become sizable targets for people like me, much less all of Twitter, which has made a late-night snack of many an Oscars host.
And while the show didn’t make ABC’s 11 p.m. target, Julia Roberts was wishing everyone — including Bradley Cooper’s mother, Rydal’s own Gloria Campano — a good night by 11:17.
Viewers who loved Bohemian Rhapsody may well have also loved American Idol veteran Adam Lambert and Queen kicking off the show, but it felt a little forced to me. What I did enjoy was watching a room full of formally dressed celebrities trying to behave like they were at a long-ago rock concert, conscious that millions were watching them trying to act as if no one was.
People who loved A Star Is Born, on the other hand, had to wait, as it became clear that the much-promoted duet of Cooper with Lady Gaga was going to be used to keep viewers sticking around a bit longer, with the pair taking the stage at 10 p.m., two hours into the show, to sing “Shallow." (Twenty-seven minutes later, it later won for best original song.)
It was worth the wait. Cooper may not have won for his acting (or been nominated for his directing), but he did Jenkintown proud, and didn’t appear quite as nervous as he’d predicted he’d be.
And, hey, they could have strung us along even longer.
As always, there were achievements that couldn’t be recognized even during the show’s many, many commercial breaks:
Least prepared (and most charming) winner: The Favourite’s Olivia Colman, who seemed considerably more upset than Glenn Close to have snatched yet another Oscar out from Close, who’d been favored for best actress. This wasn’t the way she’d wanted it to go, she told Close, in a rambling, tearful, and intermittently hilarious speech, that included a mention of her past work as a cleaner and ended with a shout-out to Lady Gaga.
Snubbed but not forgotten: The late Fred Rogers appeared in the film montage at the top of the show, though Penn grad Morgan Neville’s film about Rogers, Won’t You Be My Neighbor? had been overlooked in the feature documentary category.
Costume design, presenter category: For the person or people who outfitted presenters Melissa McCarthy and Brian Tyree Henry, whose presentation for costume design got off to a fun start with costumes so over the top it’s a wonder they could make it to the stage.
Thank-yous to be grateful for. To Ruth E. Carter, winning costume designer for Black Panther, for demonstrating that it’s possible to thank a whole bunch of people without being boring, or struggling with the lists of names.
Queen for the night: Having Queen Latifah, and not the surviving members of Queen, introduce the Queen Anne film The Favourite was the right call, Academy. As she said, “It’s not easy being queen.”
Promo best suited for an Oscars audience: For FX’s upcoming event series Fosse/Verdon, starring Sam Rockwell as Bob Fosse and Michelle Williams as Gwen Verdon.
Scariest use of tech: By Black Panther production designer Hannah Beachler, who had her excellent speech on a smartphone and at first couldn’t find it. Maybe this is why Spike Lee went old-school, with a sheet of lined paper?