Alfonso Cuaron bagged a hat trick of Oscars on Sunday for Roma, his love letter to his childhood in 1970s Mexico City, but civil rights drama Green Book crashed his party with a win for best picture.
The 57-year-old Mexican filmmaker won the prizes for best director, cinematography and foreign language film, capping a wonderful night – and offering streaming giant Netflix another feather in its cap.
‘I grew up watching foreign language films, learning so much from them, being inspired – films like Citizen Kane, Jaws. And there are no waves, there’s only the ocean,’ an emotional Cuaron said.
‘I think the nominees tonight have proven that we are part of the same ocean.’
Rock legends Queen, fronted by US singer Adam Lambert, opened what turned out to be one of the more enjoyable ceremonies in recent years with a mini-medley of ‘We Will Rock You’ and ‘We Are the Champions.’
The British rockers may have experienced more nerves than during a normal gig: biopic Bohemian Rhapsody was up for several awards and ended up the biggest winner of the night with four Oscars.
The film – which tracks the band’s rise to fame from the moment when Freddie Mercury joined the band in 1970 to their legendary 1985 Live Aid performance – took statuettes for best actor Rami Malek, as well as sound editing, sound mixing and film editing.
‘I may not have been the obvious choice but I guess it worked out,’ chuckled a self-deprecating Malek, whose spell-binding turn as Mercury captivated audiences.
‘Not about … winnng’
Roma, Cuaron’s black-and-white ode to childhood and the women who raised him, was the frontrunner going into the night. It had earned 10 nominations, despite spending little time in movie theaters, in keeping with Netflix‘s customary release strategy.
Green Book overcame controversy for a successful night – it started off with a widely expected best supporting actor trophy for Mahershala Ali, and a best original screenplay award.
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It was expected to lose out to Roma for best picture, but crept up to take the honours after winning the same prize at the influential Producers Guild Awards.
‘The whole story is about love. It’s about loving each other, despite our differences, and finding out the truth about who we are,’ said director Peter Farrelly.
Another frontrunner for the 91st Academy Awards was offbeat royal romp The Favourite, which also had 10 nominations, but turned out to be one of the night’s big losers.
It went home with just one win – albeit one of the night’s biggest shocks – for best actress Olivia Colman. The 45-year-old Brit beat Glenn Close, who swept all before her during the awards season for The Wife. Glenn Close remains the most Oscar-nominated living performer who has yet to win with seven nominations.
Crowd favourite A Star is Born, too, came away with only one statuette, for Lady Gaga‘s song Shallow, while the much-vaunted Dick Cheney biopic Vice was only recognised for hair and make-up.
‘I’ve worked hard for a long time, and it’s not about … winning. But what it’s about is not giving up. If you have a dream, fight for it,’ the Grammy-winning Gaga said, tears streaming down her face.
Tribute to Prince
Celebrated filmmaker Spike Lee provided one of the few eyebrow-raising moments as he accepted an Oscar, his first ever competitive prize, for best adapted screenplay for race drama BlacKkKlansman.
Dressed all in purple in tribute to late pop legend Prince, the director put the ABC network‘s anti-profanity bleeping machine through its paces with some colourful language.
But then he got serious with an impassioned tribute to his grandmother and a plea for voters to be ‘on the right side of history’ in the 2020 US presidential election.
Among all the contenders, Marvel superhero movie Black Panther would have had the best brand recognition among the TV audience – it took in more at the box office than its best picture rivals combined.
The 7,900-odd voting members of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences saw fit to add gold to the blockbuster’s haul of green, with statuettes for its production design, costumes and original score.
The winners were announced as ever at Hollywood’s Dolby Theatre, in a ceremony beamed around the world to millions of showbiz fans, with a twist – there was no host for the first time in three decades.
The Academy opted to take the risk after comedian Kevin Hart withdrew in the face of a firestorm over past controversial tweets that were slammed as homophobic.
The first statuette – for best supporting actress – went to first-time nominee Regina King, 48, for her emotional performance as a mother defending her daughter’s boyfriend, wrongfully accused of rape, in If Beale Street Could Talk.
The Academy – desperate to boost television ratings that have plummeted in recent years – tried to stick to a three-hour telecast, but it hit a few bumps along the way.
Controversies over its efforts to save time included plans to present a handful of awards during commercial breaks, and to feature only a few of the nominated songs. Both ideas were quickly scrapped.
Gaga and her co-star and director Bradley Cooper wowed the audience with their performance of ‘Shallow’ while songstresses Jennifer Hudson and Bette Midler also performed.
In the end, the show was only about 15 minutes over time.
Top winners by films:
Bohemian Rhapsody (4), Black Panther (3), Roma (3), Green Book (3).