LOS ANGELES — “Green Book,” about a white chauffeur and his black client in segregation-era America, won best picture and two other trophies at the 91st Academy Awards, overcoming a series of awards-season setbacks and mixed critical notices.
In honoring “Green Book,” voters slowed the rise of Netflix, which had aggressively pushed “Roma” in the best-picture race. Netflix made significant inroads, however, with “Roma,” about a domestic worker in 1970s-era Mexico City, winning three Oscars, including best director and cinematographer for Alfonso Cuarón. (Netflix had previously received only one Oscar for a feature-length film.)
In many ways, the ceremony — the first without a host in 30 years — played out like the more populist and less prestigious Golden Globes: veering in multiple directions as voters sprinkled their attention among a dozen pictures, with no film walking away with a commanding sweep.
“Bohemian Rhapsody,” the blockbuster biopic about Queen and its frontman, Freddie Mercury, received the most Academy Awards — four — with wins for Rami Malek’s lead acting and for editing, sound mixing and sound editing. “Black Panther” went home with three Oscars. The Dick Cheney biopic “Vice” received one, for hair and makeup. “The Favourite,” which had 10 nominations going into the night, tying “Roma” for the most, also left with one Oscar, for Olivia Colman as lead actress.
A gobsmacked Colman gave a giggling, circuitous acceptance speech that nonetheless managed to address the elephant in the room — that her victory had denied one to Glenn Close (“The Wife”), who had been expected to break her seven-nomination losing streak.
“This is not how I wanted it to be,” Colman said, as the camera cut to Close in the audience. Close smiled and offered a c’est la vie shrug.
Spike Lee was not as sanguine. When “Green Book” won best picture, he made a disgusted gesture and started walking out of the theater as “Green Book” producers gave their speeches. Backstage, Lee said, “No comment,” when asked about the coronation of “Green Book,” which detractors complain has a retrograde view of race.
Lee then added, “I thought I was courtside at the Garden and the ref made a bad call.”
In a major shift from the #OscarsSoWhite years of 2015 and 2016, this year’s ceremony, which lasted a little more than three hours, was notable for the diversity of honorees. Two “Black Panther” crew members, Hannah Beachler (production design) and Ruth E. Carter (costumes), became the first African-Americans to receive Oscars in their respective categories. Cuarón received the prize for best cinematography for “Roma,” making him the first director to win for shooting his own film.
Asian-Americans were represented in victories for “Free Solo,” which was named best documentary, and for “Bao,” which won best animated short. LGBT people were acknowledged with “Bohemian Rhapsody.
“We made a film about a gay man, an immigrant, who lived his life just unapologetically himself,” Malek said. “We’re longing for stories like this.”
And Lee (“BlacKkKlansman”) won a competitive Oscar for the first time in his celebrated career — albeit for writing and not directing. It was the lone award for the film. “Let’s all mobilize,” Lee shouted, referencing the coming presidential election as he accepted the adapted screenplay award. “Make the moral choice between love versus hate. Let’s do the right thing!”
“Green Book” also won best original screenplay. It was written by Nick Vallelonga, Brian Currie and Peter Farrelly. Vallelonga, who wrote the book on which the film was based, thanked his parents. Farrelly thanked his cast, agents, publicists, production executives, family and the entire state of Rhode Island.
“Shallow,” the duet between Lady Gaga and Bradley Cooper that serves as the centerpiece of “A Star Is Born,” won best song. The film came up short during much of the awards season, but “Shallow” proved irresistible to voters.
Queen opens the show
The show took its lead from the Grammys, opening with a rowdy rendition of “We Will Rock You” by Queen.
“Welcome to the Oscars!” shouted Adam Lambert, who has taken over for Mercury as Queen’s frontman in recent years, as a waterfall of sparks fell to the Dolby Theater stage.
Tina Fey, Amy Poehler and Maya Rudolph then took the stage and — while explaining they were not the hosts — gave a mini-performance that drew relaxed laughter from the audience and seemed to make the case that the three women should be hired to co-host next year, pronto. In a quick segue, they began presenting the Oscar for best supporting actress at the show’s eight-minute mark. Last year, it took the show 18 minutes just to get through Jimmy Kimmel’s monologue.
Regina King won the supporting actress trophy for her role in the lyrical art film “If Beale Street Could Talk.”
“I’m an example of what it looks like when support and love is poured into someone,” King said, composing herself after breaking into tears.
Historic wins for ‘Black Panther’
Two subsequent awards also found African-American women called to the stage. Carter, a three-time nominee (“Amistad,” “Malcolm X”), won best costume design for her Afro-futuristic “Black Panther” attire. Beachler made history herself for her work (with Jay Hart).
“When you think it’s impossible, just remember to say this,” Beachler said, reading off her phone during an emotional speech. “I did my best, and my best is good enough.”
The film also won for Ludwig Goransson’s score.
“Roma” won best foreign-language film.
“Free Solo,” about a daring rock climber, took the prize for documentary feature.
“Thank you National Geographic for believing in us, and for hiring women and people of color,” said one of its directors, Elizabeth Chai Vasarhelyi.
The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences had pressed the producers of this year’s ceremony to drastically reduce the running time. Last year, the Oscars stretched to almost four hours — beyond the endurance of viewers, with ratings dropping to a record low. In one abandoned plan, the academy wanted to award four Oscars, including hair and makeup, during the commercial breaks, with the winning moments edited and aired later in the broadcast.
Perhaps as a protest, intentional or not, the three winners for hair and makeup, honored for their work on “Vice,” took their time at the microphone. In an awkward and halting set of thank yous, they fumbled with a piece of paper containing names and went way over their allotted 90-second time. Producers started the playoff music and ultimately cut sound to the microphone.
The academy spreads the love around
The first win for “Green Book” was a supporting actor victory by Mahershala Ali. It was Ali’s second supporting actor win in recent years. (He previously won in 2017 for his role in “Moonlight.”) Ali became the second African-American man to win two Oscars for acting, joining Denzel Washington.
“I want to dedicate this to my grandmother, who has been in my ear my entire life telling me that if at first I don’t succeed, try, try again,” Ali said from the stage.
“Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse” won best animated feature for Sony Pictures, as expected. The win was a blow to Disney and its Pixar studio, which have dominated the category since its creation in 2001 and had two nominees this year, “Incredibles 2” and “Ralph Breaks the Internet.”
Peter Ramsey, one of the three-credited “Spider-Verse” directors, spoke about the importance of inclusion in animated films. “We see you, we’re powerful,” he said to fans who identified with the diverse characters in the film.
Pixar did not leave empty-handed, thanks to its win for “Bao,” conceived and directed by Domee Shi. Even the space-race thriller “First Man” picked up an award, for visual effects.