What to Watch for at the 2019 Academy Awards: An Oscars Precap

A Few Good Reasons to Tune In for Hollywood's Biggest Night

By Sam Eichner ·

The last time the Oscars proceeded without a host was exactly 30 years ago. The 61st Academy Awards, in 1989, lives on in infamy.

Produced by the boisterous Hollywood manager and producer, Allan Car, who helmed the classic film version of Grease, it featured a gaudy, 11-minute opening musical number, involving Snow White, an off-key Rob Lowe, a cringe-worthy parody of Creedence Clearwater Revival’s “Proud Mary” and an inexplicable brain-like structure. The ceremony was so disastrous, 17 Hollywood icons, including the likes of Paul Newman and Julie Andrews, signed an open letter declaring it an “embarrassment.” Carr was essentially ex-communicated from Hollywood. He never worked, again.  (Lowe had other issues at the time, chief amongst them a sex tape, which led to his demise—and eventual comeback.)

While it doesn’t look like this year’s telecast can go quite that poorly, the 2019 Academy Awards have been marred by controversy from the get-go. There was the unwelcome inception (and revocation) of the “Achievement in Popular Film” award, which seemed conceived as a failsafe in the event the Academy snubbed Black Panther (it evidently didn’t). There was the resurfacing of would-be host, Kevin Hart’s, homophobic tweets, and a never-ending apology tour that seemed to involve everything but an actual apology. And in the past few weeks, there was a ludicrous plan to cut four awards from the telecast, including cinematography—a decision met with such universal derision, it was quickly reversed.

That doesn’t even begin to cover the issues surrounding the films themselves. Bohemian Rhapsody, the Freddie Mercury biopic that has raked in over $800 million worldwide, does not, for all intents and purposes, have a director, or at least one people are eager to celebrate; the man credited for the job, Bryan Singer, has been credibly accused of rampant sexual assault. Meanwhile, Green Book, which has picked up several key prizes during award season, has been criticized as the second-coming of Driving Miss Daisy, another film where a black man teaches a white racist to not be so racist. That movie won the Academy Award for Best Picture in 1990, the same year Spike Lee got snubbed for Do the Right Thing. Lee is also nominated Sunday night, in the Adapted Screenplay, Director and Picture categories, for BlackKklansman.

History will be made on Sunday, though whether it's for something great or something egregious is still up in the air. Here's why you should tune in...

Because Whoopi Goldberg might turn out to be the surprise host.
There's a barely credible conspiracy theory circulating around the interwebs that the beloved Whoopi Goldberg might've secretly been tapped to host the Oscars, given a) she's hosted before; b) she said earlier this year that she'd up for the task; and c) she's been suspiciously absent from her regular gig on The View. ABC has denied the rumors, but you never know...

Because even without a host, there's a star-studded lineup of presenters...
...including Paul Rudd, Michael B. Jordan, Bryan Tyree Henry, Awkwafina, Jennifer Lopez, Tessa Thompson and the historically hilarious Amy Poehler and Maya Rudolph. 

Because there's always a chance this could be a genuine disaster. 
Without a host to keep things on the rails, in the event of an awkward or improvised moment, a select few unlucky presenters might be left ill-equipped to clean up the mess. Also, just look at how weird this fucking set is. We understand Trump is on everyone's minds, but you'd think subconsciously projecting his hair onto a proscenium would've been avoidable. 

Because of the potential for great speeches.
Glenn Close already gave a rousing speech at the Golden Globes, and she's all but certain to win for Best Actress on Sunday night, as a sort of quasi-lifetime achievement award. And should Spike Lee upset Alfonso Caurón in the Best Director race—it's a possibility—we'd probably be in for a pretty memorable Oscars moment.  

Because of the potential for awkward speeches.
Rami Malek is the heavy favorite to win for his portrayal of Freddie Mercury in Bohemian Rhapsody. Obviously, he'll have to avoid any mention of Singer. Likewise, Mahershala Ali is the favorite (though not a sure thing) to win in the Supporting Actor category for Green Book, for his portrayal of Dr. Don Shirley—whose real-life family has ardently criticized inaccuracies at the heart of the film. If he wins, we imagine he'll keep things brief.

Because of the reaction shots.
Particularly of the no-bullshit Spike Lee, who,if he gives the kind of steely-eyed look he gave during this DGA panel, will become an instant meme.

Because of the much-anticipated (by me) performance of "Shallow."
Yes, Bradley Cooper and Lady Gaga have made it clear they're performing their hit song from A Star Is Born as Bradley Cooper and Lady Gaga—not as Jackson and Ally Maine. If you've seen footage of Cooper's impromptu appearance at Lady Gaga's Vegas show (see above), you have an idea of what this will look like. It might be a bit stilted. And there's no way it can match the energy of the movie. But it's still "Shallow," and if nothing else we're guaranteed one, long, emotion ululation from Lady Gaga.  

Because this is a great year for your Oscars pool.
Usually, by the time the ceremony rolls around, a clear favorite for Best Picture emerges. Technically, that favorite is Roma—in part because Caurón is almost a lock to win Best Director (Lee being the only real potential upset), and oftentimes, Picture follows Director. But the odds on GoldDerby are pretty good for Green Book (6/1), BlackKklansman (7/1), The Favourite (7/1) and even Black Panther (8/1). Because of the way the preferential balloting works, if the Academy is relatively torn when it comes to their #1 movie—and forecasting suggests it is—Best Picture will likely be decided by the body's second or third favorite movies. Which means a film like The Favourite—not necessarily a ton of voters' first choice, but feasibly a lot of their second, third, or fourth choice—could pull off an upset.

By no means are most of the other categories locks. Original Screenplay, Best Supporting Actress and Best Supporting Actor are all relatively up for grabs (I'd watch for Richard E. Grant to upset Mahershala Ali), and in the more technical categories—particularly Film Editing, Costume Design and Sound Editing—races are pretty open, too. 

Bottom line is: there will be some surprises. So don't be afraid to deviate from the oddsmakers/prognosticators. At the end of the day, nobody (myself very-much included) really has a strong grasp on how everything will shake out. 

Because of the seemingly never-ending montages.

Sam Eichner

Sam Eichner likes literature, reality television and his twin cats equally. He has consistently been told he needs a shave since he started growing facial hair.

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