The Oscars are sort of like presidential elections — every once in a great while you get genuinely excited about the possibilities, which is usually followed by disappointment, at which point you realize disappointment is the historical norm. (I expected more? What was I thinking?) It’s been two years since Warren Beatty announced the wrong best picture and the producers of both La La Land and Moonlight took the stage, an all-time great Oscars moment I was lucky enough to witness in my own lifetime. Nothing especially memorable has happened since.
This year’s host-less show began with ex-American Idol star Adam Lambert (did you know that ABC, which air the Oscars, are bringing back American Idol!?) singing “We Will Rock You,” Queen’s cheesiest song, with the surviving members of Queen. Lambert vamped through fog, adding too much vibrato for a jock jam, while the camera cut to famous people in the crowd, dorkily stomping to the beat. Like most things on network television, it felt like cruise ship entertainment, mostly designed for the very young and the very old. It’s Vegas night on Carnival Cruise Lines! you almost expected Lambert to shout. Freddie Mercury’s eyes had to be rolling over in the grave.
The show had its moments, of course, as it always does. Regina King’s acceptance speech for best supporting actress was heartfelt and moving (If Beale Street Could Talk’s lone win); Olivia Colman accepting Best Actress was genuine and adorable. Maya Rudolph, Amy Poehler, and Tina Fey had a funny presenting turn (I’ll say it again: they should’ve hosted), as did Melissa McCarthy and Brian Tyree Henry in wacky outfits (if you can’t do wacky outfit humor on Oscars night when can you?). Samuel L. Jackson, who famously lacks a poker face on Oscars night, seemed to make a face when he had to present a best original screenplay Oscar to Green Book.
Still, the most memorable aspects of this year’s show were the lack of a host and the fact that it was almost certainly going to end with lots of people pissed off. That’s what happens when you nominate a bad biopic directed by a serial sexual abuser who got fired halfway through (Bohemian Rhapsody, which took home four awards) and a pat race parable from the director of Shallow Hal (Green Book, which won best picture).