A minor note on Sunday’s much-discussed, host-free, wonderfully diverse Oscar ceremony: It was awfully rough on collaborators.
Time and again, the stage was filled with winners who smiled, nodded and got barely a word in edgewise, as a colleague sopped up the limelight.
Maybe there was a designated speaker rule. But if so, not everyone honored it. The sound mixers for Bohemian Rhapsody — Paul Massey, Tim Cavagin and John Casali — did the old-style Three Musketeers thing, for instance, each taking a few seconds to thank family, friends and colleagues. The Green Book team similarly spread their time among three speakers.
But those were rare birds on a night when several winning teams had a member who turned out to be considerably more equal than the others, never mind those old saws about film being the most collaborative of arts.
Hannah Beachler, picking up a production design Oscar for Black Panther, actually managed to look annoyed at her fellow winner, the set decorator Jay Hart. “OK, you’re standing on my dress,” said Beachler, as she fumbled for her glasses and phone, to read a two minute-plus speech that wound around a theme of personal growth. “I stand here stronger than I was yesterday,” she said, atop a litany of those who made her strong. It was a good speech, but it didn’t leave room for Hart to do more than gesture agreement and get in a word of thanks to his unnamed crew.
It went the same way in the Original Song category. “I worked hard for a long time,” said Lady Gaga, as she lectured on following one’s dream and commended Bradley Cooper as pretty much the only one who could accompany her in singing the winning song, “Shallow.” Fellow songwriter/winners Mark Ronson, Anthony Rossomorro and Andrew Wyatt stood mute, until Ronson stole a few seconds to thank Lady Gaga. “When you’re in the room with this person you really don’t have to do too much,” he said, with un-Oscar like modesty.
When Free Solo picked up the Best Documentary Feature Oscar, it was producer-director Elizabeth Chai Vasarhelyi who did the talking, almost all of it. Jimmy Chin, Evan Hayes and Shannon Dill propped her up, reminded her to breathe and got in a quick “Thank you,” but that was about it.
Still, that was more than Spike Lee’s collaborators — Charlie Wachtel, David Rabinowitz, and Kevin Willmott — managed, as he spoke for the lot of them in accepting the Best Adapted Screenplay Oscar. Spike being Spike, he had a lot of ground to cover, including 400 years of history and the next presidential election.
Wachtel, Rabinowitz and Willmott managed not to add their collective two cents. Which might be for the best, as they and the other silent collaborators, if nothing else, helped to keep the 2019 Oscar broadcast mercifully short.