No host. No monologue. But lots of Queen.
The 91st Academy Awards kicked off Sunday night with a rollicking medley of tracks by the British rock group, subject of best picture nominee “Bohemian Rhapsody.” The stars in the audience cheered, some pumping their fists, and many rose to their feet for Adam Lambert, subbing in for the late Freddie Mercury, and the surviving members of the group.
It was a high-energy beginning to a telecast that many feared could get off to a shaky start in the absence of a traditional emcee and after months of public relations fumbles. Three comedians who took the stage after the rock performance — Tina Fey, Amy Poehler and Maya Rudolph — quickly nodded to the rocky road to the show.
“There is no host tonight, there won’t be a popular movie category and Mexico is not paying for the wall,” Rudolph quipped.
The film academy went into the show without a clear frontrunner for best picture.
The fight for the marquee award is usually a two- or three-way race. But this year, all eight nominees for the top prize are in the mix. Variety has said we’re in “uncharted territory.”
Oscar oddsmakers favor Alfonso Cuarón’s black-and-white drama “Roma” and Peter Farrelly’s road trip comedy “Green Book.” And yet Spike Lee’s docudrama “BlacKkKlansman,” a fiery commentary on race in America, and Ryan Coogler’s superhero smash “Black Panther,” the big winner at the Screen Actors Guild Awards, ride into the show with late-breaking momentum.
The four other contenders have longer odds, but they could conceivably stage dark horse upsets.
“Bohemian Rhapsody” triumphed at the box-office and nabbed a surprise best picture (drama) win at the Golden Globes. Bradley Cooper’s musical melodrama “A Star Is Born” was a resounding commercial and critical hit, even if it has sputtered through much of awards season. The royalty farce “The Favourite” tied with “Roma” for the most nominations, and it carries art-house prestige.
“Vice,” Adam McKay’s takedown of Dick Cheney, probably has the slimmest chance to conquer the night. But a left-field victory for the divisive film would be a fitting climax for an anything-goes year.