“Welcome to the Oscars!” shouted Adam Lambert, who has taken over for Freddie 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 trophy for 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. Ruth E. Carter won best costume design for her Afro-futuristic “Black Panther” attire. Carter, a three-time nominee (“Amistad,” “Malcolm X”), was the first African-American winner in the category. Hannah Beachler made history herself as the first African-American to win in the production design category, also for her work (with Jay Hart) on “Black Panther.”
“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.”
Another early trophy went to Cuarón, who won the Oscar for cinematography for “Roma,” making him the first director to win for shooting his own film. “Roma” also 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 dramatically 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.
— No Mention of ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’ Director
For much of the first half of the ceremony, the Oscars played out like the more populist and less prestigious Golden Globes — veering in multiple directions as voters sprinkled their attention among a half-dozen pictures, with no film walking away with a commanding sweep.
“Bohemian Rhapsody” picked up Oscars for sound editing and sound mixing. John Ottman also won the Oscar for editing “Bohemian Rhapsody.” None of the winners thanked Bryan Singer, who was fired as the film’s director because of erratic behavior on the set and has been dogged by sexual misconduct allegations.
“Green Book” got on the board with a supporting actor victory by Mahershala Ali, who plays an erudite musician in the film who hires an unrefined white man as his chauffeur and body guard. It was Ali’s second supporting actor win in two 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.
This article originally appeared in The New York Times.