LOS ANGELES (Reuters) – Regina King was an early winner on Sunday as British band Queen got the first Academy Award ceremony in 30 years to be held without a host off to a rocking start.
91st Academy Awards – Oscars Show – Hollywood, Los Angeles, California, U.S., February 24, 2019. Adam Lambert (L) performs with Brian May of Queen. REUTERS/Mike Blake
King was named best supporting actress for her role as a mother fighting for justice in racial injustice-themed movie “If Beale Street Could Talk.” It was her first Oscar.
“I am an example of what it looks like when support and love is poured into someone,” said King. “Mom, I love you so much.”
Queen, featuring former “American Idol” star Adam Lambert, brought the A-list audience to its feet with an opening show featuring “We Will Rock You” and “We Are the Champions” as celebrities like Jennifer Lopez and Lady Gaga sang and waved along.
The performance celebrated the global success of best picture nominee “Bohemian Rhapsody,” about the British band and its late frontman Freddie Mercury.
Organizers are under pressure to make Sunday’s live ceremony a must-see television event after a record low audience in 2018.
Despite having no host, the first presenters – Tiny Fey, Amy Poehler, and Maya Rudolph – found plenty to joke about.
“There won’t be host, there won’t be a popular movie category and Mexico is not playing for the wall,” Rudolph quipped, referring to U.S. President Donald Trump’s lengthy campaign to build a wall on the U.S. southern border.
Lady Gaga, Bette Midler and Jennifer Hudson are also set to perform. Tennis champion Serena Williams and talk show host Trevor Noah will also appear on the Dolby Theatre stage in Hollywood in a bid to broaden the show’s appeal beyond movie fans.
Lady Gaga is widely expected to take home her first Oscar for her hit song “Shallow,” which she will perform on Sunday in a much-anticipated live duet with co-star and best actor nominee Bradley Cooper.
Despite the celebrity names, all eyes are on the best picture prize at the end of the approximately three-hour show and one of the most eclectic and unpredictable line-ups for years.
Disney’s “Black Panther,” the first superhero movie ever nominated for best picture, will compete against popular musicals “A Star is Born” from Warner Bros and 21st Century Fox film “Bohemian Rhapsody,” along with racially themed “Green Book” and “BlacKkKlansman” from Universal Pictures.
Black-and-white Mexican film “Roma,” quirky 18th century Fox Searchlight comedy “The Favourite” and independent political satire “Vice” round out the competition.
The winners are chosen by the 8,000 members of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.
A victory for “Roma,” director Alfonso Cuaron’s sentimental journey back to his childhood, would mark the first Oscar best picture win for Netflix and a sign that streaming services can not only compete with traditional Hollywood studios, but beat them at their own game.
“Roma,” shot in Spanish and with 10 Oscar nominations, is also considered the front-runner in the foreign language category. No foreign language film has ever won best picture, and no movie has ever won both.
Spike Lee is vying to become the first black director to win an Oscar for his explosive take on U.S. race relations in “BlacKkKlansman”; Rami Malek, who has Egyptian heritage, could be named best actor for his performance as Mercury in “Bohemian Rhapsody,” and Mahershala Ali is strong contender for his supporting role as a 1960s black pianist in “Green Book.”
Additional reporting by Nichola Groom and Lisa Richwine; Editing by Sandra Maler and Jonathan Oatis