Breakthrough Oscars went to “Roma’s” Alfonso Cuarón, “Black Panther’s” Hannah Beachler and Ruth Carter, and “Into the Spider-Verse’s” Peter Ramsey.
It was a crafts celebration at the 91st Academy Awards Sunday night, marked by the wonders of “Black Panther’s” Wakanda and “Bohemian Rhapsody’s” nostalgic rock trip.
“Black Panther” and “Bohemian Rhapsody” shared the night with three craft Oscars apiece. The MCU struck Oscar gold for the first time with its superhero phenomenon, taking production design (Hannah Beachler), costume design (Ruth Carter), and score (composer Ludwig Göransson).
And the popular Freddie Mercury biopic (starring Oscar winner Rami Malek) offered a powerful, arena-like cinematic experience, snagging awards for editor John Ottman (going without a director in post-production) in tandem with the sound editing and mixing teams.
But for Beachler and Carter, it was a significant diversity breakthrough, as they became the first blacks to win in their respective crafts. They helped director Ryan Coogler achieve his vision of unity with their vibranium-powered Afro-futurism, and Göransson did his part by taking a deep dive into African music, punctuated by talking drum and screaming flute.
Beachler offered advice for other aspiring production designers from minority backgrounds: “Don’t ever let anybody tell you you can’t do this craft, you are worthy and you are beautiful, and this is something for you.”
Added Carter, “It just means that we’ve opened up the door, finally the door is wide open. I’ve been struggling and digging deep and mentoring and doing whatever I could to raise others up, and I hope through my example, this means that there is hope, and other people can come on and win an Oscar just like I did.”
20th Century Fox
It was also a historic victory for “Roma’s” Alfonso Cuarón, who became the first director to win the cinematography Oscar for shooting his black-and-white Netflix movie himself. And the monochromatic innovation in 65mm undoubtedly contributed to “Roma” also taking Best Foreign Language Film and Best Director honors.
“It’s been a very long journey; it’s not Oscar bait,” Cuarón said. “I’m delighted that people around the world are embracing a domestic worker. It’s a Mexican film that belongs to Mexico.”
Meanwhile, Sony Animation earned its first Oscar for the innovative and inclusionary “Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse” (produced by Phil Lord and Chris Miller), which made up for the previous snubbing of “The LEGO Movie.”
Sony Pictures Animation
As well, Peter Ramsey became the first black director in the animated feature category with his win for the game-changing “Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse.” He acknowledged the cultural importance of getting Miles Morales (Shameik Moore) as the first Spidey of color: “All of us deeply felt the importance of this,” Ramsey said. “Miles had a lot of back-ups — we knew how important it was going to be and show kids to be their best selves no matter who they are.”
It was a good night for Adam McKay’s quirky Dick Cheney biopic, “Vice,” as four-time Oscar winner Greg Cannom, Kate Biscoe, and Patricia DeHaney scored for their extraordinary makeup and hairstyling. They made Christian Bale unrecognizable as the polarizing political operative-turned powerful VP.
“We started out with Christian, and we tried to do a really good job,” Cannom said, “but it still evolved as we went along, and Christian had a lot to do with it, and he wanted to be a little heavier still in the neck and not as much in the front…and…I had to back the pieces off from his mouth because otherwise he’d get crinkles in it. So you just keep doing makeup tests and trying this and trying that.”
Although “The Favourite,” “BlacKkklansman,” “Green Book,” and “If Beale Street Could Talk” came away empty-handed as far as crafts, “First Man” didn’t go home unrewarded. Damien Chazelle’s space adventure took the VFX Oscar for its brilliant in-camera work created by DNEG (following last year’s Oscar-winning “Blade Runner 2049”).
As expected, “Shallow” (“A Star Is Born”) took song honors on the strength of Lady Gaga’s star power and riveting performance. And Pixar earned its fifth animated short Oscar for “Bao,” the poignant mother/son bonding fable wrapped inside a Chinese dumpling. It was an inclusionary victory as well for the studio’s rising star, Chinese-Canadian Domee Shi, the first woman to direct a short at Pixar, who is now developing her first feature.
Shi gave a shout out to her mom, Ningsha Zhong, a real-life dumpling master, who served as consultant. “I was always that super overprotected little dumpling,” she said, “and I was so frustrated and wondering, ‘Why is she smothering me? Stop it!’ Through this short, I understand her a little bit better.”