The Biggest Controversies Surrounding the 2019 Oscars

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SAG-AFTRA Foundation Conversations: 'The Upside' With Kevin Hart & Neil Burger

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If you feel like the Oscars should have happened months ago, you’re not alone. The awards ceremony has been in the news constantly since last summer thanks to some particularly high-profile controversies. But the show is finally happening this weekend—and there are likely some surprises still in store. Here’s a refresher on all the outrage, missteps, and drama that got us here.

Best Popular Film?

In August, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences’ board of governors announced a new category: Outstanding Achievement in Popular Film. The decision was met with outrage with critics saying the decision “smacks of desperation,” feels like “shameless pandering,” and “a preemptive move to avoid controversy.”

A few weeks later, the Academy announced it was putting “a pin in” the decision until further review.

The Kevin Hart Saga

In December, Deadline reported on the Academy’s delay in finding an Oscars host. Later that day, it was announced they’d picked comedian Kevin Hart. Within hours, some of Hart’s homophobic tweets from 2009 to 2011 surfaced.

Hart refused to apologize, posting an Instagram video saying: “I just got a call from the Academy and that call said, ‘Kevin, apologize from your tweets of old or we’re going to have to move on to find another host.’ Talking about the tweets from 2009, 2010. I choose to pass. I passed on the apology. The reason why I passed is I’ve addressed this several times.”

The next day, Hart stepped down with a tweet saying, “I have made the choice to step down from hosting this year’s Oscar’s….this is because I do not want to be a distraction on a night that should be celebrated by so many amazing talented artists. I sincerely apologize to the LGBTQ community for my insensitive words from my past.”

On January 4, Hart went on The Ellen DeGeneres Show and the host said she called the Academy to say she thought Hart should still host the Oscars. She relayed the conversation, saying: “The Academy is saying, ‘What can we do to make this happen?'” Hart said he was “evaluating” the offer.

On January 9, Hart confirmed (again) on a Good Morning America appearance that he won’t be hosting.

So, Who Is Hosting This Thing?

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Whoopi Goldberg was rumored to host the show.

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After it became official that Hart was out, Variety reported the show would move forward with no host. “As it stands, no new offers are out, nor are any expected to be made to a single potential host to fill the void left by Kevin Hart,” the trade wrote, citing sources.

Rumors swirled in the days before the show that Whoopi Goldberg would be hosting. Joy Behar, her co-host at The View, debunked them saying: “Whoopi is still out. She’s not feeling well and there are all these conspiracy theories on the internet that she’s not really sick. She’s secretly preparing to host the Oscars,” Behar said. “Let me just set the record straight right now, OK?”

The Two-Song Limit

Only two of the five Oscar-nominated songs—Kendrick Lamar and SZA’s “All the Stars” from Black Panther and Lady Gaga’s “Shallow” from A Star Is Born—would be performed live, Variety reported in January. People complained.

And the Academy reversed the decision, announcing all of the songs will be performed. But Variety reports the performances may be limited to 90 seconds each. And this week, Kendrick Lamar and SZA confirmed they will not perform their song during the broadcast. The Academy did, however, extend an invite to Queen (and touring lead singer Adam Lambert) to perform.

Cutting Categories, Then Bringing Them Back

Back in August, the Academy tried to do some more trimming by cutting four categories from the live telecast—by having them presented during commercial breaks. There was an outcry. And last week, they reversed that decision, too.

“The Academy has heard the feedback from its membership regarding the Oscar presentation of four awards—Cinematography, Film Editing, Live Action Short, and Makeup and Hairstyling,” the organization said in a statement. “All Academy Awards will be presented without edits, in our traditional format. We look forward to Oscar Sunday, February 24.”

Will there be any controversial moments on Sunday night during the Oscars broadcast? Most certainly. Maybe if you complain loud enough, the Academy will reverse any of their choices by Tuesday morning.