The 2019 Oscars began without a host delivering a monologue or tossing up comedy bits. They didn’t open with some comedian crooning a song specially written for the occasion.
No, they opened with a blast of rock music, as singer Adam Lambert (probably still best known for coming in second on American Idol) joined the surviving members of Queen to rip through some of the band’s greatest hits — including “We Will Rock You” and “We Are the Champions” — and celebrate not just Best Picture nominee Bohemian Rhapsody but also Queen itself, the band that forms the basis of the film.
The choice to open with an enormous production number was essentially the only one available to the Oscars, due to the Academy’s struggles to find a master of ceremonies after announced host Kevin Hart stepped down from the gig following controversy that bubbled up after homophobic tweets and jokes he had made in the early 2010s resurfaced.
Fortunately, Bohemian Rhapsody celebrated a band whose music is still absurdly popular and has only become more so after the film made more than $880 million at the worldwide box office and over $213 million in just the US and Canada. The movie is centered on the journey of Queen frontman Freddie Mercury, who died of complications stemming from AIDS in 1991.
The movie is an unlikely Best Picture nominee, due to its awful reviews (should it win Best Picture, it will be the second lowest-rated film on Metacritic to win that prize since the category expanded to more than five nominees in 2010).
It’s also proved hugely controversial because of director Bryan Singer, whom many men of have accused of sexually assaulting them while they were underage. What’s more, the movie has come under fire for the changes it makes to Mercury’s life story, especially when it comes to obscuring his queerness.
Queen and Lambert, though, were totally fine. They offered a rousing tribute to Mercury and some of the band’s greatest hits, and the frequent shots of the delighted celebrities in the crowd at the Dolby Theatre seemed to suggest everybody there was having a good time, too.
The performance was followed up by a montage of the year’s films, then some amusing comedy from Tina Fey, Amy Poehler, and Maya Rudolph. It almost felt like having no host was the plan all along.