While perhaps the biggest story to come out of the 2019 Oscars so far is the Academy’s hiring and practically immediate firing of Kevin Hart as host after failing to properly vet him and his past homophobic social media posts—and subsequently deciding to go completely host-less for the first time in decades—that’s far from the only controversy swirling around Hollywood’s biggest night.
At the end of January, rumors began swirling that, in another break with longstanding tradition, only two of the five Best Original Song nominees would be performed during the live telecast: “Shallow,” from A Star Is Born, and “All the Stars,” from Black Panther. On Thursday, however, the Academy announced in a pair of tweets that “I’ll Fight,” from RBG, and “The Place Where Lost Things Go,” from Mary Poppins Returns, would also be showcased, though the latter will be performed by “a surprise special guest” rather than Mary Poppins herself, Emily Blunt. (No mention was made of the fifth nominee, “When a Cowboy Trades His Spurs,” from The Ballad of Buster Scruggs.)
According to Deadline‘s insiders, this return to tradition came after Lady Gaga and her team protested the elimination of more than half of the performances, calling it unfair and vowing that Gaga wouldn’t perform “Shallow” unless they changed the plans. Reportedly not so thrilled with this decision was Blunt, who, according to Deadline, is “apprehensive” about performing “The Place Where Lost Things Go” live and on national television, and thus passed off the task to the aforementioned “surprise special guest.”
The outlet also reports that, since the three songs had originally been cut in an effort to shorten the typically interminable ceremony, now that they’re back on the schedule, they may not be performed in their entirety. Plus, producers Donna Gigliotti and Glenn Weiss have reportedly convinced the Academy to let several of the technical awards that are less prestigious in the eyes of the general public to be presented during commercial breaks.
Still yet to be swept under the rug, however, is the issue of who will present the awards. In January, SAG-AFTRA released a statement claiming that the Academy had been using “outrageous and unacceptable” bullying tactics to convince celebrities not to present at any other award shows if they wanted to be able to do so at the Oscars. Now, Deadline reports that in the Academy’s continued efforts to secure the biggest possible stars, they’re breaking with tradition yet again by not inviting the four winners of the 2018 acting awards to present the statuettes to the 2019 winners.
Per Deadline, none of the 2018 winners—Gary Oldman, Frances McDormand, Allison Janney, and Sam Rockwell, who is nominated again this year—have even been contacted about presenting, with the producers reportedly hoping to secure more impressive “global star wattage” with potential presenters like Tom Hanks or Oprah Winfrey. (For the record, last year, 2017 Best Actor winner Casey Affleck didn’t take on the usual role of presenting the following year’s Best Actress trophy, due to the controversy surrounding him among the burgeoning Time’s Up movement. Instead, past winners Jennifer Lawrence and Jodie Foster gave McDormand her statuette.)
The cherry on top of all the drama, and the first inkling that the 91st Academy Awards weren’t going to be business as usual, was the Academy’s proposal and subsequent cancellation of a “popular film” category. The August 2018 announcement was met with such loud and impassioned outcry that it was wiped from the slate within just a few weeks—due in large part to Laura Dern. Americans may not actually care that much about the Oscars, but they’d really appreciate it if the Academy stopped trying to cancel century-old traditions, thank you very much.