LOS ANGELES-- Ryan Coogler's superhero sensation "Black Panther" and Alfonso Cuaron's black-and-white personal epic "Roma" were among the early winners at a brisk, hostless 91st Academy Awards that saw historic wins for diversity.
The lush, big-budget craft of "Black Panther," won for Ruth Carter's costume design and Hannah Beachler and Jay Hart's production design at Sunday's Oscars at the Dolby Theatre in Los Angeles. Beachler had been the first African-American to ever be nominated in the category. Beachler and Carter became just the second and third black women to win non-acting Oscars.
"It just means that we've opened the door," said Carter, a veteran costume designer, backstage. "Finally, the door is wide open."
Two years after winning for his role in "Moonlight," Mahershala Ali won again for his supporting performance in the interracial road-trip drama "Green Book" — a role many said was really a lead. Ali is the second black actor to win two Oscars following Denzel Washington, who won for "Glory" and "Training Day."
The night's co-lead nominee "Roma," which is favored to hand Netflix its first best picture win, notched Mexico's first foreign language film Oscar. Cuaron also won best cinematography, becoming the first director to ever win for serving as his own director of photography. "Roma" leads an especially international bunch of nominees.
"When asked about the New Wave, Claude Chabrol said there are no waves, there is only the ocean," said Cuaron. "The nominees tonight have proven that we are a part of the same ocean."
Queen launched Sunday's ceremony with a medley of hits that gave the awards a distinctly Grammy-like flavor as Hollywood's most prestigious ceremony sought to prove that it's still "champion of the world" after last year's record-low ratings.
Singer Adam Lambert, who has been touring with the band, replaced the late Freddie Mercury, the subject of the best-picture nominee "Bohemian Rhapsody." The hit biopic, whose director Byran Singer was fired in mid-production, took three Oscars for editing, sound mixing and sound editing.
Following Queen, the motion picture academy ran of montage of the year's movies before Tina Fey — alongside Amy Poehler and Maya Rudolph — welcomed the Dolby Theatre audience to "the one-millionth Academy Awards." The trio ran through the kind of jokes, they said, they would have said if they were, in fact, hosting.
Rudolph summarized the situation: "There is no host, there won't be a popular movie category and Mexico is not paying for the wall."
They then presented best supporting actress to Regina King for her pained matriarch in Barry Jenkins' James Baldwin adaptation "If Beale Street Could Talk." The crowd gave King a standing ovation for her first Oscar.
"To be standing here representing one of the greatest artist of our time, James Baldwin, is a little surreal," said King. "James Baldwin birthed this baby."
Best documentary went to Elizabeth Chai Vasarhelyi and Jimmy Chin's "Free Solo," which chronicles rock climber Alex Honnold's famed, free solo ascent of Yosemite's El Capitan, a 3,000-foot wall of sheer granite, without ropes or climbing equipment. "Free Solo" was among a handful of hugely successful documentaries last year including the nominated Ruth Bader Ginsberg documentary "RBG" and the snubbed Fred Rogers doc "Won't You Be My Neighbor."
"Thank you Alex Holland for teaching us to believe in the impossible," said Vasarhelyi. "This film is for everyone who believes in the impossible."
Adam McKay's Dick Cheney biopic "Vice" won makeup and hairstyling for its extensive physical transformations. The category was one of the four that the academy initially planned to present during a commercial break and as its winners — Greg Cannom, Kate Biscoe and Patricia Dehaney — dragged on in a litany of thank-yous, they were the first to have their microphone cut off.
The run-up to this year's Academy Awards was a series of missteps and backtracks by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. A new best "popular film" category was in, and then it was out . Kevin Hart was host and then he wasn't . Some categories were removed from the live broadcast, and then they were back.
But if the script this Oscar season has been constantly rewritten, the film academy is hoping for a Hollywood ending (and much better ratings than the all-time low viewership last year .)
After some unlikely Los Angeles weather — to much local fanfare, it snowed in parts of the city on Thursday — sunny skies greeted red carpet arrivals. Screams of "Spiiiiiike" were heard along the red carpet when "BlacKkKlansman" director Spike Lee arrived to some of the biggest applause of the afternoon.
Glenn Close, wearing a gold-draped dress that she said weighed more than 40 pounds, said she was worried all day that she won't be able to stop crying. Close, who has been nominated seven times, is expected to win her first Oscar — though she has said she doesn't want "a pity Oscar."
Producers Donna Gigliotti and Glenn Weiss have pledged that the show will be speedier this year , even though its initial goal of a three-hour broadcast has faded.
In the academy's favor is a popular crop of nominees: "Bohemian Rhapsody," ''A Star Is Born" and, most of all, "Black Panther" have all amassed huge sums in ticket sales. Typically, when there are box-office hits (like "Titanic"), more people watch the Oscars.
But just how many people have seen one of the top nominees and the film favored to win best picture — Cuaron's "Roma" — remains unknown. Netflix has declined to give box-office results or steaming viewership. It remains a nominee unlike any other. Should "Roma" — a black-and-white, Spanish and Mixtec language film about a domestic worker in a Mexican family — win, it will be both the first Netflix movie to win best picture and the first foreign language film to do so.
Yet this year's race has been maddeningly unpredictable , with the usual predictive awards being spread across contenders such as Peter Farrelly's "Green Book," a divisive period dramedy about a black pianist (Ali) and his white chauffer (Viggo Mortensen); the royal romp "The Favourite; and "Black Panther," which could become the first superhero film ever to win Hollywood's top award.
Other milestones are possible, too. Though Cuaron is favored for best director, a win for Lee ("BlacKkKlansman") would make him the first black filmmaker to ever win the award. Lee has said he likes his film's underdog position as a "dark horse — pun intended." Lee and his fellow screenwriters are also up for best screenplay, which would give the 61-year-old Lee his first competitive Oscar. (AP)