After a fiasco-ridden start, the 91st Oscars finally seem to have hit their stride. The Academy announced the first round of presenters on Monday (February 4), just 20 days before the live ceremony will be broadcast to TVs across the country, and they are actually — surprisingly — pretty fun.
The first presenters confirmed for show are a mix of young and middle-aged Hollywood, with Awkwafina, Daniel Craig, Chris Evans, Tina Fey, Whoopi Goldberg, Brie Larson, Jennifer Lopez, Amy Poehler, Maya Rudolph, Amandla Stenberg, Charlize Theron, Tessa Thompson, and Constance Wu making the list.
While the cynic in me feels pangs of try-hard parents bopping along to “Thank U, Next” when it comes on in the grocery store, my nicer side recognizes the Academy’s genuinely cool attempt to honor the oft-overlooked movies that added to the zeitgeist in ways that we, the people, absolutely adored, but which their members felt less excited about.
For example, the cultural contributions of Crazy Rich Asians — the summer blockbuster that gave a global platform to an under-represented population and earned nominations at the Golden Globes, SAG Awards, and Critics Choice Awards, to name a few, but that failed to earn a single nomination at this year’s Academy Awards — will be felt through Awkwafina and Wu’s attendance. Likewise, the heartfelt superheroics and regenerating legacy of Marvel’s Avengers franchise will be will be fully embodied when Evans and Larson hit that Dolby Theatre stage. And who represents the YA film genre and general Gen Z mentality more perfectly than The Hate U Give star and activist Stenberg?
The 13 aforementioned actors join the previously announced performers in setting the tone for the host-less evening. After initial rumors that only two of the five Best Original Song nominees would take the stage (and after a potential Lady Gaga intervention), the Academy announced that all five nominated songs would be featured during the telecast. Then, they offered a performance slate that only enhances the multi-generational dynamic with Jennifer Hudson (performing RBG‘s “I’ll Fight”), Gillian Welch and David Rawlings (performing The Ballad of Buster Scruggs‘s “When a Cowboy Trades His Spurs for Wings”), Bradley Cooper and Lady Gaga (performing A Star Is Born‘s “Shallow”), and a to-be-revealed “surprise special guest” (performing Mary Poppins Returns‘s “The Place Where Lost Things Go”). Kendrick Lamar and SZA, nominated for Black Panther‘s “All the Stars,” have not yet been confirmed as performers.
Will this broad appeal result in a successful awards night? We’ll find out when the Oscars air live on Sunday, February 24.