With just over three weeks to go until the 91st Oscars ceremony, the Academy is finally beginning to disclose some details about the Feb. 24 broadcast.
To start the ball rolling, it announced Thursday via Twitter that Jennifer Hudson will be appearing on the show, performing the nominated song “I’ll Fight,” written by Diane Warren for the documentary RBG about Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg.
Two hours later, the Academy tweeted that the show will also include a performance of “The Place Where Lost Things Go,” written by Marc Shaiman and Scott Wittman, for Mary Poppins Returns, teasing that “it will be performed by a surprise special guest.”
Having failed to secure a host for the upcoming show after Kevin Hart first accepted and then, after 48 hours, walked away from the gig in December, Academy officials, who remained resolutely mum through the whole Hart fiasco, have been equally tight-lipped about how the kudocast, which they have vowed will not run longer than three hours, is developing.
With Donna Gigliotti — who is producing this year’s ceremony along with Glenn Weiss, who is co-producing and directing — keeping her cards extremely close to the vest, an information void opened that has led to speculation and then online debate and criticism about the Academy’s intentions.
On Jan. 24, Variety published a story that said only two of this year’s five nominated songs — Kendrick Lamar and SZA’s “All the Stars” from Black Panther and Lady Gaga’s “Shallow” from A Star Is Born — were likely to be performed live on the show.
While Academy sources insisted that report was incorrect and that all the performers had not yet been booked, the Academy declined to knock down the report on the record.
As social media then picked up and amplified the story, a number of Twitter commentators complained — the most prominent among them being Lin-Manuel Miranda, who tweeted, “The 1st time I stayed up to watch the Oscars, it was because I LOVED The Little Mermaid & they were going to sing songs from the movie I loved on The Oscars. If true, and Poppins’ song won’t be performed, truly disappointing. Hostless AND music-less? To quote Kendrick: Damn.”
His lament was picked up by The New York Times’ Carpetbagger columnist Kyle Buchanan, who began a story Wednesday that carried the headline “Are the Oscars Ashamed to Be the Oscars?”by writing, “You know things are going wrong with the Oscars when even Lin-Manuel Miranda gets upset.”
Hudson, a best supporting actress Oscar winner for 2006’s Dreamgirls, appeared on the 2015 Oscars telecast singing “I Can’t Let Go,” which played during the In Memoriam section, and on the 2013 show singing Dreamgirls’ “And I’m Telling You I’m Not Going.”
While her involvement may quiet some of the criticism about how the show plans to handle the nominated songs this year, Academy insiders are insisting that booking Hudson was not a reaction to the criticism, but something that had always been in the works.
And with the further announcement that “Lost Things Go” will be featured, suggests that the broadcast will represent all five nominated songs in some manner.
Further announcements are expected to follow shortly.
In addition to the songs from Black Panther, A Star Is Born, RBG and Mary Poppins Returns, the nominated songs this year also include “When a Cowboy Trades His Spurs for Wings,” written by Gillian Welch and David Rawlings for The Ballard of Buster Scruggs.
Jan. 31, 2019, 2:46 p.m.: Updated to include news of “The Place Where Lost Things Go.”
This story was originally published on The Hollywood Reporter.