“You’re all going to get wet,” yelled Rami Malek, the Oscars’ newly minted best actor, shaking a magnum of champagne.
The star of “Bohemian Rhapsody” was in the engraving room of the Governors Ball, the Academy Awards’ official after-party, where winners get their names etched on their statues. When champagne came surging out of the bottle, Mr. Malek hosed down the room like a grand prix winner, drenching onlookers and engravers alike.
“And that's what happens when you win an Oscar,” he added.
If the Academy Awards are the peak expression of American culture, perhaps it’s fitting they’re held in a mall. After the ceremony at the Dolby Theatre, guests ascended five levels via escalator, across from stores like Victoria’s Secret and Dave & Buster’s, to the Ray Dolby Ballroom.
Inside, they were greeted by waiters bearing trays of Oscar-shaped pastries with smoked salmon and caviar, Wagyu beef bites and chicken potpies. Not to mention more stars flashing by than the Perseid meteor shower, including Alfonso Cuarón, who won for best director; Mahershala Ali, winner for best supporting actor; Amandla Stenberg; Adam Driver; Henry Golding; Serena Williams; Trevor Noah; John Mulaney and many more.
In the engraving room, Mr. Malek was followed by Lady Gaga and Mark Ronson, winners of best song for “A Star Is Born.” They sat side by side on stools at the counter, like teenagers at an old-fashioned soda fountain, even if one of them was wearing a $30 million Tiffany diamond around her neck.
An attendant stopped one guest from snapping a picture of them, saying: “We just want to keep it a sacred moment.” But all over the cavernous ballroom, the staff was having a tough time policing the no-photos rule. There were just too many “sacred moments.”
Like Regina King, who swept through with a publicist holding the train of her white Oscar de la Renta gown. “I’m vibrating,” she said of her reaction to winning for her supporting role in “If Beale Street Could Talk.”
Asked if the Oscars had taken a step forward in recognising diversity, Ms. King said: “I think so. My understanding is it’s the highest number of women and, as far as people of colour, there have never been as many nominations.”
Hannah Beachler, who won for production design on “Black Panther,” said: “I felt a shift tonight. I saw a lot of women and black women on stage holding their Oscars. Ruth Carter” — who won for costume design on “Black Panther” — “myself, Regina King: that’s a big deal.”
“There are a lot of women here who are empowered and are fighting the good fight right now to get parity, equality and equity within this industry,” Ms. Beachler added. “And I see it happening, but I still think there’s work to be done in diversity.”
Billy Porter, the “Pose” actor who sent social media into paroxysms when he arrived wearing a velvet skirt and tuxedo combo by Christian Siriano, said: “I won the red carpet.”
“I have been trying to create a conversation around fashion as art and activism,” he said. “And for me, showing up as a black gay man in a dress is activism.”
Mr. Porter also pushed back against critics of Jussie Smollett, another black gay actor, who was recently arrested on charges that he fabricated a racist and homophobic attack against himself. “They never believed us anyway, they never cared,” Mr. Porter said. “So it hasn’t set us back at all.”
Elsewhere, Barbra Streisand buttonholed Richard E. Grant and Melissa McCarthy, the stars of “Can You Ever Forgive Me?” Julian Schnabel, the artist and director, chatted with Willem Dafoe, the actor, alongside the dance floor, just as Questlove, who was D.J.-ing from a stage, segued from “Africa” by Toto, to Madonna’s “La Isla Bonita.”
Watching from a corner was Brian May, the lead guitarist of Queen, which opened the show with a tribute to Freddie Mercury, the band’s singer, who died in 1991.
“Freddie would love it here, he’d be swanning around,” Mr. May said, taking in the scene. “I think he would say to the band, ‘Darlings, this is what we all expected, isn’t it?’ Knowing that we didn’t.”
Did Freddie ever mention who he wanted to portray him in the Hollywood version of his life?
Mr. May thought for a moment. “Burt Reynolds,” he said.
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