The first and only time I ever attempted to cover the Oscar night festivities, was the year James Franco and Anne Hathaway hosted, those that watched that ceremony no doubt remember what a trainwreck the hosts were. They were so bad in fact that even though I took notes the whole show, I didn’t end up doing a recap, and less than a week later I completely stopped writing about movies. While the Oscars that night was not actually the cause of my previous writing attempts being abandoned, the Oscars are usually a tough show to get through, as it is continuously overlong, with too many low points to keep audiences engaged until the very, most tuning out, and opting instead to read the final winners the next morning.
So imagine my surprise, as I sat just after midnight, composing a tweet about which movie I thought should have won Best Picture, when Fred Berger, one of the Producers for La La Land, the people on stage accepting their Best Picture Oscar, stated plainly “we lost by the way.” This was followed by an awkward insistence by fellow producer Jordan Horowitz that in fact Moonlight had won best picture. The crowd understandably became confused, everyone thought, as I did, that Horowitz was being humble, and that he thought Moonlight deserved the honor they were bestowed. It was only until one of the shows producers, or director, got on the mic and stated that the wrong item was read, and that in fact Moonlight was the winner. The moments that followed continued the confusing trend, as one group of people shuffled off, upset at having now lost the award, and most likely embarrassed at having been apart of this snafu, while the Moonlight producers came on and gave their acceptance speeches. This was a surreal moment to watch, and I applaud the groups from both films on how they handled the situation, Horowitz was clearly upset, as he had a slight anger to his voice, as he ripped the winning card from Warren Beatty’s hand, but through it all he stated, “I’m going to be really proud to hand this to my friends from Moonlight.” I also want to say that Warren Beatty was good enough to explain what happened. His lead up to the announcement was initially odd, though I had chalked it up to nerves, or health, or any number of other reasons, but he did explain that he was handed a card that said “Emma Stone, La La Land,” and rather than question what he had in front him, and did what looked like a bit, he showed Faye Dunaway and she didn’t help, she simply read what they had in front of him. This truly was a twist ending that great Hollywood films are based on, though not the kind of surprise that you want the people from La La Land to experience, even though the film did win 6 other awards.
The rest of the show was pretty typical Oscar fare, with some good speeches, terrific musical performances, and a fun and funny host in Jimmy Kimmel. Kimmel did a good job of walking the line between typical host jokes, making fun of the actors, and the films in attendance, with the political humor that we all knew was coming. None of the jokes he told were particularly scathing, though him live tweeting the President with a typical booty call text, followed by one with the hashtag Meryl says hi, was particularly funny. Kimmel also had a few running gags throughout the show, with candy and sweets dropping from the ceiling, much to the delight of the celebrities in the crowd. The best bit was the continuation of his long running feud with Matt Damon, the joke has continued to be funny, and both are such good sports about the whole thing that it makes it all that much better, capped off by Jimmy conducting the house orchestra to play Matt off while he was talking, but not for an acceptance speech, but while he was presenting best original screenplay, a bit which almost made Ben Affleck burst out laughing. Not all of his bits landed though, as there was an incredibly weird and extended sequence where they surprised a group of tourist by having them walk through the show. What started out as a normal Kimmel bit quickly turned into something that I wanted to end, as the people were so enamored by what was happening, taking videos and pictures, and meeting celebrities, that they didn’t want to leave, and couldn’t banter with Kimmel the way I think he wanted. Ultimately it was an exercise in leaving the tv spotlight to the professionals.
While I had not yet had the chance to see all of the nominated films this year, the list of winners, save for the upset at the end, were the ones that had all been the front-runners going back to the Golden Globes. Viola Davis, and Mahershala Ali won for best supporting, and both Fences and Moonlight are ones I will be watching in the coming days, though everything I have heard says that they are well deserved wins. Casey Affleck and Emma Stone won Best Actor and Actress, and both deserved those honors. Affleck was a standout in Manchester by the Sea, and his performance was amazing start to finish, so I was happy to see him win. I also really enjoyed Emma Stone in La La Land, as she completely embodied that character, and made you fall in love with the story, though I still think that Natalie Portman had a better performance, I can see why Stone won. The other big award of the night went to Damien Chazelle for Best director, which was the right choice given how great La La Land was, and everything that he did to bring that film together deserves to be commended. I also was really happy to see Kenneth Lonergan win for best original screenplay, as Manchester by the Sea is my favorite movie of the films nominated, as it stuck with me for several days, and was a truly powerhouse film.
The show was filled with other memorable moments, making this years show more enjoyable than most even before the final award. Zootopia, a film about inclusion and acceptance won best animated feature, a well deserved award for a film I really enjoyed. I was also really happy to see O.J.: Made in America win best documentary feature, as that was an amazing look at the OJ Simpson case that took America by storm in the early 90s. I was also interested in what would happen if Asghar Farhadi won for best Foreign language film for The Salesman. The Iranian filmmaker was the subject of much speculation when the President imposed his travel ban legislation last month, and many worried that he would not be allowed to attend the awards. Farhadi ultimately chose not to attend, and the speech he prepared was read on stage, and was an indictment of President Trump, and the policies he has enacted this far, making this the most politically charged speech of the evening, something I was expecting more of after Meryl Streep’s recent acceptance speech drew the ire of the President.
In the end the almost 4 hour show provided laughs, heartwarming speeches, wonderful moments and an ending that would make M. Night Shyamalan jealous. Congratulations to all the winners, and to those that lost, you still did a wonderful job entertaining so many this past year. We have a lot of movies in the coming year, and we will do all of this again next year, and to whoever hosts, start working on your wrong winner jokes now.