A Few Thoughts on the Craziest Oscars I Can Remember

Posted by Matthew on February 27, 2017
Editorial, Television

The 89th Annual Academy Awards took place last night. It was an … interesting show. While Simon and I live-blogged the whole thing I have a few follow-up thoughts on the spectacle.

Let Them Sing!

I always dislike the years that they decide not to perform the songs. I know it’s often done in the interest of keeping the runtime down but the Oscars are always going to run over time so I appreciate the music breaks. This year they had one great compromise though, they started the show with Justin Timberlake singing his nominated song Can’t Stop The Feeling.

Your mileage on the song may vary, I happen to think it’s a pretty catchy pop song, but starting the show with it saved some run time and jazzed up the audience, and I think that’s a good thing.

The rest of the performances were mostly fine. It as interesting to hear both of La La Land‘s nominated songs performed at once and by someone who can actually sing in John Legend, and I had never heard the Sting song before and it sure was a Sting song. The real standout for me was Auli’i Cravalho singing How Far I’ll Go though. She is only 16 and she handled being on that stage with the poise of a seasoned veteran. I sincerely hope we see and hear more from her in the future.

Kimmel

Here’s a thing you may not know about me: I really don’t like late night chat shows anymore. I really appreciated David Letterman, I like Stephen Colbert, but the rest are mostly safe and boring and not worth staying for or googling on YouTube the next day.

I’ll admit though, I laughed a few times at Kimmel last night. His jokes were mostly bad but he did have one piece of genius. There was a recurring segment in which Charlize Theron, Seth Rogen, and Javier Bardem were each sat in a movie theatre watching and speaking about films that inspired them. For most of the show it seemed like it was just another “we make movies and we think movies are special” bit from the Academy. It turned out to be a brilliant long con though as in the fourth segment Jimmy Kimmel showed up sitting in that movie theatre talking about a Matt Damon film he thought was totally bad. I’m almost not sure that Matt Damon is in on the joke anymore, but either way it was a great comedy moment.

It’s a shame then that Kimmel had a few moments of casual racism in his routine. He made fun of Mahershala Ali’s name. He made fun of a tourists name. He held up Sunny Pawar, the young star of Lion as if he was Simba from The Lion King. These moments put a pretty big damper on the comedy for me. Argue away about whether weird names are fair game, but in an ever globalizing world weird to one isn’t weird to another. I think that Kimmel can and should do better.

For more on this you should check out this great piece by Birth.Movies.Death’s Siddhant Adlakha.

The Best Picture(s)

And then there was “that moment.” Warren Beatty was given the wrong envelope, and La La Land was called out as best picture. A few moments later, three people in to their acceptance, it was announced that in fact Moonlight had won.

Two things first: poor Warren Beatty. I hope he isn’t remembered as the bad guy. There were a few moments of hesitation where people thought he was trying to be funny where in hindsight he was clearly thinking “this is live, what the fuck do I do?”, and he showed the card to Faye Dunaway –I think to ask what to do– and she read it out. Its ill be easy to vilify him, but there’s no villain here, just a big mistake. Second, La La Land producer Jordan Horowitz handled the situation gracefully, making sure everyone knew what was happening and saying he was proud to hand the award to his friends, the rightful winners.

Most importantly though the right film won Best Picture.

The Academy is predisposed to reward movies about the movies (The Artist, Argo, and Birdman were all in the last six years) so I was worried they’d go that way again and give it to La La Land. This isn’t to say that La La Land isn’t a good movie, it is, but Moonlight is a both a tour de force and far more timely.

The Oscars were a bit of a mess, and everyone involved in those last few moments must have been on their own private emotional rollercoasters, but it’s a day later and we live in a world where a masterpiece about the queer, black experience in America is the best picture at the same time that Donald Trump is enacting racist, homophobic, and transphobic policies in America, and that’s fantastic. Art shapes the world and Moonlight is the right movie for the world now.

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