Monday, February 27, 2017

The Good, the Bad, and the Insane at Last Night's Oscars

Well, that was a show, huh?  In what will go down in history as the strangest Oscar finale of all time, we had not one but two Best Picture winners for a brief moment.  I know a number of people (including my father, who was tired and headed upstairs to bed once La La Land won), may be wishing that they had stuck around a bit longer, but man was that an ending.  As a result, let's get to the good, the bad, the WTF,  and undecided of last night.


We'll start here because this is really what we all want to talk about, right?  Never, in my wildest dreams, could I have anticipated such a scenario as the wrong Best Picture winner being called.  My mom and I both stood up there aghast (we were both standing, anticipating that we'd quickly see a pithy aside about Donald Trump from Kimmel right before the credits rolled) and then suddenly Jordon Horowitz proclaimed Moonlight the winner.  At first, quite frankly, I thought what was happening was a Jack Lemmon/Ving Rhames situation, where the producers of La La Land wanted to bring their counterparts to the stage in an act of recognizing that, perhaps, more than one Best Picture is worthy each year.  But no, it was a staggering mistake of epic proportions.

Conspiracy theorists will postulate this was planned for the rest of time, but honestly I don't think that Dunaway or Beatty are that good of live performers (if they can still pull off something like that, why aren't more casting agents on them?).  No, based on what we're hearing this morning the wrong envelope got in Beatty's hands (you can see this in the pictures/video pretty clearly), he was confused, Dunaway just saw La La Land in giant letters and was assuming he was being cute, and then the catastrophe was set in motion.

Aside from proving once-and-for-all that Marisa Tomei did win that Oscar years ago (the real loser tonight is Judy Davis), this was both the best and worst of live television.  It was SO awkward and yet SO stunning, it ranks in the same sort of "can't look away" live television as the David Niven Streaker or Janet Jackson's half-time "wardrobe malfunction."  I feel truly bad for the La La Land producers (though I'm not going with the "grace and class" line so many are saying, as Jordan Hurwitz literally yanked that card out of Beatty's hands even though it clearly wasn't his fault; I'm not saying I would have behaved differently, but I probably wouldn't have had the gaul to rip anything out of a screen icon's hands).  I feel worse for Dunaway and Beatty, both of whom are going to be accused of having a "senior moment" when in reality there's a PriceWaterhouseCoopers accountant backstage who is updating their LinkedIn profile right now.  All-in-all, though, this was insane television, and thankfully it was La La Land to Moonlight, and not the other way around (or something involving Hacksaw Ridge).  And it led to arguably the first time I've seen Twitter erupt in chaos over something that didn't involve our president.  So that's a win in my book.  Either way, I won't forget about this for a looooong time.

The Good

Other than the Best Picture fiasco, the show had a number of great credits to its name.  I know that it's a popular past-time to mock the host, which Kimmel pointed out at the beginning, but honestly-I thought that Jimmy was aces and should become a regular.  He was edgy enough to keep the politically-inclined happy, several of his bits worked for me (I thought the potential trainwreck of the tourists coming in paid huge dividends, particularly Denzel marrying those two people and if nothing else it served as the soundest indictment of America to PUT AWAY YOUR FUCKING PHONES rather than recording things, as you're missing out on meeting movie stars by recording everything).  I loved a few jokes, and actually thought the Gibson jokes were just enough, and I was fine with the candy bits because the stars (particularly Meryl Streep, Octavia Spencer, and Taraji P. Henson) got into it in a major way.  I know he joked about never coming back, but that'd be a damn shame-he's clearly the most able host to take to the Oscars since Ellen, perhaps even Steve Martin.

Obviously I could celebrate a few of the wins (Moonlight taking Best Picture a decade after Brokeback Mountain is going to hit me at some point this morning, but my 20-year-old self is pretty proud right now considering I wore black for days of mourning after that), and I loved the way that The Salesman win was handled, though obviously having Asghar Farhadi there would have been better (Donald Trump is always on the "ugly" list).  Mahershala Ali gave a great speech, and the Hidden Figures section of the audience was by far the most fun (I loved "Cookie" aka Taraji P. Henson asking Octavia Spencer to share her cookies part in particular).  It wasn't superbly executed, but Katherine Johnson coming out was damn cool, and though it won't ever happen again at this rate, I loved the nod to Old Hollywood with Dunaway/Beatty.

One of the best bits of the night, one I wish I'd seen a bit more of, was the pairings of actors with their heroes (ie MacLaine/Theron and Fox/Rogen), as it nodded back to movies as culture, and it was a great way to show how actors inspire other actors.  Oh, and while I hardly wanted Hacksaw Ridge to win any awards, A) its sound mixing was better than La La Land's and B) Kevin O'Connell finally winning that damn Oscar and giving a beautiful ode to his mother made that moment worth it for me.  All-in-all, I think that while there were bits that I could have skipped, this was a very tight, strong Oscars, so anyone complaining this morning needs to state what they expect out of the Academy Awards...other than they hand the right envelopes out. #understandable

The Undecided

Viola Davis and Casey Affleck still have me undecided, to be honest, so let's start with Viola and work our way down.

I am glad Viola Davis has an Oscar.  Viola is one of the best actors in Hollywood, and this was a long time coming (I'd have given her two trophies by now).  But the category fraud thing has got to stop at some point.  Alicia Vikander and JK Simmons means it's three years in a row now, and if we don't end it soon, we're never going to get rare wins like Mahershala Ali's in Moonlight, a tiny gem that added SO much to Moonlight but in reality doesn't have the screen time to compete with someone like Davis in terms of sheer impact.  I'm usually one to look past that (it's easy to be calmed by one of your favorite actors getting a trophy), but can't we end this at some point?  Also, I have to say that while Davis is arguably the best orator in Hollywood right now when it comes to picking up awards, the "only" occupation to know what it is "to celebrate a life"-what about doctors, funeral directors, the white helmets, etc?  I think that this entered indulgent hyperbole even if I knew where she was going.  Still, it's a better world that we live in that Viola Davis now has an Oscar.

Casey Affleck I have no issues with his performance.  It's in my opinion by far the best of that category.  But I'm going to be honest here-I was hoping he'd lose.  I would have voted for Denzel, and part of me was hoping that this was that moment Ryan Gosling randomly picked up the trophy.  I could see in the lack of a proper standing ovation for him and the way that Brie Larson refused to clap that this is someone a lot of Hollywood doesn't believe in the charges against him, and I am a little confused about whether or not I will put a picture of him on my Facebook banner all year, as I do every year with the Oscar winners (apparently there's a few photos of just the other three winners circulating that would be a solid option, but then you get your conservative friends on Facebook who want to make an example of everything and...Facebook sucks, let's leave it there).  Either way, I'm going to remind myself that he almost certainly deserved this for his work even if he didn't deserve it personally.

The Bad

Since I'm not putting the Best Picture fiasco here (because it was fascinating if awful), there's not a lot to do here.  I have my most consistent complaint about the sound quality of the musical production numbers, which never seems to be as good as the Tonys and the Grammys.  I thought they might have it fixed after that well-launched opening number by Justin Timberlake (I loved the look at the lobby for the Oscars, which I'd never seen) as Timberlake sounded superb, but then the Moana singer came in and the balance felt off.  On a night where they correctly identified a La La Land weak spot (the sound mixing), you'd wish that they could address the same in their own telecast.

I will say that while Timberlake's opening felt a little too "the Grammys" for me, considering we weren't going to get a musical number from Kimmel this felt about right, though I could have done without Timberlake for the rest of the evening, greeting every person in La La Land as if he was in their movie, and that whole bizarre mugging thing when Kimmel was talking to him fell insanely flat.  I don't know-I don't like Timberlake personally at all and while I'll acknowledge there's talent there, it's more in the sense of live performance and less personality-based for me.  That, plus Sunny Pawar as The Lion King and the Donald Trump tweet sections were the only bits that really didn't work for me of Kimmel's, which is a solid track record but still worth pointing out.

Oh, and while the Meryl Streep bit was funny and took it a step further than usual, we probably need a new Meryl bit at this point, right?  We all know her routine of hiding behind Don (who clearly is completely over going to these things at this point), and part of me wondered if the producers were hinting at this when they chose such a slight clip from FFJ and not, say, a dying scene.  And don't go crying for a spoiler alert there-I don't know if you'd catch it, exactly, from the clips, but we saw serious spoilers from Fences and Hell or High Water in the acting clips last night.  I didn't want to say anything to my parents in the room with me during Jeff Bridges' clip as they haven't seen the movie yet, but Fences all three of us noted that "that's giving away something."  Probably better chose the clips next time.

Arguably the worst moment of the night was Vince Vaughn's weird, inexplicable Sal Mineo joke.  What was that about-was it meant to be homophobic?  I think that anyone with Vaughan's politics should probably resist cracking about slain gay actors, and while he somewhat recovered, he doesn't have the comic sensibility of a Whoopi Goldberg or even a Ricky Gervais to make inside baseball jokes that will land outside of the Kodak.

All-in-all, though, I had a great time-please share your thoughts below in the comments of what you thought of last night's Oscars!

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