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to Section One | to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, March 10, 2017 - Volume 45 Issue 10
Oscar takeaways

Six random thoughts concerning the 89th Annual Academy Awards
Arts & Entertainment
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Oscar takeaways

Six random thoughts concerning the 89th Annual Academy Awards

by Sara Michelle Fetters - SGN A&E Writer

It's been almost two weeks since the craziest Academy Awards showcase in the history of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences (MPAA), and ever since La La Land producer Jordan Horowitz stopped the show cold by authoritatively proclaiming Moonlight the Best Picture winner I'm still somewhat shocked by the outcome. Did this really happen? Did the MPAA actually award the Oscar for Best Picture to a $1.5-million indie from a Black writer/director? One revolving around themes of poverty, race, gender and sexual orientation, doing so with a frank sensitivity that puts the viewer square inside the shoes of its protagonist in ways few other films seldom have before?

Yes. It really happened, and in giving Barry Jenkins' feature Best Picture, the MPAA made a statement unlike any they ever have before. Whether one loves, likes or loathes Moonlight, there's no getting around the fact there's never been another feature like it to win Best Picture. Not at its budget level. Certainly not in the way it puts its LGBT themes front and center. And while other films featuring a primarily African American cast have won Best Picture (most notably Steven McQueen's slavery drama 12 Years a Slave), none of those put forward a cast list not containing a single Caucasian member whatsoever.

It's unheard of. After two years of #OscarSoWhite being a thing, after countless discussions pointing out MPAA membership is primarily White, Male and over the age of 65, the thought Academy President Cheryl Boone Isaacs could see her diversity initiatives produce such astonishing results so quickly is rather shocking. Moonlight is not the type of movie that would normally appeal to members while Damien Chazelle's lovely Hollywood musical La La Land unquestionably is, so forgive me if I'm still amazed the supposed frontrunner lost and the supposedly not-ready-for-primetime underdog ended up emerging victorious.

Make no mistake. Moonlight winning is a big fricking deal. Those that try to say otherwise do not understand the Academy Awards, its history and what a movie like this taking home Best Picture means to marginalized communities, not just here in the United States, but also around the world.

In addition, here are five other random thoughts that have occurred to me since the 89th annual Academy Awards came to such an explosively unexpected conclusion:



1. Thanks to the unbelievably insane screw up by the PricewaterhouseCoopers accountants that resulted in Warren Beatty and Faye Dunaway announcing the wrong Best Picture winner, neither Moonlight nor La La Land filmmakers were able to bask in the glow of any of their respective Oscar wins. The La La Land people found themselves up on the stage, delivering acceptance speeches only to be suddenly told they had to hand over their prize to someone else and to go back down into the auditorium and return to their respective seats. The Moonlight people were equally ill-treated, the show ending amidst a flurry of chaos and explanations, meaning no one who had a part in the movie's creation really got their moment to make an acceptance speech and say what they'd been dreaming of shouting to the world. It was an unforgivable mistake, and while the chances of something like it ever happening again are miniscule, it's still on the Academy to make sure it doesn't.

2. Brie Larson really didn't want to give that Oscar for Best Actor to Casey Affleck for his performance in Manchester by the Sea, and more or less admitted as much to Vanity Fair by pointedly stating that her actions on the stage spoke for themselves. A committed victim's rights activist, she made a point of shaking all the hands and giving hugs to all the college sexual assault survivors appearing on-stage with Lady Gaga during the 2016 Oscar ceremony, but the Room Best Actress winner wanted nothing to do with Affleck, refusing to applaud his victory. Say what you will about Affleck winning, about whether or not the sexual assault and harassment allegations against him levied by two female employees working on his experimental Joaquin Phoenix mockumentary I'm Still Here should matter as far as voting for him for Best Actor was concerned, Larson still stood up for her principles, not bowing to expected niceties or industry conventions when she was forced to hand him the Oscar. I can't help but respect that.

3. Who didn't love watching Hollywood veteran Kevin O'Connell, after 20 prior nominations and zero wins, finally walk home with an Oscar for Sound Mixing in regards to his spectacular work on Mel Gibson's WWII drama Hacksaw Ridge? It was a beautiful moment, one where it was never a guarantee that it could actually happen, the pure unadulterated joy bursting off of O'Connell face, as well the rapturous standing ovation he received from this crowd in the auditorium, sublimely speaking for itself.

4. I know they add time to a telecast that is already much too long, but the Honorary Academy Award winners deserve at least the opportunity to make a short speech. This year's class included four legendary luminaries, editor Anne V. Coates, casting director Lynn Stalmaster, filmmaker Frederick Wiseman and Hong Kong icon Jackie Chan. Seriously. Jackie Chan, who has barely sniffed the Oscar stage in his stunning, spectacular career, had to stand in the balcony and wave. That was it. Nothing more.

Listen, I get why this change was made to honor these folks at a separate event, but there are times when some of them deserve additional attention. This was one of those moments, and at the very least both Chan and Coates deserved more than a smattering of polite applause.

5. Finally, even with all the calamity at the end, even for the utter failure of the tour bus gag, I honestly can't believe I'm saying this, but host Jimmy Kimmel needs to be asked back. I've never been a fan but, other than those two snafus, one of which was decidedly not his fault, the late night talk show host and comedian did a rather spectacular job. He was funny, moved the show along, didn't play nice yet also was seldom overly mean. He called a lot of what was happening as he saw it and remained affable and charismatic throughout. Kimmel did a great job, and I'd be more than open to seeing if this was a fluke performance or, much like Johnny Carson or Billy Crystal, if he has the ability to do this on a regular basis.

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