Got to start with the appropriate lead in a review about a show sometimes fun, but never great, had an acceptable host with occasional clever bits, didn't have big surprises for most of the awards, including announced winner La La Land for Best Picture.
Co-presenter Warren Beatty seemed to toy with the crowd as he fiddled with the card, which he then showed to Faye Dunaway, who told the world what it expected: La La Land won the Oscar.
The producers, cast and crew came onstage, gave the typical speeches, and I noticed during it all a stage manager in headsets pranced behind checking envelopes, which I thought was odd.
Suddenly, it was revealed Beatty was given the wrong envelope and La La Land producer Jordan Horowitz said Moonlight was the winner. There were attempts amidst gasps to be a good sport and I give lots of credit to the La La Land folks who scurried to the side as astonished Moonlight winners hurried onstage.
Beatty later said his envelope revealed Emma Stone and La La Land, which is why he'd reacted as he did, though one wonders why he didn't call attention to this. However, given the tension of live television, even for pros like Beatty and Dunaway they can be forgiven for an act that should cause PriceWaterhouseCoopers (PWC) heads to roll when the Academy meets to dissect the events.
Sure, mistakes happen, but this is the first such in Academy history. The closest to this was when Sammy Davis, Jr. read the wrong name in the sixties, which was for a different music category he was also to give. He made a joke about reporting it to the NAACP. But the name he gave was in fact a winner later on. In this case, it was horrific, and I feel for the La La Land people, even as the Moonlight people clearly had mixed reactions with their win.
Interestingly, I'd read an article in Huff Post about what goes on at the accounting firm, wherein two folks in charge, Martha Ruiz and Brian Cullinan were singularly responsible for counting ballots and double checking his/her partner. They memorized the winners, and it was mentioned if such a situation happened each was in the wings ready to alert a stage manager who would call the producer, hence the stage manager scurrying forth to deal with this terrible situation.
Host Jimmy Kimmel made a joke likening it to Steve Harvey who'd read the wrong Miss Universe winner in December, 2015. But in that case it was Harvey who erred, whereas Beatty and Dunaway were given the wrong envelope.
So much for double checking. If PWC isn't fired or forced to pay a huge penalty, in spite of their storied Oscar history, I'd be very surprised, because they caused a helluva lot of pain to the artists involved.
As to the show itself, I give Jimmy Kimmel a lot of credit for keeping things on an even keel, but there were few really special moments, the best of which was a parade of tourists supposedly shepherded around the Dolby building, unsuspecting they'd be attending the Oscars, where they had amusing encounters with celebrities.
It might've been real, but the folks didn't seem so surprised as they entered, and the shot of the bus shown on TV didn't seem to be one making a tour at 7 p.m., when it would have been dark. And wouldn't they have seen the bleachers around Hollywood Boulevard near the Dolby? Whatever, it was fun, as was the cascade of parachutes with candy and cookies to feed the audience.
Also amusing was Kimmel's so-called feud with Matt Damon, whom he insulted throughout the night, including starting the music as Damon and co-presenter Ben Affleck were giving a screenplay award, prompting Damon to react to being played off as a presenter.
All in all the show was okay, not the best, not the worst, opening with a lively performance of Best Song nominee Can't Stop the Feeling from Trolls by co-songwriter Justin Timberlake, who had the audience standing and clapping along.
Kimmel's monologue was serviceable saying for the first time at the Oscars there are "225 countries that now hate us." There were surprisingly few pointed anti-Trump jokes and comments, with Kimmel lobbing soft jabs thanking him for deflecting the notion the Oscars were racist by focusing attention on him. There were also comic references to Meryl Streep termed "overrated" by Trump and anticipating tweets from him during a nighttime bathroom trip.
A strident note was read from Asghar Farhadi, Foreign Language Winner for Iran’s The Salesman, who declined to come in solidarity with those in his nation and those in six others banned by Trump, decrying a divided world of us against them, which received a huge ovation.
Also, Gael Garcia Bernal before giving animation awards reminded that he was an immigrant, assailing any kind of wall to separate us.
Even commercials had elements of inclusiveness, but other than the aforementioned critical jabs there wasn’t a fiery Meryl Streep moment as when she gave a stirring anti-Trump speech at the Golden Globes.
There was an amusing bit showing celebrities reading nasty tweets about them, which was a connection to Trump in a subtler way. Earlier, Kimmel was concerned Trump hadn't yet tweeted, so he tweeted to Trump's Twitter account "Meryl says hi."
The Moonlight win, which was, other than the way it happened, not totally surprising. There'd been thought Denzel Washington would win best actor for Fences, but Casey Affleck did for Manchester By the Sea. Maherashal Ali and Viola Davis won as expected in supporting categories for Moonlight and Fences, and Emma Stone grabbed best actress for La La Land.
The screenplay awards went to Barry Jenkins and Tarell Alvin McCraney for Moonlight in the adapted category and Kenneth Lonergan for his original Manchester By the Sea script. Though, as I've noted previously, writing nominees weren't shown waiting for the revelation as director nominees were, which to me is unjustified. With the exception of Mel Gibson, the directors, including winner Damien Chazelle for La La Land, weren't more recognizable than the writers.
So, La La Land won six awards, (actress, director, cinematography, score and song [City of Stars] and production design), and Moonlight won three. Other multiple winners were Manchester By the Sea and Hacksaw Ridge for Sound Mixing and Film Editing.
All said, an okay show, nothing special, except this was one for the record books.
Michael Russnow’s website is www.ramproductionsinternational.com
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