Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Well That Was A Twist aka The Oscars Were Cuckoo

In an ending that maybe one risky gambler in Vegas predicted, both Moonlight and La La Land were named Best Picture last night. Although, it turns out it was not a tie or a joke, it was just one of the biggest flubs in live television history.

Once the mistake was noticed, the folks of La La Land welcomed (what turned out to be) the actual winners up on the stage - the talented group of people who made Moonlight.

So, how did this happen? That is the giant, smooth, gold man shaped question in the room.

After a night of wild speculation about rigged systems and conspiracies, a simple explanation was confirmed earlier today - there are multiple copies of every envelope (gasp!). Someone grabbed another Best Actress envelope off the "other" pile instead of the Best Picture envelope off the "no seriously, this is the real stack" pile. An honest mistake, but such a simplistic, seemingly lax system really breaks down the strict secrecy visage that led us all to believe that each envelope is held in a locked briefcase strapped to a body guard named Hank until the second the award is announced. Who would have known that there are extra award envelopes just falling all over the place backstage. Quite frankly, it is surprising that this has not happened every year.

Even if Warren Beatty had stopped the whole shenanigans and said into the mic, "Excuse me, this looks funny. Please God help me not look like an ass on TV," there still would have been quite the mystery to explain once a lady with a Britney Spears circa 2001 head mic ran out in a sweating panic to hand over the correct envelope.

Their names might be lighting up all the headlines today, but of course neither Beatty or his presenting partner, Bonnie GD Parker, aka Faye Dunaway, are to blame. After watching the clip for the millionth time (because the news could not stop replaying that shocker), it did seem like Beatty was trying to show the envelope to Dunaway to get a second opinion about its inaccuracy.

Now we know (Dunaway pay attention) the following: if someone is ever stalling and looks at you with an awkward smile and intense eyes, they are not making a joke, they are simply covering their panic and are looking for an out. Oh, and if someone hands you a card, always read what it says in your head before saying it out loud. Just some lessons you all can use the next time you present an award.

That twist ending could not have been more ironic for this awards season, a year which found people on Twitter early Sunday morning declaring their anger over La La Land winning Best Picture, hours before the ceremony even began. Now that the mystery behind that wrong envelope has been solved, everyone can move on and give it up to Moonlight for taking the top movie prize of the year! Who am I kidding - people are going to be talking about that mix up for the next century, but hopefully between all that bewilderment and gossip, more of this country will go soak up the stunning, emotional film watching experience that is the newly crowned Best Picture of the year. The last shot in the movie is so gorgeous it should be framed.

I am a huge fan of both movies that were called out as Best Picture last night, so all the immense (and I feel, totally unwarranted) hatred for La La Land was beginning to become infuriating. There was a deep passion behind wanting Moonlight to win (I was with you all), but why does another movie need to be cut down in the process? That negativity really bums me out, especially when 2016 was jam packed with movies sharing beautiful human stories about people from across this country and world.

All drama aside, I was thrilled that Moonlight was the real Best Picture. In the numerous years I have been trying to see all the Best Picture nominees before Oscar Sunday [A feat I finally accomplished! Stop, please, hold the applause!], no set of nominees have been more wonderful and memorable across the board than this year. Even Hacksaw Ridge, a movie I thought I would hate, was completely riveting in the last 45 minutes.

Going in knowing there was a grand assortment of flicks to choose from, it was honestly exciting to then see the awards nicely distributed between numerous movies. We all know it is annoying when a single movie wins all the awards (except for Titanic, because it is hard to deny that it is flawless). Six out of the nine best picture nominees won at least one award. Sorry Lion, Hidden Figures, and Hell Or High Water - you are still tremendous.

Specifically Kenneth Lonergan's win for Manchester By The Seas's screenplay had me cheering when it beat La La Land. After watching it two times through, it really sinks in how that movie's backbone is the strongly written witty, brilliant, and heartbreaking dialogue. All the characters feel simply natural, just like if they were your family, friends, or neighbors. 

We are also waking up in a world where Viola Davis finally has that statue in her hands. Her commitment on the highest level makes her a genuine welcome presence in anything. I get excited seeing her face pop up in those Vaseline commercials. In Fences she makes you feel the depths of her character's pain and happiness and is riveting the whole time she is on screen, even when she is simply crocheting and laughing out behind her house listening to her husband (Denzel Washington, in one of the finest roles I have ever seen him take on) tell stories . 

All of the winners are worth noting, but I can not leave this year behind without applauding Mahershala Ali's quietly powerful role playing a guiding light to a young boy, Emma Stone for winning in a role that leans on comedy more than the usually awarded intense drama, the beautiful, joyous, and invigorating music from La La Land, and Casey Affleck (albeit problematic in real life) who perfectly embodied the internal pain of, I will say it, the absolute saddest tragedy I have ever seen play out in a movie.

Aside from the honorees, the ceremony itself (hosted by Jimmy Kimmel) had some pretty enjoyable moments. One weird, yet delightful bit was the group of tourists that were grabbed off a tour bus and sent to parade past the front row of the auditorium and ended up getting enthusiastic hugs from Queen Meryl, among others. At first the lack of surprise on some of their faces made it all look staged, and then it all went on far too long to be actually planned.

I would rock ripped shorts, a light up fanny pack, and carry five selfie sticks on live TV if it meant I could get a hug from Meryl and Dev Patel. Nobody summed up all the shenanigans better than treasured NPR Podcast personality, Sam Sanders:

Now that the Academy Awards are over, this is the time when more of the movies will start being released for people to stream and rent in the comfort of their own home. Oh also, important message, the male cast members of Moonlight have become Calvin Klein models.

Okay, now I'm back after being extremely distracted. Anyway, I can not speak more highly about all the Best Picture nominees, even Hacksaw Ridge, which is far from a favorite, but it still has the story of an extraordinary real hero as its central focus. Some others, like Arrival, I'm still trying to unpack in my head after watching it several days ago.

From a musical to extreme drama and compelling coming of age story to sci-fi and a modern western - this year's nominees are a broad spectrum that represents many different movie genres. The package of each movie might look a little different, but at the heart of each one is a story about human life, dreams, and connection with others. Like Viola said in her acceptance speech, "So here's to August Wilson who exhumed and exalted the ordinary people." There are a lot of those ordinary stories left to tell.

In total, 62 movies were nominated for an Academy Award this year. I saw 20 before the awards yesterday - lets see how many more I can tackle next year. Here's to kicking off (hopefully) another wonderful year at the movies

Until next time!

Other nominee recommendations: The scene where Channing Tatum dances in a sailor suit in Hail, Caesar! (or watch the whole movie - although it is not a Coen best), Kubo and the Two Strings, The Lobster (!), Florence Forster Jenkins (Meryl + Hugh Grant are a delight), and Captain Fantastic (partial to those Pacific Northwest sights).

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