Dienstag, 28. Februar 2017

ACADEMY AWARDS 2017 - Oscar Review

 Hello there puny humans,
oh boy, what a night. Even people who didn't watch the show on Sunday have heard at least of its flub ending. It was an outrageous finale to a show that so far had actually been going incredibly well. So in a similar fashion as last year, let me re-cap these 89th Academy Awards for you with all its Ups and Downs:

The Good

The Musical Performances
Musical performances at the Oscars are a time-honored tradition. Every year at least the Nominees for Best Original Song will take the stage. In the past this has sometimes gotten out of hand. With the host opening with a musical number, five Nominees performing and additional musical tributes to past films, it could get a little exhausting. This year however the producers chose and placed the music very well. First of all, they opened with Justin Timberlake's Can't Stop The Feeling, checking off one of the Nominees at the very beginning. Not only was it a nice way of saying "We are going to have fun tonight", but it also saved the mainstream pop number from unfavorably standing out compared to its more profound competitors. Then, since La La Land was nominated with two songs, they were able to combine these two Nominees into a smooth medley. Lastly, it was great to see how the sixteen year old Auli'i Cravalho got hit by a flag during her performance of How Far I'll Go, but just kept going like true pro. Hats off, to this young lady.

Oscars Not So White Anymore
Last year, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences came under fire when it turned out that no person of color had been nominated in any of the 24 categories. The hashtag #OscarsSoWhite became trending and the ceremony was only rescued by black comedian Chris Rock handling the issue incredibly well. The Academy certainly learned their lesson: An Iranian movie was named Best Foreign Film, two of the four acting awards were handed to African-Americans (including Mahershala Ali as the first Muslim actor to win the gold) and the (real) Best Picture Winner was Barry Jenkins' Moonlight. Especially the latter win was an important one. Not only did it show that small independent films can come out on top of big studio productions. But it also honored a movie that tells the highly relevant story of a young black man, who struggles with his homosexuality while growing up in a rough neighborhood. In these times, this was a necessary victory for minorities.

Jimmy Kimmel: The Greatest Host in Years
When I heard that Jimmy Kimmel had been chosen to host, I wasn't sure if he'd be up to the task. I had always liked the guy, but felt that he was "too TV" for Hollywood's biggest night. Something that I thought was a problem Ellen DeGeneres had in 2014. Kimmel however ended up proving me very wrong. His jokes were well balanced and a perfect mix of everything. He had punchlines about people that hit hard, but never went below the belt. He addressed racism, sexism and Hollywood's pretentiousness. He got political without ever getting too serious, and even had a few very sincere lines during his opening monologue. Also his fake feud with Matt Damon is a joke that never gets old, and he utilized it perfectly for this ceremony. Then, when the big Best Picture blunder came along at the end of the night, he kept his cool and charismatically controlled the damage. And even though he made a quip about probably not being asked back, I really hope we will see him in that Dolby Theater again!

The Bad

Academy Award Winner Suicide Squad
Yes, it is true. One of the biggest clusterf**ks when it comes to summer blockbusters is now an Oscar winning film. Granted, it is "only" an award for Best Makeup and Hairstyling, but Suicide Squad was an allegory of everything that is wrong with the movie industry today and thereby so bad that it should have gotten a universal ban from prestigious award shows. To make matters worse, this means the DC Extended Universe got an Oscar before the Marvel Cinematic Universe did. These two massive franchises might be Hollywood's biggest rivals at the moment. But while Marvel has been going extremely strong for nine years (with fourteen films and five tv-shows), the DCEU has not yet managed to produce a single film that is generally thought of as a good movie. Seeing them take home the gold before the MCU does, hurts more than listening to the poorly-written lines of Rick Flag.

Unrecognized Amazing Movies
With the exception of the afore mentioned film, you couldn't really complain about Sunday night's winners. Actually the accolades were spread out quite well across the nominees. But there were two movies that stole my heart this award season that left empty handed. One of them was My Life as a Zucchini (orig.: Ma vie de courgette), a Swiss and French stop motion film that was nominated for Best Animated Feature. Sure, I was more than fine to see Zootopia win (having had it on my Top Ten List of 2016), and it was clear that such a small film wouldn't stand a chance. But My Life as a Zucchini was a completely unexpected gem. Since it was heavily marketed as a kids movie, I would have never bothered to see it if I hadn't planned to watch as many nominated films as possible. In fact this is a film that kids can enjoy, but only adults can truly cherish. Its beauty lies in the fact that it deals with incredibly serious topics through the innocent viewpoint of children. Making it heart-breaking and heartwarming at the same time. The second film was Lion. The real-life story of a man who sets out to find his family that he has lost 25 years before, is incredibly uplifting. Among other things it deals with the issue of cultural identity crises, something I can definitely relate to. At its center it has two outstanding performances by Sunny Pawar and Dev Patel, both playing the main character as a boy and a young adult respectively. Being only eight-years old, Pawar was probably too young for the Academy, but Patel actually had a shot. Weirdly enough, he was nominated for a supporting role, even though he clearly played the lead, and even then lost out to Mahershala Ali. Ali was barely in his movie, and while his performance was fantastic, I thought Patel was still the stand-out in that category. Unfortunateley, Lion couldn't make up for it in any of the other five categories in which it was nominated. It is really too bad, because it was quite an impressive film.

The Ugly

The Best Picture Mix-Up
Of course, we need to talk about the big screw up that made this ceremony go down in Oscar history. Here is what happened
Moonlight and La La Land had been battling it out in the major categories the whole night. Moonlight scored statues for its supporting actor and its screenplay. La La Land missed out on those, but won Best Director and Best Actress in a Leading Role. Then the final and most important award of the night came up. Best Picture. In celebration of Bonnie and Clyde's fiftieth anniversary, Warren Beatty and Faye Dunawaye came on stage to present the award. Beatty opens the envelope and just stares at the card for a few seconds, then reaches into the empty envelope and takes a short look backstage. What turned out to be genuine confusion, was at this point interpreted as a failed attempt to build up the tension. You can even see Dunawaye growing impatient next to her co-presenter and so when he hands her the card to look at it, she makes short work of calling out the winner: La La Land. The crowd claps, the music plays and the whole cast and crew get on stage. The producers get their awards handed to them and start their acceptance speech. It isn't until the third speaker, Fred Berger, when things start getting strange. Men with headsets enter the stage and and a commotion arises. They are the producers of the show, and after Berger interrupts his acceptance speech to quickly ask the people behind him what is going on, he turns back around with the words: "We lost, by the way." Now nobody knows what the hell is going on. Another one of La La Land's producers, Jordan Horowitz, still holding his Oscar, goes up to the microphone and explains that there has been a mistake and that Moonlight was the real winner. To prove it he pulls out the correct card from the new envelope Beatty is holding now and shows it into the camera. When Jimmy Kimmel confirms the news, Horowitz says "I am going to be really proud to hand this to my friends from Moonlight." It is an awkward moment, but also a grandiose gesture. It would have been the first time for this man to receive Hollywood's highest honor, and it got taken away from him. He would have had all reason to be absolutely devastated and/or furious but instead showed true greatness by being the best loser in Oscar history. As the crew from Moonlight makes their way to the stage, Warren Beatty tries to explain himself. The card had said "Emma Stone, 'La La Land'" which had confused him. Faye Dunaway is long gone at this point and it stays unclear whether Beatty showed her the card to escape responsibility or if he actually wanted her opinion on what to do. Sure, Beatty could have handled the situation much better, for example if he had simply said that the card seemed not to be right, but I guess he was under pressure and the real question is, how the wrong card ended up in his hands in the first place. Those who took a closer look realized, that he was indeed holding an enveloped saying "Best Actress in a Leading Role". While the internet jokingly started blaming Leonardo DiCaprio, because he was the last person to be seen with that envelope after presenting the Best Actress Award, Emma Stone stated she had taken that card and kept it for the entire show. By now some light has been shed into the darkness, so here is how it happened
It turns out that there are always two envelopes for each category brought separately to the theater inside a briefcase. During the show, one briefcase is placed on each side of the stage so that the presenters can be handed the envelopes regardless of the side from which they enter. Responsible for these cases are two employees of the accountant firm PwC, Brian Cullinan and Martha Ruiz. It was their job to get the envelopes to the theater in time and hand them to the presenters during the show. Ruiz had handed the Best Actress envelope to DiCaprio, and so it was Cullinan who accidentally handed the same (and therefore wrong) envelope to Beatty. PwC has taken full responsibility and has stated that "once the error occurred, protocols for correcting it were not followed through quickly enough". Embarrassingly so, Cullinan tweeted a  backstage picture of Emma Stone just moments before the Best Picture Winner was to be announced (picture on the left). Whether this tweet was the distraction that led to him making the mistake is not clear, but it is worth noting that it has since been deleted. So I think we do have our scapegoat.

It is cringe-worthy to re-watch that moment, especially when you think of the poor producers of La La Land who, for two brief minutes, thought their dream had come true. The most unfortunate thing about this flub however was that it distracted from an otherwise extraordinarily good show that had a lot of awesome and most of all important moments. Once the turmoil has died down, I hope people will start talking about some of the exceptional acceptance speeches or simply about the fantastic movies that were honored that night. So go out and watch films like Moonlight, Manchester By The Sea, Lion and even My Life as a Zucchini. Till then, don't forget to like, share or leave a comment.

Your Cinemartian

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