Graham: Oscar highlights and that Best Picture flub
Diversity, politics took center stage; Jimmy Kimmel provided friendly, sharp edge, but Mean Tweets didn’t work
Well, that happened.
In perhaps the biggest shocker in awards show history — if there’s a bigger one, it’s not coming to mind — the wrong Best Picture winner was read at the close of Sunday’s 89th Annual Academy Awards. The projected favorite “La La Land” was announced as the winner, only to have stage managers interrupt the producers mid-speech with an important bit of news: the real victor was “Moonlight.”
Jaws dropped inside the auditorium as no one was quite sure what was going on, as cameras panned across the stunned faces of the crowd. It was the same way as viewers registered their shock at home and online. Host Jimmy Kimmel blamed Warren Beatty for reading the wrong winner. Beatty explained he had been given the wrong envelope, and flashed the new one to the camera, which clearly stated “Moonlight” was the winner. The happiest man anywhere was probably Steve Harvey, whose notorious 2015 Miss Universe blunder is now only the second biggest flubbed finale of the modern era.
This won’t be forgotten anytime soon. Kimmel was embarrassed, Beatty was apologetic, and the “La La Land” people didn’t quite know what to do. But “La La Land” producer Jordan Horowitz gracefully took control of the situation, showed the winning envelope to the audience and said, “I’m going to be really proud to hand this to my friends in ‘Moonlight.’ ”
“Moonlight” director Barry Jenkins was still processing everything that was happening around him when he took the microphone.
“Very clearly, even in my dreams this could not be true,” he said. “But to hell with dreams, I’m done with it! Because this is true!”
It’s true, alright. And a show that was both a landmark for diversity — African Americans won both of the supporting acting categories, and the Best Picture winner covers homosexuality in the African-American community — and hot with political talk got a crazy, unprecedented finish that will likely overshadow everything else that happened before it.
Elsewhere, Emma Stone won her first Oscar, “Manchester by the Sea” picked up a couple of trophies and even “Suicide Squad” walked away a winner.
Let’s recap the big show, shall we?
Surprise of the night: “Moonlight’s” win. Let’s forget for a second the winner-reading fiasco. “Moonlight” toppled “La La Land,” the favorite heading into the night and the film to beat the entire awards season. “La La Land” and “Moonlight” were poised to go head-to-head since the two films hit the festival circuit last fall, but “Moonlight” seemed to lose momentum as it failed to catch on with audiences, earning just $22 million at the box office. “Hidden Figures,” a box-office smash with more than $152 million in its pockets, seemed to take the “Moonlight” momentum, but “Moonlight’s” last-minute surge — it also won awards for Best Adapted Screenplay and Best Supporting Actor for Mahershala Ali — counts as a true underdog victory for the Miami-set tale about a young man at three pivotal points in his life. Now, you can expect a lot more people to see the film — which is a triumph of filmmaking, make no mistake — and you can count on it to add more theaters in the coming weeks.
Ballad of the night: “La La Land.” So much for singing and dancing away with the show. “La La Land” came into Sunday with 14 nominations, tying it with “All About Eve” and “Titanic” for the most nominations ever, but won only six of those categories. That still made it the night’s biggest winner; Emma Stone took home a Best Actress trophy (she becomes the seventh Best Actress winner under age 30 crowned in the last two decades), and Damien Chazelle became the youngest Best Director winner in academy history. But it dropped Best Original Screenplay to “Manchester by the Sea,” which was an indicator of rocky waters ahead in the Best Picture race (only one film in the last 10 years, “The Artist,” has won Best Picture without a Screenplay win). “La La Land’s” other wins came for its score, for Best Original Song (for “City of Stars,” penned by University of Michigan graduates Justin Paul and Benj Pasek) and in the cinematography and production design categories. Overall, a big but bittersweet night for the movie musical.
Last year’s story of the night: Oscars so white. “Moonlight’s” wins for Best Picture, Best Adapted Screenplay and Best Supporting Actor, Viola Davis’ Best Supporting Actress win and the Best Documentary win for the O.J. Simpson documentary “O.J.: Made in America” made this year’s Oscars the first to ever feature more than three black winners. Is Hollywood’s diversity issue solved? Far from it. But Sunday’s show went a long way toward correcting its shortcomings in the past and painting a more inclusive picture in the present and going forward.
Host with the Most: Jimmy Kimmel. In short, he nailed it. He mixed political humor with topical zingers and did his best to let the air out of the room when appropriate, both celebrating the pageantry of the show and poking holes in it whenever he could. He didn’t stretch himself and participate in anything outside of his wheelhouse, so there were no forced song-and-dance numbers. Rather, he brought a friendly but sharp edge to the show, felt out the room early on and stayed in the pocket all night. Kimmel’s never been a vicious wit, but his jokes about Trump (at one point he tweeted the president, hitting him with a “hey @realdonaldtrump, u up?”) landed, and he never got overly serious or on his political soapbox. And he’s still getting mileage out of his running “feud” with Matt Damon, in a bit that has been running for more than a decade but somehow still has legs. The fiasco at the end of the show might have marked Kimmel’s one-and-done with the Oscars, however; “I promise I’ll never come back,” he said at the close of the show. And with that finish, no one would blame him.
Topic of the night: Politics. No corner of the show was safe from politics and world events. Asghar Farhadi, director of Best Foreign Language Film winner “The Salesman,” skipped the ceremony to protest Trump’s proposed travel ban on Muslims, and said in a statement, “dividing the world into the ‘us and our enemies’ categories creates fear, a deceitful justification for aggression and war. These wars prevent democracy and human rights in countries which have themselves been victims of aggression.” Best Makeup and Hairstyling winner Alessandro Bertolazzi — a winner for “Suicide Squad” – dedicated his award to “all the immigrants.” Even the Best Animated Film category became a political platform, with presenter Gael Garcia Bernal going off script and saying he was opposed to “anything that wants to separate us,” while the winners of the category, for “Zootopia,” explained their film promotes the message that “tolerance (is) more powerful than fear of the other.”
Bit that could have gone bad but didn’t: Average folks at the Oscars. One of Kimmel’s highwire stunts involved taking a bus full of tourists on a Hollywood tour and surprising them by bringing them into the auditorium and parading them in front of the crowd. It should have been cringeworthy, but it wasn’t, thanks to the real reactions of the dressed-down tourists who couldn’t put their phones down and had no shame taking selfies with the stars. It highlighted both the silliness of the awards show itself and the glamour of the room and also showed the huge chasm between the primped and tailored stars and the people who directly devour celebrity culture. In the end, we’re all in this together, but seeing stars and everyday Joes mix in an honest, unrehearsed way was strangely invigorating. (That is assuming the bit was genuine, which it certainly seemed to be, but these days you can never truly know.)
Going to the well one time too many: Feeding the guests. There seems to be a renewed effort in recent years to show that awards show attendees really do eat; Ellen DeGeneres had pizzas brought to the Oscars in 2014, and peanut butter and jelly sandwiches were handed out to the crowd at last year’s Emmys, and Chris Rock sold his daughters’ Girl Scout cookies at the 2016 Oscars ceremony. During Sunday’s Oscars, Kimmel had candy parachuted down from the rafters not once but twice, and later cookies and donuts were delivered from above. Once was fine, twice was pushing it, the third time was overkill. We get it, stars eat.
Worst bit: Mean tweets. Kimmel’s popular bit where he has stars read the mean tweets written about them works just fine on his show but felt slight for the Oscar broadcast.
Unexpected heroes of the night: Teachers. Chalk one — actually, three — up for educators; Mahershala Ali, Best Live Action Short Film winner Kristof Deak (for “Sing”) and Best Original Song winner Justin Paul all thanked their teachers from the stage. And Barry Jenkins, a teacher himself, gave a shout out to his students.
Most-loved guy in the room: Damien Chazelle. The bromance was real with the “La La Land” director, whose collaborators were effusive in his praise of him. Composer Justin Hurwitz told him, “I’m so glad I met you”; Best Original Song writer Justin Paul told him, “you inspired every single word that we wrote”; and “La La Land” cinematographer Linus Sandgren told him, “you’re a poetic genius, and I’m so happy I met you, and I really love you, man.” Meanwhile, as Chazelle walked to the stage to collect Best Director honors, he received gigantic hugs from stars Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone. He must be a really good dude.
Good sport (on the surface, at least) of the night: Mel Gibson. Gibson was the butt of several of Kimmel’s jokes throughout the night, and he took those in stride by laughing — a bit manically, yes, but laughing nonetheless. At least he has a sense of humor about himself.
Most powerful speech of the night: Viola Davis. In a long, moving speech the orchestra didn’t dare swell up during, the Best Supporting Actress winner from “Fences” praised artists as “the only profession that celebrates what it means to live a life.” Afterward, Kimmel joked Davis was just nominated for an Emmy for her speech.
Loss for words of the night: Casey Affleck. Well, they can’t all be winners, and Affleck seemed to realize that in the moment. After thanking his fellow nominee Denzel Washington for teaching him how to act, Affleck — who always seems a bit perturbed, if we’re being honest — sort of threw his hands up in the air. “Man, I wish I had something bigger and more meaningful to say,” he said. Don’t worry, Casey; the end of the show is all anyone’s going to remember anyway.