Monday, February 27, 2017

A Post-Oscars Analysis: Winners, Ceremony, and Looking to the Future.

I've never done one of these before, nor did I have any intention of doing so, but with everything that's gone down in the last few hours, I simply couldn't step away from addressing this. Because, oh my lord, did things take a turn for the crazy...

As far as the actual ceremony went, it was a fairly good outing with some major, but not crippling bumps in the road. Speeches were eloquent and succinct (Asghar Farhadi's speech - given by his designated recipient in protest of Trump's controversial travel ban - being a standout), time was overlong as expected, though not intolerable, and in a very pleasant surprise, Jimmy Kimmel proved a greatly compelling and funny host. That overlong gimmick about tourists visiting the theater went absolutely nowhere, having nothing to do with the ceremony in general, but that was probably the only real drawback of the production quality (well, as far as planned events go, but we'll get to that). Kimmel managed to strike that perfect balance between classiness and charm, while also working in biting and superbly timed gags and wordplay. The monologue in particular had some early outstanding zingers, and the momentum certainly kept up, with gags like his taunts at Donald Trump, and his continual trolling of Matt Damon leaving me in fits. This is actually everything that I wanted out of the Oscars when Neil Patrick Harris hosted (In which case, I can't remember the last time my enjoyment of a ceremony dropped as quickly or as harshly as it did there), and this was easily my favorite Oscar ceremony in recent memory.

Predictions-wise, I hit some big bumps, garnering my worst prediction-score of 14 out of 24. Categories where I predicted La La Land to be an easy winner turned out to go in different directions, the short film categories absolutely butchered my score, and hotly contested two-horse races hurt me as well. Also, I can't be the only one left annoyed by the fact that we now live in a world where Suicide Squad is an Oscar Winner - even if it was for one of its best elements, can I? But at the same time, some of those surprises did leave me very happy to be wrong. The Harry Potter universe finally earned a richly deserved trophy for Colleen Atwood's stellar wardrobe, Arrival managed to earn a token win making sure it wouldn't go home empty handed, and most satisfying of all was to see long overdue sound mixer Kevin O'Connell finally get his due for Hacksaw Ridge. All we need now is to get Thomas Newman, Greg Russell, and Roger Deakins one.

But I also managed to ace many of the major categories, including seeing my favorite performance of the year, Emma Stone in La La Land, triumph in a hard-earned and highly deserved Best Actress win. Damien Chazelle also earned a win for Best Director for the film, all culminating in the film enjoying it's day in the sun as the film was announced the Best Picture of 2016...

But then, that moment came shattering to pieces, when it turned out that La La Land wasn't the Best Picture winner of 2016. It was Moonlight...

"Oh, what a waste of a lovely night."
When Faye Dunaway and Warren Beatty walked onstage to present Best Picture, Beatty, when opening the envelope, took an awfully long time to reveal the winner, looking puzzled as he tried to form his sentences. Naturally, we assumed this to be playful stalling to the obvious outcome of La La Land's Best Picture victory, so co-presenter Faye Dunaway decided to look at the envelope, and announced it the winner. When the producers took the stage, producer Jordon Horowitz interruped the speeches to announce that there had been a mistake, that Moonlight was the actual Best Picture winner. It turns out that Warren Beatty had been handed a duplicate envelope of Actress in a Leading Role, with Emma Stone's name on it, and that was why he was so puzzled. The Moonlight crew eventually took to the stage to enjoy their victory, but that moment was obviously going to sour the mood of the night. Kimmel stepped in, making light and trying to bring some order to the proceedings, but this one chaotic moment may be the single most confounding screw-up ever to grace the Academy's telecast history.

It makes you feel absolutely terrible for all parties to suffer from this colossal screw-up, to Beatty who essentially had to wing it when realizing such an epic mistake, to the crew of La La Land who must have been crushed that their movie's victory was overturned, and especially to the crew of Moonlight, whose shining moment was dimmed by this turn of events.

I'm as disappointed as anyone that my favorite film of the decade didn't win Best Picture, as well they should have, but you know what? I still can't express enough how happy I am to see a film like Moonlight triumph in the end. Smaller, more modest films of this state are rarely given such high regards by the Academy's general preference for crowd-pleasers and the usual Oscar-bait, and in a very good way, could lead to more films of this nature managing to see the light of day, financed by more major studios, and earning more recognition from the awards circuits. Maybe one day, Megan Ellison won't be the only one rescuing fare that anyone else would have otherwise discarded.
Feel that, Moonlight? "You in the middle of the world."
But one huge fear I have for Moonlight is that the prospects of how it won will eventually overshadow the actual quality of it. Despite the fact that it's a genuinely fantastic film, there's a chance it could share in the undesirable company of Crash (to be fair, Crash is a thoroughly mediocre film), with many unfairly criticizing its win as unearned and taking aim at possible political drive, rather than seeing it for the affecting piece of work that it is. This one screw-up alone could very well overshadow its quality in years to come, leading people to remember it more than the film. And yes, fans of La La Land bitter and fuming about its loss will no doubt flock to internet message boards, angry and unthinking in viciously tearing the real winner to shreds, and oh so happy to drill holes through it to vent their frustrations.

But I won't be one of them. Let's just be real for a minute... when all is said and done, it's just an awards show. It may not reflect your personal opinion (Personally, I think Lion and Hacksaw Ridge are among the year's most overrated movies), but the beauty of the Oscars and other similar awards shows are in showcasing an eclectic set of voters' choice, hearing the things that viewers take away from each experience, and shedding some light on movies that many folks at home wouldn't otherwise know about. We're all united to these awards shows, love them or hate them, based on our unified love of movies. Even disregarding the politics at play behind nominations and wins, it always feels so great to witness each event unfold, when our favorite film wins something, when getting a long-shot prediction right and holding eternal bragging rights for it, or for when a movie we've yet to see pulls off a surprise win, leaving us eager to seek it out. In the end, I think we all need to follow the example of those other fans of films, like producer Jordan Horowitz of La La Land himself. He could have proceeded on as if nothing actually happened, continued basking in the glory of his victory on that spot, or thrown an angry fit when his Oscar was revoked, but he instead decides to stop himself to acknowledge a mistake, and graciously hands his spotlight over to the team of Moonlight. If that isn't a virtue of true sportsmanship and class, I don't know what is.

I often find its best never to have your heart so firmly dependent on whether or not the movie you like wins. You can be delighted if they do triumph (as I'm sure supporters of Moonlight are), or find yourself mildly disappointed before shrugging it off moments later, but no matter what goes down, it's still important to know not to take these things so personally. If your goal is to actively rip apart a film just because it beat your favorite, you're being far too immature and unfair, taking all the objectively wrong examples to heart. We're all fans of film, and the beauty of the Oscars experience isn't about the bragging rights if our favorite wins, but in sharing our love for that craft with each other, sharing in the passions of films we may not like as much, and becoming lost in the illusion of the flickering brilliance of the screen.

And with that, let's go ahead and put this entire year behind us. Until next time, this has been Indy, and while Moonlight was not my favorite film of the year, I'm still greatly pleased by its victory.

No comments:

Post a Comment