Oscars 2017 Recap: And the Winner is…or is it?
I am glad I took a couple of days to process what had happened at the end of the Oscars 2017 telecast. My initial reaction was one of shock and anger. The film I believe to be the best of the year (La La Land) had won Best Picture. And then it hadn’t. Instead it went to Moonlight which didn’t figure into my Top Ten films this year, though it did crack my Top 25. In fact, out of the nine nominated films Moonlight ranked last for me. I found the pacing too slow and I actually had a hard time staying awake while watching it. But if I had written a recap on Monday morning I would have done Moonlight a disservice. I would have focused on the debacle that took place instead of the historical importance of this film.
Moonlight became the first film to win Best Picture that has a LGBT community member at the center of its story. It’s the second film to win Best Picture that was directed by an African-American; joining Steve McQueen’s 12 Years a Slave. It may not have been the best made film of the year but it was without question the most culturally important. Moonlight depicts a young black man coming to terms with his sexuality while subtly proclaiming “I will be who I am meant to be”. Like Omar in The Wire, the character of Little/Chiron/Black grows into a contradiction of the stereotype the world has come to know of a gay man. That is the real beauty of the film…shattering the stereotype and opening the world up to acceptance. In my younger more ignorant days, I was admittedly homophobic. I never actively discriminated against homosexuals but I didn’t understand how someone could be attracted to the same gender. Then I saw Brokeback Mountain. That film opened my eyes and taught me that you love who you love; it is not a choice. I hope that Moonlight will have the same effect on a new generation. I think that it will because I believe in the power of film. I believe in the power of storytelling.
It’s a shame that Moonlight didn’t get its full moment in the sun. Its triumph will always be linked to the epic fail of the accounting firm of PwC. The partner whose only job was to correctly hand out envelopes was too busy tweeting to fully focus on the task at hand. He will almost certainly be fired and PwC may lose its contract with the Academy Awards, as well as other accounts. But that won’t make up for robbing Moonlight’s cast and crew of that initial rush of hearing their film’s name called out as Best Picture. Thank goodness for the grace and humility of La La Land producer Jordan Horowitz. His thoughtfulness created an unforgettable moment of comradery when he announced the true winner and said, “I’m going to be really thrilled to hand this to my friends from Moonlight.” I, in turn, will give credit where credit is due.
Now that I’ve said my piece on the Best Picture controversy, I want to simply go over some of my favorite moments of the night…
Justin Timberlake’s opening performance – The Oscars are typically a little stuffy so it was nice to see the evening start off with some energy. JT’s ‘song of the summer’ brought the crowd to their feet before they had to sit around for four hours.
Legendary Duos – Charlize Theron & Shirley MacLaine, Javier Bardem & Meryl Streep, Faye Dunaway & Warren Beatty were awesome pairings but my absolute favorite of the night was Seth Rogen & Michael J. Fox. Rogen’s words were synonymous with my childhood; I grew up with the DeLorean and Back to the Future.
Cravalho powers through – 16-year-old Auli’I Cravalho’s performance of Moana’s nominated song “How Far I’ll Go” was outstanding. Not only were her vocals phenomenal, she got hit in the head with a flag and kept her composure.
Tour Group – The bit might have gone on too long but the tourists truly reveled in the moment. The looks on their faces were priceless. Imagine getting to meet all those A-listers on the front row, being married by Denzel Washington, kissing Meryl Streep’s hand, and touching Mahershala Ali’s statuette…all in the span of five minutes. Gary from Chicago sure made the most of it.
In Memoriam – This year we lost way too many talented people. An impeccable rendition of Joni Mitchell’s “Both Sides Now” by Sara Bareilles set the mood while we said our last goodbyes to the likes of Willy Wonka and Princess Leia.
The Academy spreads the love – As much as I wanted La La Land to dominate the night, I did enjoy seeing many different films take home hardware. Only four films won multiple Oscars (La La Land with 6, Moonlight 3, Hacksaw Ridge 2, and Manchester by the Sea 2). Arrival, Fences, The Jungle Book, Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, Suicide Squad, and Zootopia all won a single trophy.
La La Land takes 7…okay 6 – Despite having the rug pulled out from under it on the evening’s final award; La La Land still had a pretty solid night. The film’s greatest attributes were rewarded with wins for Best Director, Actress, Cinematography, Production Design, Score, and Song. Of course I would have loved to see it win Best Picture but 6 wins and 14 nominations is still an incredible feat. It will go down as one of the greatest films in the history of cinema.
Thank you all for taking the time to read my thoughts on the Oscars and this year’s films. Movie award season is my favorite time of year; that and March Madness (Go Tar Heels!). I’ll be putting together my Top Ten lists for this past year in film. All too often some great films go without any awards recognition (cough, cough, Green Room). Be on the lookout for those in the coming weeks.