Well, that was certainly an Oscar ceremony. A long and relatively safe Oscar season looked to be culminating in a long and relatively safe evening, until a perfect storm of human error led to an unforgettable/mortifying/thrilling moment of live TV, and one weirdly fitting for a time in human history when everything seems to have gone bugnuts crazy.
It’s destined to be a ceremony remembered for being the one where two Best Picture winners were announced, but as ever, there were plenty of highs and lows beyond that, so beyond, you’ll find the Worst & Best of the 2017 Academy Awards (leading with worst, because, well, there’s some big stuff we’d have to get to first). Take a look below, and wonder, like us, why this couldn’t have happened on November 8th, 2016 in the comments.
The Best Picture Winner/Loser Blunder
Well, duh. What an absolute stunner. Was there a lower moment in Academy Awards history then last night’s embarrassing blunder around Best Picture? What a way to lose, what a way to win, though it seemed like all parties were very gracious about the mistake. In an unprecedented final twist, Warren Beatty and Faye Dunaway accidentally named “La La Land” the Best Picture winner only to find out they were wrong and “Moonlight” actually won the Academy statuette. What happened? Well, from all accounts thus far, it appears that someone screwed up and handed Beatty the wrong envelope (there are apparently always two envelopes for every winner; one specifically for the winner to take with them). Who that someone was in the mix up is unclear (though apparently the wacky backstage photos from the PriceWaterhouseCoopers guy who was in charge of the “second suitcase” have all been summarily deleted), but we imagine they didn’t have a great Oscars night afterwards… So evidently the envelope that Beatty and Dunaway opened said “Emma Stone – La La Land” and in an understandably confused moment of live television, they mistakenly assumed this meant “La La Land” won best picture.
It seemed like the fait accompli of the night. “La La Land” had already won six Oscars and as the presumed frontrunner for Best Picture (with most pundits predicting no other film had even a close shot including ours) and winning the top prize felt like no surprise at all. But after three, count ‘em THREE producers delivered elated and grateful acceptance speeches, someone in the ceremony production realized a mistake had been made and quickly rushed that information to the stage. As the news spread like wildfire, during the third acceptance speech, producer (and all-round class act) Jordan Horowitz said, “but we lost,” hijacked the mic and told the audience, in his own disbelief, that actually, “Moonlight” had won the top prize. Stunned, the entire audience (global and at the ceremony) had a wtf moment, but the “Moonlight” crowd soon turned to jubilation and ran to the stage to accept their award.
Meanwhile, Jimmy Kimmel reflected our collective mortified embarrassment for everyone involved and Beatty began to explain the mix-up. You’ve seen the clip already, the gifs, the quickly-going-viral memes, but it was, any way you slice it, the biggest blunder in Oscar history and a painful reminder that live TV can tricky and cruel beast. Even the Miss America twitter feed had to sympathize. For some of us it immediately tainted the evening and especially the win. It was awful to see the “La La Land” team quickly fall into shock and disappointment and the “Moonlight” crowd not fully get their moment in the sun. But in retrospect, both parties handled themselves with class and dignity. “La La Land” and co. respectfully, if perplexedly left the stage and director Barry Jenkins did not let the contaminated moment derail his thoughtful and heartfelt Oscar acceptance speech. Still, you’ve got to feel for everyone involved, both winners and losers. This is not how the Academy Awards and the Best Picture cap off of the night should ever run.
But hey, it was exciting.
General Complacency, Political Tameness
Aside from a surge in (the wrong kind of) excitement toward the very end, when Bonnie & Clyde nearly added one last robbery to their infamous crime spree, the ceremony had its highs and lows, but overall netted out, politically speaking, to a kind of ¯\_(ツ)_/¯. Unlike that vocal contingent who want showbiz to stay out of politics, we were honestly hoping for a bit more commentary, a bit more fire, a bit more righteous anger. Of course, there was Asghar Farhadi‘s wonderful, dignified and compassionate statement, (see below) and there were flashes of anti-Trump sentiment, most pointedly in Gael Garcia Bernal‘s comments about walls, but mostly people seemed content to subtly allude rather than pointedly confront, and in keeping with Kimmel’s comfy style in general, it makes the whole thing rank as fairly unmemorable, politically speaking (especially coming on the foot of the excellent Indie Spirits opening monologue from Nick Kroll and John Mulaney which, yes, we know is different strokes, but just had so much more risk going on in it.)
Considering that when the Red Carpet coverage began, all those long weeks ago, Ruth Negga and others showed up defiantly sporting their ACLU ribbons, it seemed like we might get a more aggressively political show, it felt disappointing to see Hollywood revert, for the most part, to inward-looking self-congratulation. And then of course, came The Fuck-Up™, which means that the first Oscar ceremony of the Trump era will be remembered for its temporary Best Picture snafu, and not for anything that actually impacts on or reflects the real world in any way. And thank you in advance to all those currently rolling their eyes and saying “It’s the Oscars, dummy, what did you expect?” — this year the Oscars had the chance to be about more than the Oscars, and they blew it like a starstruck PriceWaterhouseCoopers employee with a second red envelope.
Lin-Manuel Miranda’s ‘prologue’
It was sort of remarkable to see Lin-Manuel Miranda given the level of prominence that he got last night, given that he’s never actually starred in a movie (he’s shooting “Mary Poppins Returns” at the minute). This is not to begrudge Miranda, who’s a genius and always charming and endearing, but he was decidedly still surplus to requirements when it came to his ‘prologue’ introduction to Auli’i Cravalho’s performance of “How Far I’ll Go,” one of his songs from “Moana.” With a very ‘I wrote this in the limo on the way over’ vibe, he unnecessarily recapped the plot to the movie before bowing out entirely — either use him or don’t, show producers, but this felt shoehorned in, particularly after being trailed from the early part of the show.
The Hackier and More Toothless Side of Kimmel’s Monologue/Ongoing Routine
On the whole, we think Jimmy Kimmel did a solid job — he had some ill-conceived bits, but felt like a safe and confident pair of hands, especially when he stepped away from the format of his own show. But that’s fair to say that he was faultless — for every strong joke in his monologue, it felt like there was another that was kind of lazy or hacky. The joke about Amazon’s Oscars arriving within 2-4 business days, for instance, felt like a pretty obvious way into that side of things, and his repeated jabs in the monologue at how no one had seen some of the nominated films felt kind of crappy, and certainly led to diminishing returns by the time that it got to Viggo Mortensen. And while his nod to “reaching out to someone you disagree with” was in part a setup to his Matt Damon bit, it felt pretty toothless and empty in this situation coming so early in the show.
“Suicide Squad” Winning Make-up
“Suicide Squad” now has more Oscars than Alfred Hitchcock, Stanley Kubrick and Paul Thomas Anderson. We are living in frightening times.
The Speech Following “La La Land” Winning for Production Design
We hate to hate on the super talented David Wasco and his wife Sandy Reynolds-Wasco, but this super stilted and awkward acceptance speech is why you just don’t read from a pre-written statement on a live television show. Minor, but still notable as the most flat and lifeless speech of the night.
Nuff said. Though the title card lauding journalism was of course the right intention, shame it had to come with such a spectacularly anodyne performance attached.
— Hollywood Reporter (@THR) February 27, 2017
Look, the Oscars is a commercial show on a broadcast network, and as such, we expect someone to try and sling us some products in the breaks. But we’d rather we kept that stuff to the commercials, and the “raining candy” element felt pretty gross. Not only was it a pretty uninspired thieving of the Ellen DeGeneres pizza bit from a few years ago (which was fun in part because of how palpably starved the actors were), but Kimmel’s insistence on shouting out the brand names made it felt like an encroachment on a space that, while not exactly sacred, deserves better than a (presumably) paid plug for Red Vines. It got particularly bad when Kimmel used Sunny Pawar, the adorable kid from “Lion,” as a prop in order to push Mike & Ike (while also making sure to refer to a movie by ABC’s owners Disney: he knows on which side his bread is buttered). But the parachuting candy did at least inspire a couple of great Clickhole tweets.
Four. Hours. Long.
The Oscars always run too long, but this year’s ceremony, even as one of the most fun and diverting in recent memory was interminably long. Like an SNL sketch that doesn’t make the cut due to time. The Awards ceremony producers should have called the audible and dropped two bits: the bus stunt and the navelgazing “Mean Tweets” segment ripped from “Live With Jimmy Kimmel.”
See above. In case you’re not aware what this self-explanatory bit is: celebrities read savaging tweets about themselves, their looks, their faces, their lack of talent, etc. on camera and react to the excoriation. But we’ve seen it on Kimmel a thousand times before and it wasn’t particularly funny this go-round either. The producer should have just called it for time.
The Bus Stunt
Ill-advised and tonally misguided from the moment Jimmy Kimmel announced it, the bus stunt went on forever and brought the show’s momentum to a grinding halt. And whatever passing pleasures it may have yielded, given that “Gary from Chicago” seemed like a nice dude and there were newlyweds and engaged couples on it that we could all awww over, shipping a busload of unsuspecting Hollywood tourists into the Dolby Theater in front of millions of TV viewers and all of Hollywood, parading them out in a line in front of the seated celebs like they’re a freak show, and then taping the awkward interactions between the couture-clad movie stars and the plebs was only ever going to play horribly. Some of the celebrities, to be fair, dealt with the situation with grace despite it all (Ryan Gosling being swoony on cue; Denzel Washington “marrying” the affianced couple) but the entire vibe of “let’s give some dowdy ordinaries a little bit of Hollywood magic and see the gratitude in their Victorian orphan eyes” was unbelievably condescending. Next time, why not have them auctioned off to the highest bidding celeb to take home as a pet?
Being Disarmed By Acceptance Speeches Even When You Don’t Like The Choice
There’s nothing worse than having a righteous head of steam built up about, say, “Suicide Squad” winning an Oscar, but then having it dissipate immediately when the recipient of the award turns out to be a bit of a darling. Well, obviously there are a few worse things but still. David Ayer‘s movie picking up the Make Up & Hairstyling Oscar was bleurgh, not because the make up is bad, but because it means “Suicide Squad” is now the “Oscar-winning ‘Suicide Squad'” — and yet it was actually hard to stay mad when the clearly delighted trio of Alessandro Bertolazzi, Giorgio Gregorini and Christopher Nelson took to the stage and Gregorini even made a point of their immigrant status. Similarly, “Hacksaw Ridge” winning for Sound Mixing was not our favorite award, but 20-time Oscar bridesmaid Kevin O’Connell finally getting to be the bride seemed only fair.