Monday, February 27, 2017


Honestly dear readers, I was just about to turn off the television when the biggest upset that I have ever seen in my lifetime of watching the Academy Awards actually happened and I could not have been any more ecstatic!

There I was, just like so many of you, watching the Oscars, my personal Superbowl, and the major awards of the evening were mostly going just as I had predicted--with Barry Jenkins' win for Best Adapted Screenplay for "Moonlight" being a terrific surprise for me, as well as viewing Viola Davis' Best Supporting Actress win for "Fences"and her goose-bump stirring speech afterwards. Yes, while I knew that Casey Affleck would walk away with the Best Actor prize for "Manchester By The Sea," I really wanted Denzel Washington to glide on stage instead.

And so it went. Emma Stone won Best Actress and Damien Chazelle won Best Director for "La La Land," and it all seemed so inevitable that I was unsurprised when Faye Dunaway and Warren Beatty read the name of "La La Land" for Best Picture. The Production team of "La La Land" began making their speeches and I was all ready to call it a night but something just made me set the remote down to just watch the final farewells of the evening when the glaring, unbelievable mistake was revealed, making Barry Jenkins' "Moonlight" the actual winner of Best Picture!!

To me, "Moonlight" was the most deserving film to win the title this year by a long shot, as it was indeed the film that really seemed to sum up the tone of the entire evening: one of the art and language of the movies being used to encourage and foster empathy, inspiration, communication and connection. And believe me, if you still have not seen this film, "Moonlight" is deeply exceptional on all counts, especially its overall empathy. This was a stunning, beautiful film that experienced an equally stunning, beautiful win. And as I have said in the past,  Hollywood loves movies about itself but on this night, it seemed as if they decided to celebrate humanity even more and with a film the type of which I know that I have never seen before.

Of course, all of what I described occurred in the final minutes of the still overlong telecast and frankly, the 89th Academy Awards show this year was not the most exciting show overall nor was it terribly incendiary due to the current political landscape. What the telecast did accomplish last night has been its most difficult feat year after year, and that is to just be entertaining and to its credit, the show was consistently just that.

Jimmy Kimmel made for a most comfortable host who never for a moment seemed intimidated by the size, scope and global reach of the telecast. His laid back, ironically detached, and self-admitted David Letterman inspired style and charm made for an evening that was considerably relaxed and more than prone for certain playful tricks and stunts from the candy and other sweets that fell from the ceiling, his constant ribbing of Matt Damon, and the Oscar Mean Tweets to the great sequence with the tour bus filled with unsuspecting tourists who were surprised to find themselves at the center of the broadcast for a few minutes. While not exciting by any means, for once, the show seemed to move at a comfortable, smooth pace--at least for the first two hours--and the only sense of boredom I tended to feel from time to time was through the predictability of the award winners themselves, certainly until that last, unbelievable moment.

I still feel that it would better serve the telecast to just get rid of the song performances, feel free to showcase more film clips and just tighten the entire proceedings by handing out more awards sooner than later. That being said, I did like seeing the clips of past winners moments before a new winner was crowned. And I also enjoyed the segments of actors speaking a bout the movies that inspired them--that is definitely something that I'd love to see more of.

But, truthfully, I knew that since there would be a certain predictability concerning the actual awards, I was most curious as to how President Trump would be handled, perhaps towards a similar tone as what was seen during the recent Golden Globes ceremony. Surprisingly, and aside from Kimmel's constant and nicely sharpened barbs, the political tone of the Academy Awards was of a quieter resistance. Nothing "in your face," but with it own subtle power that definitely made all of its messages known clearly and without alienating the viewing audience either. Maybe for some, it was playing everything a tad too safely but for me, it felt right and not dogmatic. In fact, it was a bit more sobering and indicative, again, of the overall tone of empathy, communication and connection.

For instance, I had no idea that Mahershala Ali, who won Best Supporting Actor for his work in "Moonlight," is the first Muslim actor to win the prize and his eloquence and elegance served him triumphantly. The Iranian film "The Salesman," which won the prize for Best Foreign Film carried a written speech from Director Asghar Farhadi, absent from the proceedings in protest of President Trump's Muslim ban. Yet, his statement was not rage filled whatsoever. His statement was one about empathy. I also enjoyed a short filmed segment featuring movie viewers from around the globe speaking of the films they love and what they love about films and it was a few moments fully celebratory of the language of the movies as a connective tool between people of all walks of life from all around the world. And of course, what else can be said about Viola Davis' speech that she essentially said herself? Davis was majestic and nearly brought a lump to my throat due to its power and open-hearted qualities.

As for my predictions and the awards themselves, I fared unusually well and frankly, I am just happy that "La La Land" didn't sweep the entire evening away for itself, as the night seemed to find ways to spread some of the wealth around. Perhaps...too much so. I mean, really--"Suicide Squad" won an Oscar?!

Well...there are still some areas of judgement in which the Academy Awards continues to show the need for improvement.

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