Even before the astounding, cataclysmic moment when Faye Dunaway and Warren Beatty incorrectly declared La La Land the winner for Best Picture over the actual winner Moonlight, the 89th Annual Academy Awards was shaping up to be a slightly above average evening. The moment that the universally reviled Suicide Squad managed an Oscar for best hair and makeup, I think we all realized that it might be a topsy-turvy evening.
Not to make a big thing of it, but now is probably as good a time as any to point out that I was 100 percent accurate in my predictions on February 3 for the top 8 categories. (My guess that La La Land would only win 5/14 awards was only a little too ambitious. For my complete Oscar Pool, I came in at 18/24, or 75 percent. A C+ isn’t great, but it’s a vast improvement from 2016’s dismal 58 percent!)
In case you missed the ceremony, or you just want to re-live the magic all over, here are some spirited highlights, opinions and theories on Sunday night’s historic show.
“This is not a joke. Moonlight has won best picture.”
For years, Oscar nerds have speculated on what would happen if somehow a mistake were made, or if some cunning presenter willfully read the wrong name during the live telecast. The conversation gained traction in 1993 amidst rumors that Jack Palance had mistakenly given Marisa Tomei an Oscar for My Cousin Vinny, and the Academy chose to not correct it.
Of course, any hardcore Oscar scholar knows that the Marisa Tomei rumors are untrue. This isn’t Nam, after all. There are rules, as exhaustively detailed in this Huffington Post article from 2015, “What Would Happen If A Presenter Announced the Wrong Winner At The Oscars?” Ominously, the article states:
“We would make sure that the correct person was known very quickly,” Cullinan said. “Whether that entails stopping the show, us walking onstage, us signaling to the stage manager—that’s really a game-time decision, if something like that were to happen. Again, it’s so unlikely.”
The incredibleness of what happened on Sunday night can not be overstated. Imagine it: The mistake took place on the very last award of the night. The heavy favorite was called and then out of nowhere—like Rocky Balboa in the final act—a beloved, low-budget indie film featuring black gay men in love was unexpectedly swept from the jaws of defeat to win the night’s highest honor.
The moment was saved in part by the producers of La La Land, who were so gracious in accepting the defeat. That grace turned what could have been an ugly moment into a tender celebration of both films—albeit a tad chaotic and awkward.
Some people have speculated that it might have been an orchestrated stunt, but I don’t buy it. Since Sunday night, I’ve watched the clip approximately 5,000 times. You can’t make up television that good.
Good Job, Jimmy Kimmel. Who’s Next!
Everybody knows that hosting the Oscars is a thankless task, a fact that Kimmel acknowledged out of the gates with this quip: “I’ve never been to the Oscars before. This is my first time here. And the way you people go through hosts, it’s probably my last time here.”
Already, sports fans are betting on who they’ll throw into the ring next. Will they go with a well-rounded song and dance men like Kevin Spacey, comedic duos like Key & Peele or someone entirely out of left field? Who can say! Personally, I prefer comedians like Chris Rock and Jon Stewart to variety-showmen like Hugh Jackman and Neil Patrick Harris—but you can’t please everyone.
With political tensions as they are, it seemed like everyone wanted to give politics a break and settle into some mindless entertainment. Jimmy Kimmel’s opening monologue felt like a line drive down the middle. After a saccharine call for people on the left and right to come together in conversation, Kimmel kept most of the jokes safely aimed at celebrities: Most notably, his nemesis Matt Damon.
Later, Kimmel dropped parachutes full of candy from the sky into the audience (oh, that it were laced with LSD!). He shot off a mid-show tweet to Trump: “Hey @RealDonaldTrump, u up?” He made fun of Damon’s film We Bought a Zoo in what some people have called Damon overkill. I thought it was just the right amount.
In the night’s most ambitious gag, Kimmel pranked a bus full of unsuspecting Hollywood tourists by suddenly unleashing them on camera. I was mortified and worried for them, but the gag was saved by an outgoing couple from Chicago who wouldn’t stop filming with their cameras. “I feel like you’re ignoring the white celebrities,” Kimmel said. And his reply was for me probably the best zinger of the night: “Yes, I am.”
Holy Moly, La La Land only won 6 of their 14 Nominations
Not to once again belabor the point about how right I was about this year’s Oscars, but I just had a feeling that Chazelle’s musical wasn’t going to have the explosive night that everyone thought it would. As the hatred for La La Land‘s cloying optimism grew, it almost started to make me feel sorry for the picture. After all, a lot of people who despise La La Land haven’t even seen it!
A lot of the major surprises came in the sound editing and sound mixing categories: In a rare split, La La Land lost out in both to Arrival and Hacksaw Ridge, respectively. When Hacksaw Ridge pulled an upset AGAIN in the editing category, I’m pretty sure everyone in the La La Camp began to quietly lose their minds…
My favorite moment came when Samuel L. Jackson did nothing to censor his face as he declared La La Land the winner for Best Cinematography. Go back and look if you don’t believe me.
Black and White and Beige All Over
The general consensus around the VANGUARD Seattle water cooler with regards to the night’s fashion was a resounding, “meh.” From VS Arts writer T.s. Flock: “Was everyone else a little underwhelmed by most of the styling/fashion? I was talking earlier about Janelle Monae‘s dress by Elie Saab. I didn’t mind the dress, but on her it didn’t make sense, especially with the rather coquettish hair and makeup. A lot of mixed up visual stories happening…rather like certain envelopes, I guess.”
Our Fashion writer Lisa Cole chimed in: “I looked at images and was also underwhelmed by much “trying too hard.” I mean, I get it, it’s the Oscars, but some of the choices were not great. Alicia Vikander can do no wrong in my book and I loved Halle Berry and Dev Patel. Also, Octavia Spencer looked beautiful.”
My favorite looks of the night came from a disparate sampling of partygoers. Halle Berry’s Versace number for me hit perfect notes of goth and glam. T.s. Flock chimed in: “To quote the great Nomi, ‘I love Ver-sayce!'” #Namethatfilm. And then there was the stunning white gown by Rubin Singer, worn annoyingly well by 16-year-old Auli’i Cravalho from Disney’s Moana. For the fellas, we saw a lot of velvet, but I liked Marshala Ali‘s well-tailored all-black ensemble the best.
Who Got Left Out of the Death Reel: And Who Is Still Alive??
Finally, no Oscar recap would be complete without a healthy airing of grievances over who didn’t make the cut for the In Memorium segment. Sadly, we lost Bill Paxton the day of the party. Presenter Jennifer Aniston covered it in a brief shout-out, which is about all you can hope for with such short notice. I for one am still mad about Brad Renfro‘s omission from nine years ago, along with Joan Rivers from 2014.
Notable absences this year included Garry Shandling, Florence Henderson, Doris Roberts and Robert Vaughn. Patricia Arquette spoke out about the omission of her sister Alexis Arquette. From ET:
“Alexis was a great actor, and had 70 credits, and was really brave to live her truth as a trans woman, and they didn’t include her in the memorial,” Patricia said of her sibling. “I think that was a real slight to the trans community, especially at this time, when trans kids can’t even go to the bathroom in the United States of America at school. It says a lot about the lack of inclusion.”
And in the evening’s SECOND biggest flub of the night… costume designer Janet Patterson is the dead one, but a photo of the very-much-alive Jan Chapman was shown instead. To end on an incredibly obscure reference to a line from a Mystery Science Theater episode, for Lost Continent: “I see a dinosaur, but I hear an elephant!”
What is live television, after all, but a great opportunity to make a series of honest mistakes! We can’t wait to see what they come up with next year.
Featured Image: US director Barry Jenkins (C) speaks after “Moonlight” won the Best Film award at the 89th Oscars on February 26, 2017 in Hollywood, California. / AFP / Mark RALSTON (Photo credit: MARK RALSTON/AFP/Getty Images)