Monday, February 27, 2017

The Oscar Narrative: Finale

So let's get the elephant in the room out of the way. Price, Waterhouse & Cooper royally screwed up the biggest award of the night. They ruined the Bonnie & Clyde reunion and made poor Warren Beatty look like a fool. I feel so sorry for the La La Land folks, that was simply heartbreaking. I feel bad for the Moonlight folks, because their big moment will forever be marred with controversy. It was a bad moment. There's no denying it. And my guess is that in the future, there will be some interesting show changes. They could find a more engaging host. Kimmel started off great, but as time wore on, his racist name jokes, and copycat gags (seriously, everyone stop trying to copy Ellen's pizza bit. It was great once, but it has now gotten old) fell flat. They could now quadruple check every ballot, as PWC will probably be in the limelight for a while (not the positive limelight), or they could continue to be too long with too many uninteresting gags, and hope the world keeps tuning in. Unfortunately though, the folks that made the Oscars a rallying cry for political reasons will have plenty of ridiculous ammunition, and the bad press will likely continue.

But, just for a moment, let's celebrate the positive. Nine incredible films received Best Picture nominations. Kevin O'Connell, after 21 nominations, finally won an Oscar. In a year when three films clearly rose the the top, the three writer/directors, Chazelle, Jenkins, and Lonergan, all won Oscars. Damien Chazelle became the youngest director to win Best Director. Moonlight became the first film directed by an African-American, and the first film to have character of the LGTBQ community as its lead, to win Best Picture. Mahershala Ali became the first Muslim actor to win an Oscar, and Viola Davis (finally!) became the first African American to win the triple crown of acting. These are the moments I'd like to remember, because a jaw-dropping end should not ruin the rest of a great slate of winners

Moonlight winning was a surprise. It was great surprise (although I liked La La Land better), and two things: 1) the SAG stat is not to be ignored, and 2) the preferential ballot really does have all of us stumped. But that's not all. The tech categories ruined my predictions, proving that even those normally unpredictable categories were even more unpredictable than normal. In the end though, that is the nature of the Oscars, and I'm glad that  they spread the love. But I am still shocked that La La Land lost. Was it because it was a passion vote, not a 2nd or 3rd place vote? Was it the undeserved backlash that turned people off? Or was, simply put, that 12 years after Brokeback Mountain lost in a shocking fashion, that Oscar voters finally realized that a story about a gay man doesn't have be niche? That it can resonate? That those stories deserved to be told? Was it a response to #OscarsSoWhite? Or did voter simply get swept up in the magic that is Moonlight (this is the theory I hope is right)? We will never know, and if the industry doesn't produce the type of diverse cinema that 2016 did, we may end up right where we started. In the end, this is a loss that I will be examining for a while, as I think a lot of us will.

But in these troubling times, and with all the uproar over the ending, I want to pause and remember that despite their flaws, what makes the Oscars great are not the nominees or the winners. It's not the ceremony or the red carpet or the ratings. Each and every year, on television's biggest stage, the Academy celebrates film. As film lovers this is why we watch the Oscars. We enjoy the race, we boo and cheer, we fight for our favorites, and we cover the narrative as it is told. But the real reason we all get so swept up in all of this madness is because we love film. This year particularly, film, music, television, great literature, theater, are all needed. In times of upheaval and divisiveness, often times we find our common humanity in art. When the lights go down we are all the same, and our stories are universal . The great Viola Davis put it best: "You know, there's one place that all the people with the greatest potential are gathered. One place and that's the graveyard. People ask me all the time, what kind of stories do you want to tell, Viola? And I say, exhume those bodies. Exhume those stories. The stories of the people who dreamed big and never saw those dreams to fruition. People who fell in love and lost. I became an artist and thank god I did because we are the only profession that celebrates what it means to live a life."

And life is about love. This year, the nine Best Picture nominees, at their core were about love. Fences, Arrival, Manchester By the Sea, Hell or High Water, and Lion were about the love of family no matter the challenges or the losses. Hidden Figures is about love of country and duty, and about realizing that sometimes the best thing you can do for the people you love is pursue your higher cause. Hacksaw Ridge is about the love of mankind, and the recognition that often the bravest thing is not to fight. La La Land is about the fools who dream to love and to succeed even when the odds are against them. And finally, Moonlight is about the love we have for ourselves. Its about discovering our identity, moving forward in the world, and  despite the missteps and the heartbreak, in the end, finally recognizing what love can be. So while the world burns around us with hatred, bigotry, and yet deafening silence, the Oscars this year taught us to love. Love is what caused a producer to recognize a mistake and honor the real winner instead. Love was seeing the real family from Lion see their story finally told. Love was seeing Katherine Johnson finally be a hidden figure no more. Love is realizing just how much film can transport you. I work full time, am going to grad school, have a grandmother with dementia, a workplace that seems in perpetual chaos, and an alcohol addiction that borderlines on a problem. Yet at the end of a long week, there is nothing better than allowing the power of film wash over you as you escape your day to day existence. Writing about film has also proven to not just be a hobby, or a way to fill time, but a calling, and more importantly, the cathartic dose of medicine that keeps me going. So thank you to all of you out there who read this blog. Thank you for once again seeing a less than stellar effort due to lack of time. Thank you for helping me love this, even when it sometimes gets to be too much. And most importantly, thank you for loving film and continually celebrating it with me. This July, the Awards Psychic will begin its ninth year of existence. Man how nine years can fly. When I started this I was just a young college student who had a few ideas about the Oscars I wanted to share. Now I am almost at a decade of  sharing my loud, often incoherent, and (as my predictions proved), often wrong thoughts about the awards world. Thank you for sticking with me. Cheers to nine more years, and nine more after that. And maybe La La Land's message has even more meaning now that it lost at the finish line: Here's to the ones who dream, foolish as they may seem. Here's to the hearts that ache. Here's to the mess we make. Let's make more messes together, let's dream like fools, let's keep aching with passion, and most importantly, let us always keep loving, for love truly is the only thing there's just too little of...

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