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© 1987-2017
Scott Larson

Building façade in Cannes, France

Oscars® so whacked

I definitely have to stop drinking all night while watching the Oscars in this time zone. It has gotten so bad that, at around five in the morning, I actually hallucinated that Bonnie and Clyde stole the Best Picture Oscar away from La La Land and gave it to Moonlight. Or was it the other way around?

And thank goodness. Up until then there had not been a moment during the evening that had not felt completely scripted. (Stop me if you have heard all this before.) Generally, the winners were pretty much the ones they were expected to be, and even the ones that weren’t still followed the standard unpredicted-surprise pattern of most Academy Awards ceremonies. Even I got most of them way back in the early days after the nominations were first announced, as you can see on this page.

Apart from the Best Picture fiasco, the biggest shock of the evening was the “In Memoriam” segment. We knew that we had lost an awful lot of famous talented people in the past year, but seeing so many of them flash by in such a brief amount of time was stunning. Some of them, e.g. Nancy Reagan, seemed like they had actually passed on years ago. It was a reminder of just how long a year it was.

Isn’t it funny how the universe conspires to give us what we need on Oscar night? Last year when the chatter was all dominated by the hashtag #OscarsSoWhite, it just so happened that the long-scheduled host was Chris Rock. This year with the whole United States—well, Hollywood and a few other places anyway—feeling so divided and odds with itself and the rest of the world, we got… Jimmy Kimmel.

The host did a fine job. He made jokes that were generally funny and did not embarrass himself too much. Essentially, the evening became an extended version of his late night show, including increasingly amusing carry-on of his put-on feud with Matt Damon and an Oscar edition of Mean Tweets. The strangest thing was a series of short films showcasing various actors talking about particular movies and performances that inspired them. Each was was followed by inspirer and inspiree subsequently appearing together on stage to present an award or two. Charlize Theron talking about Shirley MacLaine in The Apartment was nice and sweet. Seth Rogen reminiscing about Michael J. Fox in Back to the Future was cool. But then there was Javier Bardem talking about Meryl Streep in The Bridges of Madison County. Really? Was this a put-on or something? Javier Bardem being all into a romantic chick flick like that one? Really? Then came the clincher. Kimmel appeared in the final film in which he extolled the acting non-virtues of Matt Damon in We Bought a Zoo. Funny stuff all right, but I’m still left wondering, was the Bardem/Streep thing a joke as well? Streep certainly appeared embarrassed enough when she had to come out, although that could have been for any number of reasons.

Danny with his Oscar
Danny, the ex oficio mascot of, fiercely protecting his Oscar lest it be taken away from him and given to the producers of Moonlight

In the end, it was really just more of the whole post-modern humor thing that continues to permeate our entertainment, like when Justin Timberlake pretended to be annoyed when Kimmel said his opening performance was so good that he might be invited to re-join N Sync. Even gags like bringing in a busload of tourists who did not know they were going to be a (brief) part of the Oscar ceremony, while funny, was just more of the late night talk show shenanigans that have become a standard part of the Oscars. Actually, the funniest part of that bit was watching celebrities in the front rows pretending they were happy to be meeting yokels from the hinterlands. In fairness, though, Denzel Washington was quite gracious in pretending to marry an engaged couple who were fans.

No, as usual it was more of the same with little true spontaneity or the stuff of real life. Thank goodness for the Bonnie & Clyde kerfuffle at the end. (Has it really been a half-century since Arthur Penn’s movie with Warren Beatty and Faye Dunaway dominated the Oscars and the popular culture?) It provided a rare glimpse to see these artists react naturally and genuinely in a non-scripted situation, and all behaved well. Something that could have turned ugly was instead civilized behavior at its best. You see, Hollywood people actually can act like adults when a vote count does not go in the pre-scripted way they had expected and wanted.

-S.L., 27 February 2017

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