Much will be made about the 2017 Academy Awards broadcast where La La Land enjoyed a full two minutes as best picture only to have its Oscars literally yanked out of its producers hands so they could be given to the real winner, Moonlight.
But for all the wrong reasons.
The issue is not at all about whether La La Land or Moonlight was truly deserving of the ultimate Hollywood honor (Note: Other than box-office grosses, that is) but just how interested all of us spectators are in having our feelings publicly validated in the matter. And how little it all means in the long run.
Is there a best picture of 2016? Of course there is. Isn’t. Is there?
As I posted last night:
If only every one of my actions supported that statement 100% of the time.
I certainly BELIEVE there is no real best picture winner. But that still hasn’t prevented me from rooting for one every year since 1968 – when Oliver! snatched the trophy right out of the hands of my beloved Funny Girl. But at least the playing field was a bit more leveled back then. They were BOTH musicals.
Truth be told, I did think Moonlight and La La Land were wonderful.
And…I was on team La La Land.
La La Land moved me in a way no other movie did this year. I related to it. I thought it struck an extraordinarily tone between the real and surreal that seemed, while I was watching it, and even now on reflection, pretty much impossible to achieve. It also spoke to me about artistry, and love, and the price we pay for each with our fantasies. And in our real lives.
Moonlight also spoke to me, especially as a gay man of a certain age. As did Hidden Figures – a treasure of mainstream Hollywood movie making – by showcasing true historical injustice as only great Hollywood films can.
But neither in the same way as La La Land.
This does not make me right or wrong on the subject of what is the best picture of the year. Nor does it belie character defects of anti-intellectualism, superficiality or an anti-indie, anti-IMPORTANT motion picture belief system.
It just means I liked the damn film more than perhaps you did.
And as time went on I grew SO tired of defending it to those of you on the other TEAM that I began to love it even more — as I slowly and perhaps unknowingly even began to figure out ways to out-argue the rest of the world about why YOUR CHOICE didn’t deserve the BEST trophy over MY DATE.
I mean, who even knew I was playing that game. Did you know you were? Okay, maybe you weren’t. But some of you were (are?). Because I know I am not the only one of us Americans weighing in here.
It’s really such an American game, the Oscars. We just love our winners and losers. And this was well before our current technical POTUS. There’s just something about being #1 that is so totally Us. Until it’s not.
And that is what the Sunday night’s big Oscar screw-up leaves Us with. The hollowness of being thought of as #1 instead of settling for living a life where you truly exude classic #1 behavior.
The producer of La La Land had it when he graciously proclaimed Moonlight the true winner and said he was proud to be able to hand his Oscar over to his “friends” (Note: That four-month awards circuit creates lots of lasting Hollywood friendships). Team Moonlight had it in countless post-Oscar interviews where it threw the respect right back at La La Land. Meryl Streep had it when she led the applause for best actress winner Emma Stone. And Matt Damon has it every time he allowed Jimmy Kimmel to mercilessly and very personally insult him and his past work in their many years long public faux feud.
Well, what does it cost them when they are the beneficiaries of such good press for being such good sports, you might say. Well, as much as it costs us when we don’t get our due, our validation, when it comes to our tastes, opinions or choice of award winners. We, who are really all just a bunch of onlookers, sitting on a really, really, really long bench of public opinion rabidly addressing our…prey.
Sure, this is a thin and perhaps too superficial argument from which to make a grand statement on tolerance and understanding and benevolence, especially since statistically speaking there is little to none of any of that in the entertainment industry to begin with. Though no more or less than there now is through the rest of the country, or the world, or in any other industry inhabited inside any of the aforementioned for that matter.
What #OscarsSoScrewedUp (#OscarSoWhoops?) showed us so beautifully and so specifically is that, in the end, perhaps the BEST use of our time is to save our energies for the upcoming battles that will be required fighting – and not from the bench but in the arena.
And…..for all of you haters to watch La La Land.
Again and again till you get it right.
Oh wait, I mean…MOONLIGHT. Watch Moonlight!