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.
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:
Moonlight & La La Land are both wonderful films & totally different. Tonight's debacle just shows the #Oscars are iconic but not absolute.
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.
Ya don’t say!! #fakeshock
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.
Three VERY different films
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.
Did someone say date? #heygurl
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.
I am still trying to wrap my head around having this much composure and grace in the moment. #realclass
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.
Let’s be real: you would totally watch We Bought a Zoo on a plane #andyoudlikeit
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.
And when in doubt… LaLaLand comes out on DVD in May
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.
Full confession: I’m an average Oscar prognosticator. This means in some years I’m above 90% and in others it’s the 70% range. This gives me a median grade of “B” – a mere average GPA where I grew up. And you wonder why I call myself The Chair.
Still, I feel particularly lucky this year because it seems inevitable that this is the year for my favorite film of 2016 – La La Land. Oh yeah, hiss and boo your own selves as Bette Midler once retorted to her audience in her priceless eighties comedy album Mud Will Be Flung Tonight (“and into the faces of some of your favorites”). And you wonder why I love Bette Midler.
In any event, I will not allow my love of all things La La Land to influence my predictions. After all, there are pools to be won, money to be made and schadenfreude to be enjoyed post ceremonies – hopefully by me. Though it might be better to direct one’s anger at The Darth Vader of the White House (Note: So many to choose from there) rather than at a movie that only asks you to let go and allow yourself to be transported for a couple of hours. Translation to the haters: Stop being such a tight ass, Ingrid, it’s only a movie.
Okay, here goes:
Hell or High Water
La La Land
Manchester by the Sea
WINNER: La La Land
Best is certainly a relative word and you won’t get any argument here that La La Land is certainly the least dramatic of the bunch. Which doesn’t make it the least timely or important. In the age of – well, the age we’re in – I often have to remind myself it all starts with a dream.
Casey Affleck, Manchester by the Sea
Andrew Garfield, Hacksaw Ridge
Ryan Gosling, La La Land
Viggo Mortensen, Captain Fantastic
Denzel Washington, Fences
WINNER: Denzel Washington, Fences
It could certainly go to Casey Affleck as many are saying. But there is something about the way he breathed new life into such a difficult character, coupled with the unfortunate age we’re living in, that seems to make it Denzel Washington’s here. It also helps that he was the surprise winner of this year’s SAG trophy in that category, the single largest voting block in the Motion Picture Academy.
Isabelle Huppert, Elle
Ruth Negga, Loving
Natalie Portman, Jackie
Emma Stone, La La Land
Meryl Streep, Florence Foster Jenkins
WINNER: Emma Stone, La La Land
She’s the heart and soul of the film. She puts a face on the enthusiasm and sadness and superficiality and disillusionment and triumph of a life lived in L.A. Yes, that’s a compliment. And she sings just fine. Watch how she does the Academy nominated song Audition again. And then, hiss and boo your own selves.
Mahershala Ali, Moonlight
Jeff Bridges, Hell or High Water
Lucas Hedges, Manchester by the Sea
Dev Patel, Lion
Michael Shannon, Nocturnal Animals
WINNER: Mahershala Ali, Moonlight
I turned to my husband when Ali was onscreen and said this guy is the most real actor I have ever seen. He deserves an Oscar for this. And who the hell is he??? It’s not that the other performances weren’t great in their own ways. It’ s just if there has to be a best, he’s it and the majority of the Academy will be smart enough to know it.
NO ONE cries as good as Viola. NO. ONE. #allthefeels
Viola Davis, Fences
Naomie Harris, Moonlight
Nicole Kidman, Lion
Octavia Spencer, Hidden Figures
Michelle Williams, Manchester by the Sea
WINNER: Viola Davis, Fences
Let’s not spend a lot of time on this. She’s won all the other honors and EVERYONE wants to hear her speech. ‘Enuf said.
Damien Chazelle, La La Land
Mel Gibson, Hacksaw Ridge
Barry Jenkins, Moonlight
Kenneth Lonergan, Manchester by the Sea
Denis Villeneuve, Arrival
WINNER: Damien Chazelle, La La Land
There are so many reasons Damien Chazelle deserves to win this award whether his film is your cuppa or not. Imagine making a love letter to Los Angeles that is adored around the world ($250,000,000 plus worldwide gross and counting). Consider the chances of getting exactly the right chemistry in what is essentially a two-person film and then creating enough visual imagery to not only compliment them and the story but also dazzle us without breaking the fourth wall of our dreams? Then add to it that he’s only 32 years old and was already nominated once in this category for Whiplash. And several weeks ago won in this category for La La Land. You’re still not convinced? ….Bitter, table for one….
Kubo and the Two Strings, Travis Knight and Arianne Sutner
Moana, John Musker, Ron Clements and Osnat Shurer
My Life as a Zucchini, Claude Barras and Max Karli
The Red Turtle, Michael Dudok de Wit and Toshio Suzuki
Zootopia, Byron Howard, Rich Moore and Clark Spencer
This year is all about marginalization on a MASSIVE scale. So it’s Zooptopia all the way. Not to mention, using animals make it easier for us to think about such things are less outwardly political and therefore more than acceptable as the winner in the animation category.
Get the engraver ready
Eric Heisserer, Arrival
August Wilson, Fences
Allison Schroeder and Theodore Melfi, Hidden Figures
Luke Davies, Lion
Barry Jenkins; Story by Tarell Alvin McCraney, Moonlight
WINNER: Barry Jenkins; Story by Tarell Alvin McCraney, Moonlight
The most unusual and innovative script in the category and the Academy WANTS to honor a film so unlikely to emerge into the national consciousness. There will be tumultuous applause for this win – and deservedly so. The deceptive simplicity in the storytelling is the movie’s principle strength.
The writing in this scene alone. #ohboy #willdestroyyou
Mike Mills, 20th Century Women
Taylor Sheridan, Hell or High Water
Damien Chazelle, La La Land
Yorgos Lanthimos, Efthimis Filippou, The Lobster
Kenneth Longergan, Manchester by the Sea
WINNER: Kenneth Lonergan, Manchester by the Sea
This is tricky but it’s doubtful the Academy will send something so sadly powerful and original home without something. That said, a significant group loves Hell or High Water and there could be a La La Land sweep. In the end, however, Manchester is exactly the type of movie industry voters go for in terms of writing.
Meet you on the pier in 5 minutes. #Ryguy
Bradford Young, Arrival
Linus Sandgren, La La Land
Greig Fraser, Lion
James Laxton, Moonlight
Rodrigo Prieto, Silence
WINNER:Linus Sandgren, La La Land
It will come down to a race between Arrival and La La Land. Both brought you into brilliantly invented and compelling visual landscapes. But how do you vote against floating into the sky in the Griffith Park Observatory?
Best Documentary Feature
This time with less Sarah Paulson.
13th, Ava DuVernay, Spencer Averick and Howard Barish
Fire at Sea, Gianfranco Rosi and Donatella Palermo
I Am Not Your Negro, Raoul Peck, Remi Grellety and Hebert Peck
Life, Animated, Roger Ross Williams and Julie Goldman
O.J.: Made in America, Ezra Edelman and Caroline Waterlow
WINNER: O.J.: Made in America, Ezra Edelman and Caroline Waterlow
It’s not so much about O.J. but telling the story of race in America through his life. I really resisted being in the guy’s presence for nine hours more but there is a reason this work has been so lauded and why after a few minutes you can’t take your eyes away from the Shakespearean tragedy of it all.
Best Documentary Short Subject
4.1 Miles, Daphne Matziaraki
Extremis, Dan Krauss
Joe’s Violin, Kahane Cooperman and Raphaela Neihausen
Watani: My Homeland, Marcel Mettelsiefen and Stephen Ellis
The White Helmets, Orlando von Einsiedel and Joanna Natasegara
WINNER: The White Helmets, Orlando von Einsiedel and Joanna Natasegara
Any other year the sentiments in Joe’s Violin, which manages to give us a story about Holocaust remembrance we’ve never seen before, would win out. But given the currently charged political NOW, the shocking tragedies of Syrian genocide won’t and shouldn’t be ignored.
Best Live Action Short Film
The official pool killing category
Ennemis Interieurs, Selim Azzazi
La Femme et le TGV, Timo von Gunten and Giacun Caduff
Silent Nights, Aske Bang and Kim Magnusson
Sing, Kristof Deak and Anna Udvardy
Timecode, Juanjo Gimenez
WINNER: Ennemis Interieurs, Selim Azzazi
Immigration, fascism, France and the next anticipated sweep of white nationalism. This should be the winner unless voters use this one category to opt out for the more fanciful Timecode and the bullying themes of Sing. Yes, I saw all five of these. Don’t act so surprised.
Best Animated Short
Pixar does it again
Blind Vaysha, Theodore Ushev
Borrowed Time, Andrew Coats and Lou Hamou-Lhadj
Pear Cider and Cigarettes, Robert Valley and Cara Speller
Pearl, Patrick Osborne
Piper, Alan Barillaro and Marc Sondheimer
WINNER: Piper, Alan Barillaro and Marc Sondheimer
After numerous recent losses in this category it’s Pixar’s year. And I seldom bet against some of the best storytellers in the biz. Yeah, you read that right.
Best Foreign Language Film
A Man Called Ove, Sweden
Land of Mine, Denmark
The Salesman, Iran
Toni Erdmann, Germany
WINNER: The Salesman, Iran
An excellent group that makes you wish there were more American movies that tackled this many diverse and difficult subjects. But the real life attempt of the current White House to question the freedom of people like the Iranian director of The Salesman – Asghar Farhadi – to visit the US will push him over the top. That said, I LOVED A Man Called Ove. So go see that one too.
Joe Walker, Arrival
John Gilbert, Hacksaw Ridge
Jake Roberts, Hell or High Water
Tom Cross, La La Land
Nat Sanders and Joi McMillon, Moonlight
WINNER: Tom Cross, La La Land
How the guy managed to put together the disparate tones of La La Land together and have it make any sense at all, much less be so continuously charming in its telling of the ultimate seamless dream, is just one of many reasons. Don’t vote against it despite the upset others may be predicting.
They call me mellow yellow
Patrice Vermette, Paul Hotte, Arrival
Stuart Craig, Anna Pinnock, Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them
Jess Gonchor, Nancy Haigh, Hail, Caesar!
David Wasco, Sandy Reynolds-Wasco, La La Land
Guy Hendrix Dyas, Gene Serdena, Passengers
WINNER: David Wasco, Sandy Reynolds-Wasco, La La Land
If it were just the designers voting it might be Passengers or Arrival. But it takes equal if not more talent to make L.A. dreamy, superficial AND yet seductively believable – at least to us masses.
Mica Levi, Jackie
Justin Hurwitz, La La Land
Dustin O’Halloran and Hauschka, Lion
Nicholas Britell, Moonlight
Thomas Newman, Passengers
WINNER: Justin Hurwitz, La La Land
Score means music and it’s a MUSICAL that is going to be the best picture of 2016. So don’t argue on this one.
“Audition (The Fools Who Dream),” La La Land — Music by Justin Hurwitz; Lyric by Benj Pasek and Justin Paul
“Can’t Stop the Feeling,” Trolls— Music and Lyric by Justin Timberlake, Max Martin and Karl Johan Schuster
“City of Stars,” La La Land — Music by Justin Hurwitz; Lyric by Benj Pasek and Justin Paul
“The Empty Chair,” Jim: The James Foley Story — Music and Lyric by J. Ralph and Sting
“How Far I’ll Go,” Moana — Music and Lyric by Lin-Manuel Miranda
WINNER: “City of Stars,” La La Land, Justin Hurwitz, Benj Pasek and Justin Paul.
Everyone wants Lin-Manuel to win his EGOT and he will – but not this year. The soundtrack to La La Land has been playing continuously in my car for the last two months and I listen to it at the gym. So maybe I’m not the one to ask in this category. Or perhaps I am. And yes, they can sing. It’s called ACT(s)ING.
Makeup and Hair
I’ll bet on the Jennifer Lawrence alien one
A Man Called Ove, Eva von Bahr and Love Larson
Star Trek Beyond, Joel Harlow and Richard Alonzo
Suicide Squad, Alessandro Bertolazzi, Giorgio Gregorini and Christopher Nelson
WINNER: Star Trek Beyond, Joel Harlow and Richard Alonzo,
I have NO idea but everyone says Star Trek so let’s go with that.
Get it girls!
Allied, Joanna Johnston
Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, Colleen Atwood
Florence Foster Jenkins, Consolata Boyle
Jackie, Madeline Fontaine
La La Land, Mary Zophre
WINNER: La La Land, Mary Zophre
I want Ryan Gosling’s wardrobe. Or perhaps it’s just Ryan Gosling. And Emma Stone managed to look luminous without emanating fake glamour. It was dreamy and real all at once. Can these guys design something for me and my best girlfriend HUSBAND when we film our romantic fantasy?
A pretty safe bet
Deepwater Horizon, Craig Hammack, Jason Snell, Jason Billington and Burt Dalton
Doctor Strange, Stephane Ceretti, Richard Bluff, Vincent Cirelli and Paul Corbould
The Jungle Book, Robert Legato, Adam Valdez, Andrew R. Jones and Dan Lemmon
Kubo and the Two Strings, Steve Emerson, Oliver Jones, Brian McLean and Brad Schiff
Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, John Knoll, Mohen Leo, Hal Hickel and Neil Corbould
WINNER: The Jungle Book, Stephane Ceretti, Richard Bluff, Vincent Cirelli and Paul Corbould,
Not a clue because I didn’t see any of them but EVERYONE says The Jungle Book.
In lieu of anything Mel Gibson related, here’s a fine pic of Jon Hamm
Arrival, Sylvain Bellemare
Deep Water Horizon, Wylie Stateman and Renee Tondelli
Hacksaw Ridge, Robert Mackenzie and Andy Wright
La La Land, Ai-Ling Lee and Mildred Iatrou Morgan
Sully, Alan Robert Murray and Bub Asman
WINNER: Hacksaw Ridge, Robert Mackenzie and Andy Wright
I know little about sound editing and will never see another Mel Gibson movie again so don’t trust me here. But war movies are hard to beat in this category and all the smart money says that the anti-war, war film makes you feel like you’re there.
I wouldn’t know.
Play me a song, Piano Man
Arrival, Bernard Gariepy Strobl and Claude La Haye
Hacksaw Ridge, Kevin O’Connell, Andy Wright, Robert Mackenzie and Peter Grace
La La Land, Andy Nelson, Ai-Ling Lee and Steve A. Morrow
Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, David Parker, Christopher Scarabosio and Stuart Wilson