Monday, February 27, 2017

No Words -- Should've Sent A Poet

March is the month to decompress, go enjoy some bad movies, and stop thinking about Oscar for a spell. It does even the hungriest awards enthusiast good to take one's mind off the madness. But none of this sabbatical comes before extensive analyses and rundowns of the season that was, so I'll be rolling out my thoughts sporadically as we creep out of winter and into a new movie year.

I normally devote an entire piece to dissecting my predictions, but why even bother this year? With so many categories defying the patterns on which most pundits have come to rely (especially in the crafts), I wound up with an unexpected and historic low of 13 (uck), and in what I foolishly assumed would be a bounceback from last year's lacklustre 16/24.

I can deliver my thoughts on how I reacted to those losses -- some of which provided me with the most satisfying moments of the night, the year, and possibly the decade so far -- at a later date. First I have to go out of order and address the elephant in the room.

You know what I'm talking about.
Even a day after the fact, I don't have the words to communicate the emotional jambalaya it felt like I swallowed all at once during those 120 seconds of horrifying and glorious chaos following the botched Best Picture announcement. Best I can do is try to break down my instantaneous real-time reactions in gif form:

12:03:58 a.m., EST: It's four minutes after midnight, and the world is ready to go to bed. The last formality is to hear La La Land declared the Best Picture and be done with it. That's exactly what they hear when Faye Dunaway has the envelope shoved at her by a confused Warren Beatty.


12:04:03 p.m., EST: As the thrilled cast and crew of La La Land hug, kiss and make their way to the stage, Beatty's muffled voice can be heard uttering something caught by the mic: "But it says 'Emma Stone'?". Faye laughs, "What?". Nobody hears...

12:04:35 p.m., EST: Producer Jordon Horowitz begins making his acceptance speech while the back-patting and high-fiving continues behind him.

12:05:36 p.m., EST: Horowitz finishes and turns the floor over to fellow producer Marc Platt, which is when the first confused glances start...

12:05:49 p.m., EST: Platt starts going on about "repression being the enemy of civilization", oblivious to the frantic commotion as a stage manager rushes onstage to show Horowitz and Fred Berger something...

12:06:01 p.m., EST: Platt gestures Berger to the mic, but Berger looks reluctant. He shakes his head, "No", having just been informed that they have, in fact, not won Best Picture. At the urging of his cast and crew, he steps forward to quickly thank his family before coyly adding, "We lost, by the way, but... y'know." Seconds before this, Emma Stone can be seeing saying, "Oh my God!", along with barely audible, panicked murmurs of the stage manager saying, "We got this wrong, we got this wrong!"

12:06:21 p.m., EST: Horowitz leaps into action, rushing to the mic to declare there's been a mistake: Moonlight won Best Picture. A few rogue cheers are heard from the audience, but clearly the majority of those in attendance are unsure what to make of this claim. So am I.

Horowitz addresses the Moonlight contingent directly from the stage, assuring them this is not a joke.

More uncertain cheers emerge, but it isn't until Horowitz decisively and literally snatches the envelope from the stage manager and Beatty's hands to show to the camera, that the crowd erupts in disbelief.
My TV -- Love Linus Sandgren's scrunch face.


12:06:53 p.m., EST: The Moonlight team, ecstatic and in complete shock, stagger to the stage. Jimmy Kimmel, who suddenly became way outta his depth with this development, attempts to patch up the awkwardness with some can't-we-all-be-winners tripe, but Horowitz's mind is set: "I'm gonna be really proud to hand this to my friends from Moonlight."

12:07:30 p.m., EST: Warren Beatty explains why he was so confused, having been mistakenly given the duplicate envelope for Best Actress, containing Emma Stone's name for La La Land. Some of the La La Land team linger to congratulate the Moonlight team.

12:08:50 p.m., EST: At this point Barry Jenkins and Adele Romanski begin making their bewildered acceptance speeches, and this is sort of where it becomes a blur. I can remember feeling some combination of the following...

... and truth be told, I still haven't settled.
It's hard to fully reconcile the thrill of seeing the actual best movie of the year win Best Picture (a true rarity) with the sympathy I feel towards the producers of La La Land.
No one deserves that, even if you prescribe to no publicity being bad publicity. How ironic that Jordon Horowitz has become the most unlikely folk hero of the 89th Oscars -- gaining more notoriety and goodwill in losing than winning ever could have brought him -- by simply being the nice, gracious, classy guy that he reportedly is.

When all is said and done, I think what registers the most with me is what a miracle it is for a movie like Moonlight -- small, quiet, specific yet universal -- to win the Academy's top prize. Are these the seeds of Cheryl Boone Isaac's inclusion initiative bearing first fruit, or a lucky coincidence of timing? We may have to wait the decade out to know.

Change is a gradual thing, but Moonlight's victory feels bigger and more symbolic than a mere accolade for its cinematic craft. We can only hope that more movies as sensitive, insightful and moving as this continue to be made, and that the face of cinema in America continues to diversify.

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