Things We Need To Revisit From The 2017 Academy Awards

The other day I read a think-piece about how the twist ending of this year’s Oscars – as well as the reversals of fortune at the 2017 Super Bowl and the 2016 Presidential Election – means that there’s a glitch in the matrix: that we’re living in a simulated universe and either something broke, or someone’s messing with us.

For the 2017 Academy Awards ceremony to be dull and unremarkable for over 3 hours, only to get so wacky in the last 5 minutes that it inspired stoner philosophy in the New Yorker: that’s a feat. We already discussed our Best Dressed picks, so let’s revisit a few other happenings of the oddest awards night in recent memory.

The Opening Number and Monologue

Maybe it’s because I grew up on Billy Crystal’s annual parody numbers, but wow, was this year’s opening uninspired. Of course I love Justin Timberlake, but I prefer an opening number that actually remarks on the year’s nominees (yeah, I know the song was nominated, but am I crazy to want a La La Land reference when there’s an actual MUSICAL up for Best Picture? Something with the fantastic ladies from Hidden Figures? The nice aliens from Arrival?).

The monologue wasn’t quite as sharp or well-paced as I’ve come to expect. There were some good ones in there, though (“black people saved NASA and white people saved Jazz”) and some standard ones (the jokes about how young Damien Chazelle is seemed to be cribbed from Good Will Hunting-era Ben and Matt jokes), and a few that were just bad (on the biggest night of someone’s professional career, I’ve always found jokes about how nobody saw a movie or knows who someone is to be ill-conceived). I do like Jimmy Kimmel, but I don’t think he was the best fit for the Oscars host; I think he was the guy from ABC.

The Matt Damon Jokes

Who counted the Jimmy Kimmel/Matt Damon rivalry jokes last night? It’s a running gag you’d come to expect if you watch Kimmel, but if you don’t it probably just felt a little overdone.

The Bit With The Tourists, Which I Hated

As you already know by now, there was a really protracted bit where a group of tourists were told they were going to see an exhibit of Oscar gowns, only to walk into the auditorium full of celebrities. It was terrible for so many reasons:

  • It took forever. Legit, 7 minutes. Whenever the Oscars is packed with dumb bits, I always think of how annoyed I’m going to be when it’s 11:30 PM EST and top winners are being rushed off stage after 30 seconds, or 12:05 AM EST when I’m still awake.
  • The cell phones. I hate when baby boomers complain about kids these days always on their phones, but damn, could those baby boomers get off their phones?! It reminds me of when I was sitting at my niece and nephew’s Christmas pageant and couldn’t see a thing because everyone in front of me was watching it with their tiny phone screens poised in the air.
  • Something about the Normals mixing with the Pristine Fancy People just felt gross.
  • No really, put down your phone, Gary.
  • Is it just me, or does walking off a bus in tourist clothes onto national television and a room full of celebrities sound like a weird, bad nightmare? My only consolation is that everyone was calm enough that it was probably fake.
  • Yeah, Jimmy. Not everyone’s named something like Jimmy. That’s not even a good joke.
  • In general, I hate the idea of manufacturing Magic Moments – it’s the same feeling I get when I look at someone’s carefully curated Pinterest wedding. At some point you just have to let things play out normally and appreciate that magic can’t be planned. Case in point: this bit with the tourists was boring and long and bad, but the most fascinating part of the night – the glitch in the matrix at the end – was completely unexpected.
Saint Brie Of The Pursed Lips

We’ve come to realize that every Oscars night will involve us discussing how Brie Larson is a good person. She really seems like a genuinely down-to-earth, caring human even when the cameras aren’t on (for instance: hugging each and every ones of the assault survivors who appeared with Lady Gaga during the 2016 Oscars – during a commercial break, not on live TV). It is because Brie has become an advocate for survivors of sexual abuse that it was so horrifying that this awards season kept seeing her paired up with accused sexual harasser Casey Affleck. As at the Golden Globes, Brie handed off Affleck’s award with a pursed-lip smile and all the polite iciness of a well-bred Southern hostess.

Yes, Brie handed off the Oscar with a quick hug and congratulations, but she wasn’t going to clap about it. And it was that tiny gesture – not clapping – that put the next-day headline focus on the accusations against Affleck instead of his win.

I will say that I’m happy for Casey’s Manchester By The Sea costar Michelle Williams, who looked happy, and for his brother Ben, who I am willing to believe has given him a stern talking-to.

VIOLA!

There are some actors and actresses whom it feels like a privilege to live in the same time as. Viola Davis is one. After her much-deserved nominations for The Help and Doubt, it’s a joy to see her win her first Oscar – and I say first because I’m certain there will be more.

The Ladies Of The Help

I don’t know what it is, but occasionally the cast of a movie coalesces in such a way that you know filming it must have been (to use the oft-repeated junket cliche) like summer camp. Maybe because of its location shoot, that’s how The Help is. The actresses really seem to have become like a family on-set and remained friends years later. Oh, plus they’re all absolutely crushing it. To see Emma Stone, Viola Davis and Octavia Spencer all involved in nominated pictures is an absolute delight.

MAHERSHALA!

It seems that every awards season has its darling (Jennifer Lawrence; Lupita Nyong’o, e.g.) and this year it was the talented, intelligent, really really handsome Mahershala Ali. It’s no secret that we were pulling for him, and we promise it wasn’t JUST because we like his speeches (the man does give a good speech though).

The Children of Moonlight

The actors behind the youngest versions of Chiron and Kevin, Alex Hibbert and Jaden Piner, are two talented seventh graders from the same Miami school. They were selected to audition and didn’t even know it was a big project – and now they’re part of a Best Picture winner. It’s the fantasy I always had as an inner-city kid, and the fact that it came true for these two amazing boys is phenomenal.  Alex and Jaden are kids, but they’re also old enough to grasp that the Oscars are a big deal and it seems that they were taking in every minute of it. All love and all pride.

La La Land Wins?

La La Land was good. It wasn’t my favorite — some of the Hollywood Is In Love With Itself vibe is only interesting if you are actually from there, I think, kind of like looking at some other family’s photo albums — but it was good. A modern musical is a fresh and innovative idea, it was beautifully executed (the color palate alone!), and for the first time in a long time, there was a really well-made film that was trying to be charming.  If movies like La La Land come into fashion I won’t be upset. Still, my gut said that Moonlight was going to win: if I felt that it was more deserving, certainly a number of voters had the same opinion.

When La La Land was announced as the winner I was disappointed, but didn’t feel like Moonlight got robbed, exactly. I understood why La La Land could have won, it was the expected winner, and as I said, it was good. I saw a photo album page I recognized in Moonlight (as I said, I grew up in the inner city with drug houses next door and across the street; Moonlight is the first and only time I have ever seen a neighborhood like that depicted with complexity and humanity. It meant a lot). Voters, I figured, saw a photo album page they recognized in La La Land. Fine.

But wait. The signs were there from the beginning. I interpreted Warren Beatty’s drawn-out announcement as an aging actor trying to be funny, but it was actually a pause to figure out what was going on. Faye Dunaway thought that Warren was allowing her to read the winner, when he was really signaling her in a “do you see what I’m seeing” way. Producers rushed on – well, maybe not rushed; they could have hustled a little bit more if you ask me. They reportedly realized there was a problem immediately but took minutes to get to the stage. Shock can cause delay, though. I was actually more surprised by the producer who (evidently) already had been told that they lost, delivered his speech anyway, then interjected “we lost, by the way.”

God bless Jordan Horowitz for clearing it up with”I’m sorry. There’s a mistake. Moonlight, you guys won Best Picture”, though at first I thought he was trying to say that Moonlight DESERVED best picture.  Nobody else on stage – not the producer who accepted before him, not the host, not the presenter, not the producers – had stepped in by that point, so I appreciate his quick thinking and decisiveness. Then there was some painfully bad on-stage vamping (KIMMEL. Telling them they should keep it isn’t the way to go; and it wasn’t “nice of them,” the other guys won it), and Warren tried to clear his name (redemption would come later, when it became clear that  he was handed the wrong envelope). A visibly stunned Moonlight cast took the stage. It was baffling.

Moonlight Wins!

Moonlight was my personal pick for best picture. It was so beautiful at times that I wanted to cry not because it was sad, but because it was true. I think my soul broke open in the final scene and not in a bad way. Moonlight is the first Best Picture winner with an all-black cast AND the first LGBT winner as well. It deconstructs masculinity, particularly black masculinity, in a thought-provoking and profoundly touching way.  However, Moonlight was also so beautifully written, filmed and acted that it deserved to win on its merits as a film, not because it was ground-breaking. It’s one of those movies where you can’t really explain why people need to see it, just that they need to.

Best Dressed at the 2017 Oscars

We’ve been blogging about the Oscars for four years now and watching them for about 20 – and that was hands-down the nuttiest night in our Academy Awards memory. From Denzel’s shocking loss to Viola’s triumphant win, Auli’i Cravalho’s otherwordly poise and composure to Lin’s endearing joy, culminating in the most INSANE deus ex machina ending we’ve ever seen – when the wrong envelope was opened and La La Land was announced the winner, only to have producers come out and confirm that the rightful winner as Moonlight – there was a whole lot going on. It’s almost enough to make you forget that it was an amazing night for fashion, too. Key word: Almost. Because no matter what insanity went on with the envelopes, we feel pretty confident about who the winners of our Best Dressed prizes should be.

Molly’s Picks

Janelle Monae in Elie Saab
I've been a Janelle Monae stan since The ArchAndroid, and I am having SUCH an

I’ve been a Janelle Monae stan since The ArchAndroid, and I am having SUCH an “I’ve been telling you all” moment right now. Things to know about Janelle’s fashion choices: for quite some time she only appeared in black and white tuxedos, but she has relaxed her “uniform” and now wears gowns, always in her signature black and white. Her albums center around a futuristic sci-fi mythology, a world populated by androids with lots of cool space allusions. I could see this look flopping on somebody else, but knowing Janelle’s penchant for black and white, and her fusion of sci-fi and soul, an Oscar gown where she looks like an intergalactic android empress is the best and, honestly, only appropriate choice. Also: that short hair and grecian headband: excellent.

Emma Stone in Givenchy
Like with Janelle Monae's look, I love Emma Stone's gown as much for what it represents as for how it looks. For a lot of us, Givenchy will always be synonymous with Audrey Hepburn, and in fact Emma is the first person to win Best Actress in Givenchy since Audrey. As I've said other years, I always love when nominated actresses dress with an eye towards the fact that this may be THE dress for them: the image that will be called up throughout their career and used in stories about them when they're old ladies. And with La La Land so glitzy and classic, this Old Hollywood look is a symbolic choice - a gown that could have been featured in one of the classic films Emma's character Mia grew up checking out of the library. A note about makeup: every single time I see Emma in a lip color, I think that it's HER color. Coral: her color. Bright pink: her color. This brick red: her color. She has a complexion for lipstick, which I didn't realize was a thing until just now.

Like with Janelle Monae’s dress, I love Emma Stone’s gown as much for what it represents as for how it looks. For a lot of us, Givenchy will always be synonymous with Audrey Hepburn, and in fact Emma is the first person to win Best Actress in Givenchy since Audrey. As I’ve said other years, I always love when nominated actresses dress with an eye towards the fact that this may be THE dress for them: the image that will be called up throughout their career and used in stories about them when they’re old ladies. And with La La Land so glitzy and classic, this Old Hollywood look is a symbolic choice – a gown that could have been featured in one of the classic films Emma’s character Mia grew up checking out of the library. A note about makeup: every single time I see Emma in a lip color, I think that it’s HER color. Coral: her color. Bright pink: her color. This brick red: her color. She has a complexion for lipstick, which I didn’t realize was a thing until just now. Also of note, Emma is sporting a small Planned Parenthood pin.

Ruth Negga in Valentino
Evidently the inspiration for this look was

Evidently the inspiration for this look was “pagan goddess.” I was going to say a more streamlined take on a demure Victorian look, but either way. I wouldn’t love the high neck and long sleeves on just anybody, but Ruth has such long, straight lines and I think it complements her perfectly. I love the contrast of the brighter, orange-y red with the deeper ruby on her headpiece and earrings. I find this dress to be a great example of dressing FOR your type (Ruth is this year’s pixie-like ethereal Irish nominee, after all), instead of against it. My only very minor gripe is that red dresses always look odd on the red carpet because of the contrasting tones. Note the blue ribbon for the ACLU.

Nicole Kidman in Armani Prive
Love the pillar dress, love the embellishments, actually love that this whole look is basically monochrome except for her lip color.

Love the pillar dress, love the embellishments, actually love that this whole look is basically monochrome except for her lip color.

Mahershala Ali in Ermenegildo Zegna Couture
Because we have to acknowledge that the men tried, too. Sometimes black-on-black can look kitschy, but the way this pulls together is pure elegance. I love that he went with a waistcoat and shirt, stayed black with the bow tie, and splashed it out a bit with the pocket square. And the shirt studs, besides? He is killing me. It's just so great to see a man having fun with accessorizing. Elegant, indeed.

Because we have to acknowledge that the men tried, too. Sometimes black-on-black can look kitschy, but the way this pulls together is pure elegance. I love that he went with a waistcoat and shirt, stayed black with the bow tie, and splashed it out a bit with the pocket square. And the shirt studs, besides? He is killing me. It’s just so great to see a man having fun with accessorizing. Elegant, indeed.

Brie Larson in Oscar De La Renta
Brie looks pristine and icy and beautiful, exactly how you should look while forking over an award with a pursed-lip smile while gently seething. The length is fantastic, I love the train and I don't always love trains, and the architectural structuring on the front of this is perfectly matched with the contrasting fabric finishes.

Brie looks pristine and icy and beautiful, exactly how you should look while forking over an award with a pursed-lip smile while gently seething [Annual reminder that Brie Larson is a Good Person]. The length is fantastic, I love the train and I don’t always love trains, and the architectural structuring on the front of this is perfectly paired with the contrasting fabric finishes.

Traci’s Picks

Taraji P. Henson in Alberta Ferretti

Taraji kept it classic and cool in a gown fit for Hollywood royalty. The neckline cut is perfect, the slit on the leg isn’t too high, and the best part is that this velour dress isn’t black – it’s navy blue.

Auli’i Cravalho in Rubin Singer

Like Moana coming out from the sea, Auli’i stepped into the spotlight and straight to our hearts. In addition to her outstanding performance with our boy Lin-Manuel during the show, this SIXTEEN YEAR OLD wore this gorge flowing gown on the red carpet. The white dress with gold accents was classy but just unique enough to stand out from the crowd. It also reminds me of water, but maybe I’m too into Moana.

Ava DuVernay in Ashi Studio

Ava might not have walked away with the gold last night (we’re of the mindset that she should have won, but whatever), but she sure did make a statement with this stunning gown by Ashi Studio, a designer based in Lebanon. The country is 54% Muslim, and Ava chose them specifically as a “small sign of solidarity.” We need people like you, Ava.

Isabelle Huppert in Armani Privé

I haven’t even seen Elle, nor have I seen anything Isabelle Huppert has been in, but she looks like Hollywood royalty in this gown. The 63 year old donned a dress perfect for her age, with just enough sparkle to shine in a sea of youngins.

David Oyelowo in Dolce & Gabbana

More and more men are taking risks with color on the red carpet, and David Oyelowo is rocking a black and white suit coat with modern details, and we are all for it.

 

Best Spoken of the 2017 SAG Awards: Actors Take On The #MuslimBan

Whether you were watching last night’s Screen Actors Guild Awards, or were tuned into the other breaking news instead, I think you’ll understand why we decided to forego the Best Dressed post. We would have loved to talk about outfits and we’re sure all those actors would have loved to talk about their “craft,” but here we all are, in strange times. An actor’s opinion is no more qualified than any other individual’s and we don’t wish to imply that. However, events like the SAG awards give actors a platform most of the rest of us don’t have, and we were pleased to see that many celebrities made good use of their soapboxes. Here are some of our favorites, in no particular order:

Mahershala Ali [Moonlight]

“I think what I’ve learned from working on Moonlight is we see what happened when you persecute people – they fold into themselves. And what I was so grateful about in having the opportunity to play Juan was playing a gentlemen who saw a young man folding into himself as a result of the persecution of his community, and taking the opportunity to uplift him and tell him that he mattered, that he was okay, and accept him. I hope that we do a better job of that.”

“When we kind of get caught up in the minutiae, the details that make us different, I think there’s two ways of seeing that — there’s an opportunity to see the texture of that person, the characteristics that make them unique, and then there’s an opportunity to go to war about it, and to say that that person is different from me, and I don’t like you, so let’s battle.”

“My mother is an ordained minister, I’m a Muslim. She didn’t do backflips when I called her to tell her I converted 17 years ago. But I tell you now, you put things to the side. And I’m able to see her, and she’s able to see me. We love each other and the love has grown. And that stuff is minutiae. It’s not that important.”

Taraji P. Henson [Hidden Figures]

“This film is about unity. … The shoulders of the women that we stand on are three American heroes: Katherine Johnson, Dorothy Vaughan and Mary Jackson. Without them, we would not know how to reach the stars.”

“These women did not complain about the problems, the circumstances, the issues. We know what was going on in that era. They didn’t complain. They focused on solutions. Therefore, these brave women helped put men into space.”

“We cannot forget the brave men who also worked with us. God rest his soul in peace, John Glenn. ”

“This story is about unity. This story is about what happens when we put our differences aside, and we come together as a human race. We win. Love wins every time. Thank you so much for appreciating the work we’ve done, thank you so much for appreciating these women. They are hidden figures no more!”

David Harbour [Stranger Things]

“In light of all that’s going on in the world today, it’s difficult to celebrate the already celebrated Stranger Things. But this award from you, who take your craft seriously and earnestly believe, like me, that great acting can change the world, is a call to arms from our fellow craftsmen and women to go deeper, and through our art to battle against fear, self-centeredness, and exclusivity of our predominantly narcissistic culture and through our craft, cultivate a more empathetic and understanding society by revealing intimate truths that serve as a forceful reminder to folks that when they feel broken and afraid and tired, they are not alone.”

“We are united, in that we are all human beings, and we are all together on this horrible, painful, joyous, exciting, and mysterious ride that is being alive. Now, as we act in the continuing narrative of Stranger Things, we 1983 Midwesterners will repel bullies. We will shelter freaks and outcasts — those who have no hope. We will get past the lies. We will hunt monsters. And when we are at a loss amidst the hypocrisy and casual violence of certain individuals and institutions, we will, as per Chief Jim Hopper, punch some people in the face when they seek to destroy the meek and the disenfranchised and the marginalized. And we will do it all with soul, with heart, and with joy. We thank you for this responsibility.”

Julia Louis Dreyfus [Veep]

“Whether the Russians did or did not hack the voting of tonight’s SAG Awards, I look out on the million or probably even million and a half people in this room and I say this award is legitimate and I won! I’m the winner, the winner is me, landslide!” …

“I want you all to know that I am the daughter of an immigrant. My father fled religious persecution in Nazi-occupied France, and I’m an American patriot, and I love this country, and because I love this country I am horrified by its blemishes. This immigrant ban is a blemish and it is un-American. So I say to you this: Our sister guild, the WGA, made a statement today that I would like to read because I am in complete agreeance with it.”

“ ‘Our guilds are unions of storytellers who always welcomed those from the nations of varying beliefs who wish to share their creativity with America. We are grateful for them. We stand with them. And we will fight for them.’ ”

Sarah Paulson [The People Vs. O.J. Simpson]

… “Any money you have to spare, please donate to the ACLU. It’s a vital organization that relies entirely on our support.”

[Note: as someone who has logged plenty of volunteer hours with a local refugee settlement/services organization and in pro bono legal services, I’d also add that it would be great to look at what organizations are doing work in your own back yard. -m]


Like we said: actors aren’t the only people speaking up. They aren’t necessarily the most qualified spokespeople, either. But they ARE concerned citizens using the platforms that they have available to them to say what they feel needs to be said. It’s a reminder that all of us can and should work within our personal spheres of influence and capitalize on our own connections or expertise. And for the love of God, let’s get things back to being okay soon. We’d like this one to be an outfit post next year.