Oscars 2017: so what just happened?


Erin Bockenstedt, Staff Writer

At least no one can say that the Academy Awards ceremony was boring this year. Ending with a twist that not even M. Night Shyamalan at his craziest could come up with, this year’s Oscars were full of surprises and satisfying wins. Here are the most notable wins and moments from the evening.

“Moonlight” takes home Best Picture after “La La Land” was mistakenly declared the winner

I was extremely disappointed when veteran actors Warren Beatty and Faye Dunaway announced “La La Land” as the winner of Best Picture instead of the excellent “Moonlight”. I immediately turned off the TV in frustration and went to bed, instantly checking social media to see the reactions. However, the reactions hinted that something wild had gone down. After some searching, the truth had been revealed: the wrong card had been read, and “Moonlight” was the true winner. The situation was all at once hilarious, surprising, and extremely awkward, as the entire cast and crew of “La La Land” had to leave the stage for the “Moonlight” team to claim their trophy. “Moonlight” fully deserved its win, telling the life story of a young, lower-class African-American man as he comes of age and discovers his sexuality. It is a tremendous and important film, and hopefully its win will begin a wave of change when it comes to diversity in Hollywood. Congrats to director Barry Jenkins and the cast and crew.

Damien Chazelle wins Best Director

Although his film didn’t win Best Picture, Damien Chazelle still took home the trophy for directing “La La Land”. I still have yet to see “La La Land”, but Chazelle’s previous feature “Whiplash” is a modern classic which deserved more awards than it got at the ceremony back in 2015. Chazelle certainly has talent, and it was nice to see him recognized for it.

Mahershala Ali wins Best Supporting Actor

Mahershala Ali winning Best Supporting Actor for his role as father figure and drug dealer Juan in “Moonlight” was extremely satisfying, given his snub at the Golden Globes. Ali was amazing in the film, even if he only appeared in the first third, so the award was very well deserved. It is also worth noting that Ali is the first Muslim actor to win an Oscar.

Viola Davis is finally given her first Oscar

Viola Davis is a national treasure when it comes to acting, so her winning Best Supporting Actress for her role as Rose in “Fences” came as no surprise. She was up against a stacked deck, with Naomie Harris also being nominated for her fantastic performance in “Moonlight” as well as Michelle Williams for “Manchester by the Sea”.

Emma Stone wins Best Actress

Emma Stone took home her first Oscar for her role as Mia in “La La Land”, this being her second nomination after 2014’s “Birdman”. Stone is a good and bright actress, and although what I have seen from “La La Land” doesn’t seem like her best work (look to “Birdman” or “Easy A” for that), it is good to see her talent recognized.

Casey Affleck takes home Best Actor (even though he looks like a homeless person)

Casey Affleck received the Best Actor award for his role as Boston janitor Lee Chandler in “Manchester by the Sea”. Although I am neutral on Affleck as a person (he has been accused twice of sexually harassing female co-workers), and my personal choice would be Andrew Garfield for “Hacksaw Ridge”, I do think that Affleck is a very good actor and from what I have seen from “Manchester” it was a deserved win. However I am having a hard time understanding the appeal his current appearance, consisting of a man-bun and a long beard. Is it for a role? Is he joining the Amish community? Does anyone care? Probably not.

Academy Award-winning film “Suicide Squad”

There’s a sentence I never thought I’d hear. The DC comic book film “Suicide Squad” was disliked by most critics and was considered a disappointment by many people, but it was still nominated for Best Make-up & Hairstyling, and ended up winning. There weren’t many choices, to be fair, the only other two nominees being the foreign film “A Man Called Ove” and “Star Trek Beyond”. I can’t say I’m disappointed with the decision, as the design of the character Killer Croc is worth lots of merit on its own.

Iran takes home Best Foreign Language Film

Iranian director Asghar Farhadi won his second Foreign Language Film Oscar for his film “The Salesman”, his first win was back in 2012 for his marriage drama “A Separation”. Farhadi was not present at the ceremony due to opposition of President Donald Trump’s Muslim ban. In his place were Firouz Naderi and Anousheh Ansari, both space explorers and scientists. Ansari read a statement written by Farhadi:

(Transcript taken from www.independent.co.uk)

“It’s a great honour to be receiving this valuable award for the second time. I would like to thank the members of the Academy, my crew in Iran, my producer Alexandre Mallet-Guy, Cohen media, Amazon, and my fellow nominees in the foreign film category. I’m sorry I’m not with you tonight. My absence is out of respect for the people in my country and those of other six nations whom have been disrespected by the inhumane law that bans entry of immigrants to the US. Dividing the world into the ‘us’ and ‘our enemies’ categories creates fear, a deceitful justification for aggression and war. These wars prevent democracy and human rights in countries which have themselves been victims of aggression. Filmmakers can turn their cameras to capture shared human qualities and break stereotypes of various nationalities and religions. They create empathy between “us” and “others,” an empathy which we need today more than ever.”

Best Original Song performances

All the best original song performances made it hard for me to choose a favorite. John Legend gave lovely renditions of “City of Stars” and “Audition (The Fools Who Dream)” both from “La La Land”, which Legend also acted in. Auli’i Cravalho stole my heart with her fantastic performance of “How Far I’ll Go” from the Disney animated film “Moana” in which she played the lead role. Justin Timberlake opened the ceremony with a performance “Can’t Stop the Feeling” from “Trolls”, and did with so much energy that I wish he had hosted instead. Music legend Sting brought a somber mood with his acoustic performance of “The Empty Chair” from the documentary “Jim: the James Foley Story.” Ultimately and unsurprisingly, the award went to “La La Land” for “City of Stars”.

Really early 2018 predictions

Having followed coverage from both the 2017 Sundance Film Festival and the Berlin International Film Festival, I am seeing many films already being singled out for possible nominations next year. The one I have seen talked about the most is “Call Me by Your Name”, which premiered at Sundance in January. The gay love story, set in Italy in the summer of 1983 and starring Armie Hammer and Timothée Chalamet, is receiving enormous praise for the performances by Chalamet and Hammer and the cinematography, with many already calling it one of the best films of the year (which is a little out there considering it is barely March). I am looking forward to it, as I am a big fan of one of the director Luca Guadagnino’s previous films “I Am Love”, a drama about a wealthy Italian family.

Jordan Peele’s horror-comedy “Get Out” is also receiving excellent reviews and may score some nominations in technical categories. I would expect Christopher Nolan’s upcoming war drama “Dunkirk” to get Academy attention as well. Even with all of that, it is still a bit too early to tell.

A final note

This year’s Oscars were very different from last year, both in terms of diversity and choosing people who may have actually deserved to win. It is a pretty big deal that “Moonlight”, the story of gay black man coming of age in a poor neighborhood, won one of the biggest awards in Hollywood. Here’s to hoping that this win opens doors for more diverse filmmakers and stories.