We live in a very different America than we did last year. While there has always been angst regarding the Academy Awards acting as a platform for political views, we had never had a sitting president call Meryl Streep “overrated” before. After her comments at The Golden Globes – which could basically be boiled down to: Please stop bullying Hollywood, foreigners, the press, and handicapped people, Mr. President – Trump supporters vowed to boycott the Oscars. This shouldn’t be too surprising to anyone who is paying attention. The right have long derided “the left coast,” and now they finally have an administration eager to end funding to the arts.
A lot of people were expecting heavy political messages this year, and there were a couple. When Iran’s “The Salesman” won Best Foreign Language Film, a statement was read by the filmmaker, who refused to come to America as long as we have a president that has openly discussed a “Muslim ban.” While presenting, Gael Garcia Bernal told a truth about how all those in the film industry are migrant workers who go to other countries to craft their work. And several jokes were made that teased at the division in our country. Overall, however, it was kind of lite on hardline statements.
Normally I would do a segment entitled “On a Very Special Episode Of…” that goes in depth into the greater theme the broadcast seemed to be on a crusade to discuss, but it fits in so nicely here. The reality is that they were going for something more mainstream and neutral this year, aiming to please as many people while spreading out the monolog throughout the program and keeping a tight schedule. It worked pretty well, but it would have been rather unforgettable had Warren Beatty and Faye Dunaway not announced La La Land as Best Picture when Moonlight had actually won.
But there were two themes that did come up.
The first was not a new one. We’ve seen it a lot since 9/11, actually. And the year that there was controversy surrounding the rise of superhero movies, the perceived decline of films with depth, and fans that were upset that The Dark Knight was snubbed, the Academy went to extra lengths to elevate the films that were actually given the nod, going as far as to have host Hugh Jackman use his Wolverine street-cred to sing a song in his opening monologue about the subject. Movies are important. Storytelling is important. Film is an important industry, not just for the American economy but for the world’s.
The second was only lightly touched on, but it’s exactly what I thought they should have focused on. You see, in calling for others to boycott the Oscars, the Trumpeters said things like, “Why do we give awards to actors and not the real heroes?” First, we do, and if it made for good T.V., you better believe they would air it. It should go without saying that Hollywood is indeed rewarding the best work in their industry, but their industry routinely pays tribute to real-world heroes. Captain “Sully” Sullenberg. Desmond Doss. The hidden figures that put a man on the moon. People who adopt and raise children. Not to mention all the real-world heroes in the documentary subjects! By bringing famed scientist Katherine Johnson, who Taraji P. Henson played in Hidden Figures, onto the stage to a standing ovation, the point was made.
“Movies about the lives of men and women in the history books have long been a staple of storytellers,” Monae told the audience. “Sometimes the names and deeds of the heroes in those films are known to all.”
THE BEST ACCEPTANCE SPEECH
The best acceptance speech for an Oscar this year was not during this broadcast. It actually came from Jackie Chan, who won a lifetime achievement award during an earlier ceremony. You can watch that speech here.
However, if we’re just looking at the televised ceremony, then the winner would be Viola Davis, who extolled the storytellers to “exhume those bodies.” You can see that here.
They always leave people off the memoriam. This year, the following people were missing:
Alexis Arquette (actor)
Florence Henderson (actor)
Dan Ireland (producer)
Jon Polito (actor)
Dorris Roberts (actor)
Garry Shandling (actor, comedian)
Robert Vaughn (actor)
Producer, Jan Chapman, whose picture was mistakenly used for costume designer Janet Patterson.
A SPECIAL TRIBUTE:
Known for The White Shadow, 1776, Rambo, 30 Rock, and 105 other credits, Ken Howard was also the President of SAG/AFTRA, Chancellor of the National Kidney Foundation, a board member of the Los Angeles Alzheimer’s Committee, a board member of Shambala Animal Preserve, and a national spokesperson for the Onyx and Breezy Foundation. I had the pleasure of knowing him a little during my tenure at Kent State. He was attending the graduate program and taught a few classes that I was in. He coached me in a couple of monologues. He was a no-nonsense kind of guy that was very particular about what he considered good acting. He ended one class with an open q & a. The rest of the class kind of waited, unsure of what to ask and looking to each other to break the ice. I put my hand up right away and asked him about working with Sylvester Stallone. He chuckled and told a few good-natured stories. That got things going.
MY FAVORITE PART OF THE SHOW
Bringing his favorite running gag from his late night show to the Academy Awards broadcast, Jimmy Kimmel made a lot of jokes at Matt Damon’s expense. He has been his supposed arch-nemesis ever since he ended an episode with bad guests by quipping, “My apologies to Matt Damon. We ran out of time.” Upping the ante, former girlfriend Sarah Silverman surprised Jimmy with a music video for “I’m F#$%ing Matt Damon” and then taking it to a whole new level with his own response, “I’m F@#$ing Ben Affleck,” the fake-feud has led to a lot of great TV moments.
So. . . After the insane confusion with the Best Picture mix-up, I had a lot of fun with my live Tweets.
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WALL OF FAME
1999 – Elizabeth Grant
2000 – Eric Fox
2001 – Jillaine Gill
2002 – Eric Fox, Nate Hodges, and Drew Lerman– 13 correct guesses (no tie breaker)
2003 – Eric Fox– 15 correct guesses
2004 – Kevin Schwendeman– 20 correct guesses
2005 – Nate Hodges– 16 correct guesses
2006 – Jes Antolik and Leigh Ann Spratt — 14 correct guesses (Leigh Ann won the tie breaker)
2007 – Jillaine Gill — 16 correct guesses
2008 – Rock Shaink Jr — 14 correct guesses
2009 – Benjamin Crusoe — 18 correct guesses
2010 – Holly Elswick — 17 correct guesses
2011 – Elizabeth Grant — 17 correct guesses
2012 – Christian Hodges and Kevin Schwendeman — 18 correct guesses (Christian won the tie breaker)
2013 – Sheepdog David Grant — 19 correct guesses
2014 – Sheepdog David Grant — 21 correct guesses
2015 – Brian Stevens — 20 correct guesses
2016 – Holly Elswick and Brian Stevens — 17 correct guesses
AND THE WINNER IS…
With 16 correct guesses…