Poise under pressure: recapping the 2017 Oscars

By Matt Burner ’17

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Now that the awards season has finally culminated with the 2017 Academy Awards Ceremony, it’s time to recap the night that was. Obviously, the main talking point of the night was the presentation of the Best Picture award. With the dust finally settling, it is easy to look back and see what happened. Even at the time, it was pretty obvious to recognize simple human error had led to La La Land being mistakenly crowned the winner. 

An observant person would have been able to tell something was wrong when Warren Beatty, the presenter, hesitated to announce the award before allowing Faye Dunaway to present it. I simply thought Moonlight had pulled off the impossible and that was what caused him to pause. 

Instead, they had been given the wrong envelope. For some reason, the Oscars has two envelopes for each category and the Best Actress duplicate for Emma Stone of La La Land had replaced the Best Picture.

Once several of the La La Land producers had given their acceptance speech, the mistake was made public. Moonlight was the real winner of the Best Picture award. Feelings of elation quickly turned to disappointment for the La La Land producers as they had to hand their awards over. 

As the Moonlight cast members and producers came on stage, many recognized this was truly one of the most surreal moments in live TV history.

There are two things that need to be said about this. The first is that the La La Land producers displayed immense grace and poise under pressure. A movie they had spent years developing had seemingly reached the pinnacle of film: The Academy Award for Best Picture. One would have forgiven them if they had been less than keen to hand over the award. 

Instead, one of the producers took charge and calmly announced that a mistake had been made. If he hadn’t done this, things could have gotten much uglier. Additionally, this would have been an even bigger story.

The other takeaway is the fact Moonlight won. La La Land was almost a unanimous pick for many to win and some were mentioning other films ahead of Moonlight as a potential spoiler even. This whole presentation fiasco has definitely lessened some of the impact of Moonlight pulling off the seemingly impossible but it should not be overlooked. 

Moonlight was a small-budget indie that had incredibly low box-office receipts and a little-known director. However, it also had very strong performances, a captivating story and incredible cinematography. 

Although few thought it would win, many critics thought it should win. Common wisdom, however, indicated that the immensely popular La La Land could not be stopped. It was refreshing to see the Academy move away from simply picking the most popular film after past blunders such as Argo and The Artist. One can only hope this is a sign of promising things to come.

Besides the Best Picture award, the rest of the night was relatively quiet. While many expected the Oscars to have a decidedly political tone, this was not the case. Perhaps many were afraid of trumping Meryl Streep’s blustering speech. 

However, there were several instances where politics were brought up. The presentation of the Best Foreign Film award to Iranian director Asgar Farhadi was decidedly the most political and poignant moment of the whole ceremony.

Refusing to come due to President Trump’s travel ban, his written statement offered a sharp rebuke to the hateful rhetoric coming from the White House. Statements such as that are often much more powerful than announcing that Americans would “have nothing to watch but football and mixed martial arts” without Hollywood. Regardless, it was refreshing to take a break for the most part from politics and simply admire the great achievements of many.

Now, we enter what is often considered the dead period in the movie season before the summer blockbuster season begins. While the pickings are slim, there are several movies worth seeing. Supposedly, horror film Get Out, written and directed by Jordan Peele, is especially well-done.

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