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Friday, 3 March 2017

The Oscars 2017

Before I get on to the finale of this year's ceremony which made headlines around the world -- far more than the usual puff pieces and to the Academy's great dismay and embarrassment -- let me make a few comments on the ever-so-long self-congratulatory parade leading up to that classic fiasco.

For a start let's consider the new host, Jimmy Kimmel, who is more or less an unknown quantity in Britain. I reckon he did a reasonable job, far better than some of the hosting disasters of recent years. I'm thinking of the likes of Seth McFarland, James Franco/Anne Hathaway, and little Dougie Hauser. There weren't many foot-in-the-mouth moments in between some sharp jabs at the presidency and Hollywood itself. He came across as a 'please-please-like-me' kind of chap and kept the evening moving, despite some unnecessary bits of business like parachuting snacks from the ceiling (once would have been enough), his phony feud with Matt Damon, and waylaying some civilians off a tour-bus to ogle at the gathered celebs. Michael, being the cynic that I love, suggested that these sightseers were straight out of central casting.

As for the awards themselves, up to the final hoo-hah, there was little in the way of surprises. All of the acting Oscars went exactly where the pundits predicted, although some upsets might have been fun. Not that she stood a dewdrop's chance in hell of winning, but it would have been great if Isabelle Huppert had managed to dethrone Emma Stone as best actress. I have absolutely nothing whatsoever against Stone and have generally enjoyed her various performances, but as I have made clear ever since I saw "La La Land" last October, the film is undeserving of its hysterical hype. As is, it was the evening's biggest winner with six Oscars out of its record 14 nominations. Fortunately other films got a deserved 'look-in' in the writing, editing, sound editing and sound mixing, costume, and best actor categories. It's healthy to spread the love!

A highpoint of the evening was Viola Davis' acceptance speech (fortunately not drowned out by the Academy Orchestra) saying with regret that the place where the greatest potential is gathered is the graveyard -- a fine metaphor for her race's long struggle. Mind you the Academy did seem to bend over backwards this year to resolve last year's Oscars-so-white controversy -- and please don't yell at me if I suggest that not all of the nominations were really among the five best in their category. I'll say no more.

Finally to the evening's denouement which couldn't have been scripted in anyone's wildest dream. Septuagenarians Faye Dunaway and Warren Beatty were wheeled on to present the award for best picture; I am not suggesting for a moment that one or other of the pair is going gaga, but the debacle could have been better handled. Beatty was obviously aware that the card he'd been handed was incorrect and should probably have spoken up then. Instead he thrust it at Dunaway who in what must have been a 'senior moment' blurted out "La La Land". It took an unbelievable amount of time, during which three of that's film's producers managed to make thank-you speeches, for the mistake to be put right and for the "Moonlight" producers to take their rightful place on the stage. By then the shine had been taken off their victory. Beatty kept making excuses and Dunaway made herself very scarce. Hilarious in a way.

Anyhow I had my wish that "La La" not win best picture. I've not seen "Moonlight" yet but it sounds a deserving winner. Rather than honouring a film that looked back to glorify America's technicolour musical past, the Oscars have been dragged into the present with a gritty and timely movie -- and that can't be a bad thing. As for Kimmel promising not to return -- as if the evening's fiasco was somehow his fault and not a distracted accountant's busy posing for a selfie with Stone -- I for one would be happy to see him again. He just needs to improve his timekeeping.

   
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