Monday, 27 February 2017
The Oscars 2017
I assume most of you know what I am talking about. Quite simply, Warren Beatty and Faye Dunaway, in honour of the 50th anniversary of Bonnie and Clyde, were to present the award for Best Picture. Unfortunately, Warren Beatty was handed the envelope for the winner of the Best Actress award. Mr. Beatty was quite naturally puzzled by what he was reading, so he showed the card to Faye Dunaway. Miss Dunaway then announced La La Land. The cast and crew of La La Land then went to the stage only to learn moments later that the Oscar for Best Picture had actually gone to Moonlight.
For those of you wondering how this could happen, there are always two duplicate envelopes on either side of the stage. This is done partly to keep the awards ceremony running smoothly and partly as a safety precaution. While Emma Stone kept one envelope that named her as the winner of Best Actress for La La Land, apparently the other envelope that listed her as the winner found its way into Warren Beatty's hands instead of one of the envelopes for Best Picture. When Faye Dunaway saw the card saying "La La Land", she quite naturally read it.
What is all the more surprising is that out of the 89 Academy Award ceremonies, something like this has only happened once before. At the 36th Annual Academy Awards Sammy Davis Jr. presented the Oscar for Best Adaptation or Treatment Score. Unfortunately, he was handed the wrong envelope and he announced John Addison for Tom Jones instead of André Previn for Irma la Douce. It was immediately realised an error had been made as Tom Jones was not even nominated in the category (instead it had been nominated for Best Original Score). Given the large number of awards given at the Oscars over 89 different ceremonies, it is surprising that this sort of thing has not happened more times.
As to the rest of the ceremony, I have to say that I am happy that the Academy included more of its history this year. Before each of the acting categories they featured clips of past winners, many dating back to the Golden Age of Hollywood. Various presenters also discussed various movies that had an impact on them and then presented an award with one of the actors from those films (for example, Charlise Theron discussed The Apartment and then presented the award for Best Foreign Language Film with Shirley MacLaine). Given the past many years it has sometimes seemed as if the Academy thought that no movies were made before 1980, this was most welcome.
Unfortunately the emphasis on film history does not seem to have extended to the In Memoriam. Once more the Academy left out several well known actors. The most glaring omission may have been Robert Vaughn. Best known for The Man From U.N.C.L.E. and The Magnificent Seven, he was nominated for the Oscar for Best Supporting Actor for The Young Philadelphians. Also omitted were screen legends Gloria DeHaven and Barbara Hale (who was a bona fide movie star before she was Della Street on Perry Mason). Bernard Fox, Alan Young, Hugh O'Brian, Doris Roberts, Burt Kwouk, and David Huddleston were among the many others who were omitted. All of these actors appeared in films and all of them were worthy of being mentioned in the In Memoriam segment.
Aside from the sheer number of people omitted this year, the In Memoriam segment had one huge gaffe. Included in the In Memoriam segment was Australian costume designer Janet Patterson. Unfortunately, the photo was not of Janet Patterson, but of Australian producer Jan Chapman instead. Jan Chapman was quite naturally upset, in a large part because she was friends with Janet Patterson.
Like most Oscar ceremonies, last night's Academy Awards ran fairly long I do think it could have been shorter. My problem is that there was a good deal of material that could have been cut. There was absolutely no need for a prank, which took up several minutes, in which tourists on a tour bus were taken to the Dolby Theatre. There was also no need for a popular segment from Jimmy Kimmel's show, "Mean Tweets". While comedy bits during the Academy Awards can be amusing (even though the whole tour bus thing wasn't), my own thought is that they take away time from more important things, such as the In Memoriam. In the time they wasted on unfunny comedy bits, they could have added several minutes to the In Memoriam segment!
A complaint about last year's Oscars is that they were not diverse enough. This year's Oscars was a bit more diverse, with black actors nominated in every category and a black director in the Best Director category. Unfortunately, Hollywood still has a ways to go with regards to diversity. Dev Patel was the only person of South Asian descent nominated in an acting category. There was no one of East Asian descent nominated in any of the acting categories. The sad fact is that the film industry still does not give individuals of South Asian, East Asian, Hispanic, or Native American descent much in the way of roles in films.
Ultimately I cannot say that this year's Oscars were any better or any worse (well, other than the Best Picture and In Memoriam errors) than those of the past few years. I do appreciate that they tried to incorporate more film history in last night's ceremony. That having been said, I do think they have a ways to go as far as improving the ceremony. The In Memoriam segment should be longer and more inclusive. When they are leaving out people of such stature as Robert Vaughn, Barbara Hale, and David Huddleston, they are clearly not devoting much time or attention to the segment.They should also cut out the comedy bits. This is the Academy Awards, not some late night talk show. I do expect some comedy from the host (let's face it, Bob Hope hosted more Oscars than anyone), but skits that run on for minutes should not be allowed. In the end, the Academy Awards should be centred on film history and should remain as dignified as possible.