The 89th Academy Awards: Collective Heart Attacks Abound

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By: Brett Slaughenhaupt – Staff Writer

It’s only fitting where, in a year that the Super Bowl was won in overtime, the World Series and National Championships were won by teams who overcame a 3-1 game deficit, and the Presidential election was lost by a popular vote-winning candidate, that the 89th Academy Awards would incorrectly name the Best Picture winner only to rescind it during their acceptance speech. You can watch the video of the mishap here.

This all was done after Warren Beatty and Faye Dunaway, stars of the wildly amazing “Bonnie and Clyde” and on-stage presenters for the award, were given the wrong envelope. The envelope they were given stated Emma Stone as the winner for “La La Land,” being that of her Best Actress award. This was mistaken as meaning “La La Land” also won Best Picture, when in reality another film did: “Moonlight,” the much more deserving film portraying the life of a gay, black boy growing up in Miami.

Other than Best Picture, “Moonlight” went on to win two other awards for Best Supporting Actor (Mahershala Ali, basically a lock going into the night) and Best Adapted Screenplay (Barry Jenkins, who also directed the film). “La La Land” fared no worse (other than, of course, the obvious), winning 6 of the historic 14 nominations it had leading into the night. The biggest awards it received being that of Best Director (Damien Chazelle) and Best Actress (Emma Stone).

The other major awards given out that night were to Casey Affleck for Best Actor in “Manchester By The Sea,” Viola Davis for Best Supporting Actress in “Fences,” and Kenneth Lonergan for Best Original Screenplay for “Manchester By The Sea.”

During the night, we were privy to politics ranging from the simple symbolic gestures of pins worn by the nominees supporting the ACLU, Planned Parenthood, and GLAAD, to the speeches given by the winners. Of those Asghar Farhadi, multiple Academy Award-nominee and winner of the night for Best Foreign Language Film for the Iranian film “The Salesman,” said it best with, “my absence is out of respect for the people of my country and those of the other six nations whom have been disrespected by the inhumane law that bans entry of immigrants to the U.S. 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 that 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.” Farhadi was famously affected by the unconstitutional Immigration Ban, being an Iranian filmmaker, and chose to sit out the awards ceremony in protest.

Even in a historically diverse night there were still remnants of a racist past over the course of the 3.5 hour ceremony. The host Jimmy Kimmel continuously made fun of foreign-sounding names such as Mahershala and Yulree. The mocking of the Asian name “Yulree” is especially pointed after the use of two asian children to represent “the accountants” at last year’s 88th Academy Awards. Not only was this continued mishandling of cultural differences tone deaf, it showed that we all have so much work to do before considering the world to be getting any better. In think pieces that exist outside of this article, names are important. They are identifiers and hold significance on so many grounds that very many (white) people do not consider.

So even though we saw a film about a dark-skinned gay boy who suffered through poverty, addiction, and the criminalization of blackness win Best Picture, we also saw a woman’s name get snickered at because it wasn’t as “normal” as her husband’s name Patrick.

Basically what we’ve learned tonight is three things:

  1. Racism still exists, but we’re getting there
  2. A peaceful, rational transition of power is somehow possible (thanks to Jordan Horowitz)
  3. Never turn off your TV until the program is over

 

Photo Courtesy of montclairfilmfest.org