The Best And Worst Of The 2017 Oscars

Audience reacts to "Moonlight" being announced as best picture winner at the Oscars on Sunday, Feb. 26, 2017, at the Dolby Theatre in Los Angeles. (Photo by Matt Sayles/Invision/AP)

Audience reacts to “Moonlight” being announced as best picture winner at the Oscars on Sunday, Feb. 26, 2017, at the Dolby Theatre in Los Angeles. (Photo by Matt Sayles/Invision/AP)

“I knew I would screw this show up, I really did,” said Jimmy Kimmel, words he felt obligated to say as host of one the most inexplicable endings in Oscars history. Moments earlier, Warren Beatty and Faye Dunaway took the stage to present the night’s final award, Best Picture, when live television struck again. After observing the card inside the envelope, pausing, then checking again, Beatty slowly began to announce the night’s big winner before Dunaway couldn’t wait any longer. “La La Land,” she belted out, prompting the entire cast and crew to join them on stage to accept an award that was never actually theirs.

After three speeches and plenty of confusion behind the microphone, stagehands swiftly addressed the error, which La La Land’s producer Jordan Horowitz then made public. “There’s a mistake. Moonlight, you won Best Picture. This is not a joke,” he said, holding up the actual winning card to an audience that let out a collective gasp. And so, after arguably the biggest gaffe in Academy Awards history, the cast and crew of Moonlight, still shocked, rushed the stage to accept their Best Picture statuette in an unprecedented handover. Beatty tried to explain himself, Kimmel invoked the continued curse of Steve Harvey and Twitter lost its collective mind.

Up to that point, the 89th Academy Awards had been a rather unmemorable affair, filled with some occasional surprises. Entering the night, La La Land tied the all-time record for Oscar nominations with 14, but only landed six (still the night’s leader). The City of Stars was indeed shining on more than just its Tinseltown favorite, including the likes of Hacksaw Ridge, Manchester By The Sea, and, of course, Moonlight, each of which received at least two awards. And while it will be the ending that we talk about for years to come, here are some more of the best and worst moments from Sunday night’s telecast.

Best Unintentional Slight: As Moonlight director Barry Jenkins tried to condense the chaos in his brain and formulate an abbreviated speech to finish the show, he spurted something from the heart. “Even in my dreams this could not be true, but to hell with dreams!” he said. The irony of that last sentence couldn’t have been any timelier considering that dreams themselves make up the thesis for La La Land, the movie that had just been unceremoniously and falsely deemed the Best Picture winner. To hell with dreams, indeed.

Worst Explanation: In the midst of the commotion on stage, Beatty attempted to absolve himself of the mistake. “I opened the envelope and it said Emma Stone, La La Land. I wasn’t trying to be funny.” This did not actually explain anything except for the fact that Beatty knew he had the wrong envelope and delayed reading it. It also doesn’t explain how he received the wrong envelope in the first place. Bonnie and Clyde have seen better days.

Worst Start: It probably wasn’t in Kimmel’s best interest to have Justin Timberlake begin the show by singing “Can’t Stop The Feeling,” which simultaneously made everyone stand up and dance around awkwardly. By the time he came on stage to start his monologue, the crowd was finding its seat again. Quite the “sitting ovation,” Kimmel noted.

Best Monologue Moment: Before he later addressed President Trump directly with a couple of tweets, Kimmel smuggled in some backhanded insults towards him using Meryl Streep as his fake punching bag. She has “phoned it in over the course of her lackluster career,” Kimmel said, parroting Trump’s tweets regarding Streep as an overrated actor after her Golden Globes speech. Kimmel then implored everyone to give her an undeserved round of applause, severely downplaying the actual quality of her incredible work.

Best Political Message: The Salesman won Best Foreign Picture, but its director, Asgar Farhadi chose not to attend the Oscars “because of the inhumane laws that ban people from certain countries into the U.S.,” he wrote in a message delivered by Iranian-American engineer Anousheh Ansari. “Dividing the world into the U.S. and our enemies categories creates fear.” That was a response in part to what happened to the cinematographer for The White Helmets, the winner of Best Documentary Short, Khaled Khatib, who had a visa to attend the Oscars but wasn’t allowed entry to the United States. His stance, like many, were given color by blue ACLU ribbons, worn by several actors on the red carpet.

Best Video Feature: The Oscars doesn’t often provide enough context or history in the show to connect its younger viewers with the “significance” of its awards. But before each acting category was announced, a montage of previous winners’ acceptance speeches helped fill in the gaps. Throughout the show a few actors – Charlize Theron, Seth Rogen, Javier Bardem – spoke about a movie and actor that inspired them growing up and that continues to stay with them. Rogen chose Back to the Future and he and Michael J. Fox took the stage rolling up in a Dolorean. They actually made an impressive duo.

Best Matt Damon Gag: Following suit, Kimmel pretended to praise the work of his faux-foe, commenting on the genius of Damon’s work in We Bought A Zoo. Kimmel threw jabs at Damon all night – part of their running late-night prank — but this segment was his most clever, poking fun at a Cameron Crowe movie that most people probably didn’t know existed.

Worst Historical Record: “Oscar-winning movie Suicide Squad” is now a phrase that is technically accurate to tell people, which is quite remarkable. The movie, an admitted comic book mess, won an Oscar for makeup and hairstyling. Margot Robbie had cool pigtails and Jared Leto had green hair and just about everything painted on him. I suppose that was enough to beat out Star Trek Beyond.  And yet, Suicide Squad now has more Oscars than Alfred Hitchcock, Orson Welles, and Stanley Kubrick.

Best History Makers: A few categories from the night offered a few new precedents. Mahershala Ali’s Best Supporting Actor Oscar for Moonlight made him the first Muslim to win an Academy Award. Ezra Edelman’s comprehensive documentary, OJ: Made In America, won Best Documentary and also longest movie to ever win an award (467 minutes, beating out the 431 minutes of War and Peace). And, adding to his wunderkind mantle, Damien Chazelle (La La Land) won Best Director at age 32, the youngest person to ever win that award.

Best Speech: Most of the speeches Sunday night remained steadfast in their praise of other actors, producers, writers, directors, friends and family members. But few deviated from that plain gratefulness. Luckily, the world produced Viola Davis to shake things up. She said earlier on the red carpet that the topic of her speech, were she to give one, would likely include August Wilson, but that she hadn’t thought beyond him. After accepting her Best Supporting Actress Oscar, however, it was clear she had more to say. Wilson “exhumed and exalted the ordinary people,” she said, just as artists “are the only profession to celebrate what it means to live a life.” She thanked her costar and director Denzel Washington (“Oh Captain, my Captain,” she called him), inducing the first set of tears around the orchestra. “Viola Davis just won an Emmy for that Speech,” Kimmel said.

Worst Speech: It began well enough. Casey Affleck, after winning the Oscar for Best Actor for Manchester By The Sea, immediately thanked and praised Washington, an actor he greatly admired and met for the first time hours before the show. And then, well, after thanking his director Kenneth Lonergan, he, much like his character, didn’t have many other words. “I wish I had something bigger and more meaningful to say,” Affleck said, before extending thanks to family members, including big brother Ben. At least his beard was memorable.

Best Singer Substitute: Among the many complaints about La La Land, chief among them was the movie’s decision to cast two actors that had mediocre singing and dancing chops. This is neither a well-argued opinion nor an egregious casting choice, but yes, Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone are limited in their abilities in comparison to John Legend. Instead of the duo singing their nominated songs “Audition” and “City of Stars,” the latter of which would win the award, Legend tickled the keys and melted hearts with his buttery voice, lending his talents to the two-song mash-up. Maybe he should be the star of a musical next, eh?

Best Tearjerker: Before Sara Bareilles began her pitch-perfect performance of Joni Mitchel’s “Both Sides Now,” Jennifer Aniston was already crying as she presented the night’s In Memoriam. She was still digesting the news that Bill Paxton had suddenly passed away, and honored him briefly until the melancholic montage began. Carrie Fisher was saved for last, seen uttering her franchise’s famous words: “May the Force be with you.”

Worst Clap: Has nobody taught Nicole Kidman how to clap? In several cutaways during applause and standing ovations, the Oscar-winning actress inverted her fingers outward and smacked her palms together awkwardly. Does Keith Urban know his wife claps like this at his concerts? I really hope not.

Worst Recurring Gag: Ellen DeGeneres ordered pizza. Chris Rock offered Girl Scout Cookies. Then, it was Jimmy Kimmel’s turn to continue the trend with some kind of culinary benefaction. He chose candy, which floated down from the rafters on parachutes, followed by cookies and donuts near the show’s finale. We get that people inside are hungry, just save some for the balcony at least. Ryan Gosling doesn’t need those extra Mike and Ikes.

Best Tour Bus Ride: A group of unsuspecting strangers, hoping to see some celebrities as they drove around Hollywood on top of a double decker bus, had quite the shock Sunday night. Kimmel used the Dolby Theater to organize a surprise party, coaxing about 10 tourists through a side entrance and onto national television. The best guest suddenly thrust into viral acclaim was Gary Cole, from Chicago, who stumbled in with a purple phone snapping pictures until Denzel Washington quickly officiated a wedding ceremony for him and his fiancée (who also received Aniston’s pair of sunglasses). The Chicago Bulls later tweeted that Cole could have free tickets to a game whenever he wanted, thus proving once again the bizarre power of the internet.

Worst Sign of the times: On the other end of this spectrum was a disheartening display of the mediated experience. Nearly every bus passenger that made its way down the aisle, greeting actors with confusion and exasperation, had a phone out capturing it all. It’s easy to forget how pathetic people look when they sacrifice human connection for virtual snapshots until it shows itself on another screen. Remember when Ellen DeGeneres’ Oscar-famous selfie seemed like a big, exciting thing? Now it seems quite quaint.

Best Guest: Hidden Figures didn’t receive any awards but its nominations did provide a special moment to appreciate the real Katherine Johnson, the woman whose innovative math skills helped John Glenn orbit the earth. Introduced by Janelle Monae, Octavia Spencer and Taraji P. Henson, who played Johnson in the film, the 98-year-old had enough in her to thank the standing ovation from her wheelchair.

Worst Timing: Will the Oscars ever end at a reasonable hour? No. But at least those that stayed up will remember when they witnessed history. Then again, as Kimmel suggested, desperately trying to save face before the credits, it’s just an awards show.

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