The 89th Annual Academy Awards celebrated the magic of the movies in a year when the discussion of diverse storytelling rose in urgent prominence. With an increased mix of artists of different races and creeds represented among the lists of nominees, the awards ceremony raised expectations for an event that would recognize and unite creative talents from all walks of life. Here are the highlights from the 2017 Oscars.
- Jimmy Kimmel crossed Hollywood Boulevard from his studio to the Dolby Theater to emcee the Academy Awards for the first time. During the night, the talk show host provoked many laughs, including throwing constant shade at frenemy Matt Damon, rallying a “totally undeserved round of applause” for the “uninspiring and overrated” Meryl Streep, and tweeting at the POTUS to rile up his habitual Twitter rants against entertainers. One of the nicest bits was when Kimmel invited a group of tourists from a tour bus to meet and greet with some of the most popular celebrities in the world. Among these lucky tourists was Gary from Chicago, the latest ordinary guy to become an internet sensation, thanks to his charm and the fact that he and his fiancée received blessing from Denzel Washington. Gary was only second to the adorable Sunny Pawar (from Lion) for the title of the most beloved person in the room.
- Utilizing their platforms for the greater good, the Oscar participants took the opportunity to make political statements throughout the evening. Nominees Ruth Negga and Lin-Manuel Miranda sported the most powerful accessory on the red carpet with their ACLU ribbons in support of civil rights. Award winners and presenters spoke openly about discriminatory political policies and the effect on the film community and on society as a whole. Asghar Farhadi, Iranian director of Best Foreign Language Film The Salesman, refrained from attending the ceremony in protest of and out of respect of the countries affected by the US travel ban against Muslims, which has prevented filmmakers from recognized films to attend the Academy Awards. Anousheh Ansari, the first Iranian in space, accepted the award on Farhadi’s behalf and recited his written speech, in which he remarked that “dividing the world into ‘us’ and ‘enemies’ categories creates fear.”
- The live performances for the Best Original Song nominees kicked off with Justin Timberlake, who energetically opened the show with the catchy feel-good song, “Can’t Stop The Feeling” from Trolls, and effectively got the entire audience to sing and dance with the beats. Auli’i Cravalho, the beautiful voice of the titular Disney heroine from Moana, performed “How Far I’ll Go” and amazed with her vocal ability and professionalism at the young age of sixteen. Sting sang and strummed along to the poignant ballad “The Empty Chair” from Jim: The James Foley Story. John Legend debuted a re-arranged medley of “City of Stars” and “Audition” from La La Land. Additionally, Sara Bareilles was invited to perform during the In Memoriam segment and gave an emotional rendition of “Both Sides Now” by Joni Mitchell.
- In an effort to pay homage to film history, a select group of award presenters gave tributes to the films and the actors that inspired them, and subsequently had the chance to present with their favorite actors. The pairings includes Charlize Theron and Shirley MacLaine (for The Apartment, Javier Bardem and Meryl Streep (for The Bridges of Madison County), and Vancouver’s very own Seth Rogan and Michael J. Fox (for Back to the Future).
- The women of Hidden Figures Taraji P. Henson, Octavia Spencer, and Janelle Monae, shared the stage with NASA physicist Katherine Johnson (one of the heroic subjects of the film) to present Best Documentary Feature to OJ: Made in America. While it was a disappointment to see Hidden Figures go empty-handed during the awards ceremony, seeing this talented group of women together was a rewarding marvel to behold.
- Colleen Atwood, known for her award-winning work in Chicago, Memoirs of a Geisha, and Alice in Wonderland, took the statue for Best Costume Design once again for Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, giving the Harry Potter cinematic universe its very first Oscar win.
- It proved to be a good night for Disney Studios, as they took the accolades for Best Animated Short Film for Piper, Best Animated Feature Film for Zootopia, and Best Visual Effects for The Jungle Book.
- Viola Davis finally received an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress in Fences, making her the first black actress to win an Oscar, an Emmy, and a Tony for acting work. As always, Davis delivered a moving acceptance speech as always, remarking on her admiration for artistic professions, as to be an artist is to celebrate what is means to live a life.
- La La Land tied with Titanic and All About Eve for the record of the most Oscar nominations with fourteen. In the end, Hollywood’s musical love letter to… itself won six awards in total, such as Best Production Design, Best Cinematography, Best Original Score, and Best Original Song (for “City of Stars”). Damien Chazelle won Best Director, making him the youngest winner (at the age of 32) to receive an award for directing. Best Actress Emma Stone was ever so graceful and gracious, thanking her family, her team, and her lucky stars and expressing her enthusiasm for the growing, learning, and working she will continue to do.
- In what will go down in this week’s entertainment headlines and in Oscars history, the race between Best Picture frontrunners La La Land and Moonlight came to an unforgettable end. Due to a production snafu, presenters Warren Beatty and Faye Dunaway (the original Bonnie and Clyde) were caught in the crossfire when given the wrong results envelope to read from, leading to the incorrect announcement of La La Land as the winner of Best Picture. As the producers of La La Land gave their speeches on the stage filled with their cast and crew, it was soon realized that the presenters had been mistakenly handed the envelope for Best Actress in a Leading Role (the accolade which had went to Emma Stone). Moonlight was declared the official winner and the producers, cast, and crew of both film did a quick changing of the guards on the Academy Awards stage before the Moonlight team accepted the most coveted award of the night. It was the cherry on top of the film’s wins for Best Adapted Screenplay and for Best Supporting Actor for Mahershala Ali, the first Muslim actor to gain the Oscars trophy. Despite the twist ending of this live television moment, the recognition of Moonlight, a coming-of-age tale that addresses themes of race, masculinity, and LGBTQ sexuality, should be heralded as a victory for diverse stories and, as director Barry Jenkins says, as a win for people who feel like their lives aren’t reflected in cinema.
“Filmmakers can turn their cameras to capture shared human qualities and break stereotypes of various nationalities and religions.”
– Asghar Farhadi, director of The Salesman