That thing that happened & 12 other memorable moments from the Oscars

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Many of us have often had the conversation ‘I wonder what would happen if the person opening the envelope decided to say the name of the film they wanted to win rather than the one that is written down’. Now I guess we know. 

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Not that that’s what happened here; a genuine mistake was clearly made. John Travolta may be pleased that his terrible mispronunciation of Idina Menzel’s name a couple of years ago is no longer the biggest balls up in recent Oscar history but there are a number of others who would no doubt have preferred the 89th Academy Awards to have ended differently.

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First off there’s Warren Beatty who many are reporting read the card wrong which is unfair as he didn’t actually make the inaccurate announcement at all. It was Faye Dunaway that wrongly declared La La Land the winner of Best Picture. She’ll be feeling bad too but what else was she expected to do to break the silence when a faltering Beatty, probably just showing her the error, thrust the card under her nose. Then there’s whoever produced the duplicate card for Emma Stone’s win that they appeared to have in their hands and whoever didn’t notice it in the pack. They’ll be the ones having awkward conversations with their line manager today.

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I also pity those behind Moonlight, the film that actually won. It’s a surprising but deserved victory for them and their big moment was confused and fumbled. Also, every press conference and interview they do in the future is going to bring this up first. They’ll be questioned on this rather than their art for years to come. I’m sure they are genuinely worried about those who thought they’d got the gong too. Those guys literally had the statuette in their palms, and then realised they were going home carrying nothing but the novelty liquorice sticks that were given out midway through the ceremony. They don’t even get a Lego Oscar this year. Director Damien Chazelle was okay, he’d got his, but Jordan Horowitz and the other producers must be gutted. I bet they can still feel the weight of the Oscar in their hands.

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Someone else spending the rest of the week under a bit of a cloud will be host Jimmy Kimmel. Up until the point where it went wrong he’d nailed it, which is more than can be said of most recent Oscar compares. Every joke had landed, every trick had worked, the crowd were totally with him all the way. The moment where he held up Lion’s little Sunny Pawar like Simba almost flopped and his long running gag about hating Matt Damon can seem mean to those not in on the joke but he held it all together. His regular goading and sniping at Donald Trump skilfully walked a fine line from ‘last year you thought the Oscars were racist – pah’ to expressing sorrow to Swedish cinematographer Linus Sandgren (genuinely winning for La La Land) for what happened in his country last week. Then in the final minutes it all got away from him leading him to graciously take the blame like the world’s best concierge. I’m sure he had a closing gag planned that he chose to drop.

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In an attempt to shift the focus then let’s consider twelve other memorable moments, both big and small, good and not so good, from the ceremony.

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1. Mahershala Ali won in the Best Supporting Actor category, revealing his wife just gave birth. He got an Oscar and a son within four days, he’s not going to forget this week in a hurry.

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2. Suicide Squad got an award (for hair and make up). Suicide Squad; that lazy, sexist, narratively indecisive, cliched piece of dreck swept up from the stinky floor of Batman V Superman is more celebrated by the Academy than It’s a Wonderful Life, Singin’ in the Rain and The Shawshank Redemption. 

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3. 16 year old Auli’i Cravalho illustrated again what an incredibly composed amazing professional she is when, while singing the nominated song from Moana, she was hit on head by one of the dancer’s flags and didn’t bat an eyelid.

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4. The musical La La Land failed to win either of the awards for sound and everyone began to realise it probably wouldn’t get the big award after all. No wonder someone double checked later. 

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5. In related news Hacksaw Ridge sound editor Kevin O’Connell finally won after 21 nominations. His excitement was palpable and totally endearing.

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6. Michael J. Fox turned up on stage in a DeLorean. Really this should have happened last year, it being 2016, but we got there in the end. Perhaps the car was struck by lightning on the way to the event twelve months ago and this is where it ended up.

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7. Nicole Kidman was clapping in an odd way without her fingers touching, like she was waiting for her nails to dry. Perhaps her hands were sticky from the liquorice.

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8. The Iranian director of The Salesman, who boycotted the ceremony in protest of Trump’s ruling blocking travel from Muslim countries, won best foreign language film. His representative read out a very dignified statement on his behalf apologising for not being there but saying that dividing the world into the US and its enemies creates fear and a deceitful justification for aggression and war. 

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9. The Oscar for original screenplay went to Kenneth Lonergan who back in 2000 was writer of terrible comic book team up Rocky & Bullwinkle. There’s hope for Zac Snyder yet.

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10. NASA mathematician Katherine Johnson, now 98, appeared on stage alongside Taraji P. Henson, the woman who plays her in Hidden Figures. She simply said thank you, once someone bent down to her and prompted her to do so. She’s clearly not the woman she once was but she was once that woman and it is great that she was honoured.


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11. Carrie Fisher was the last person to feature in the In Memoriam section which was touching. Unfortunately Robert Vaughn and Garry Sandling were left out and while I didn’t realise this at the time, the photo they used for costume designer Janet Patterson was actually Babadook producer Jan Chapman who is very much alive. I imagine that freaked out her family and friends.


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12. When Warren Beatty arrived on stage his sister, Shirley MacLaine, waved at him from the audience with the enthusiasm of a mother whose just spotted her five year old in the school nativity and is going to be immensely proud even if they do get confused about what they are supposed to say and end up throwing off the rest of the show.

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Which brings us back to where we started. 

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2 thoughts on “That thing that happened & 12 other memorable moments from the Oscars

  1. Yeah, an honest mistake: an amusing, embarrassing, honest mistake occurred. But yeah, the awards ceremony was generally good.

    La La Land not winning in the sound categories or film editing threw me off balance, but I’m glad Arrival got something.

    I also wish they had shown Charmian Carr in the In Memoriam section.

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