Monday,18 February, 2019
Current issue | Issue 1334, (2 - 8 March 2017)
Monday,18 February, 2019
Issue 1334, (2 - 8 March 2017)

Ahram Weekly

Oooooooh — La La Land

With earnest promises to present the finest and the best, known as “the greatest show on earth”, the Academy of Arts & Sciences delivered neither.

With comedian Jimmy Kimmel seeming rather lost as host, it was bound to take a political twist, and Hollywoodians, the most extreme liberals of liberals, enjoyed a few laughs at the expense of the new conservative president. However it did reveal a soft spot. It finally awarded five nominations and two wins for Editing & Sound Mixing to Hacksaw Ridge, the work of one of its few conservative citizens and a splendid filmmaker, Oscar winner Mel Gibson. He was untouchable for years after his defiant production of The Passion of the Christ as well as a few benign anti-Semitic remarks. The academy may have forgiven Gibson “his trespasses”, but how can we forgive the academy.

This was one of the most boring shows on earth. And what an ignominious finale!

Perhaps we can be heartened by the fact that this, the 89th Academy Awards Ceremony is not as lily-white as it has been for the last two years. The academy nominated, not one but six African-Americans, one in each major category and three as “Best Supporting Actresses”.

Thick with anxiety, the stars donned in their finest feathers take their assigned seats, the theatre rocks with their shivering and shaking, gnashing of teeth and biting of their carefully manicured nails. Their only focus is the sound of the most magical words of the year: “And the Oscar goes to...”, hoping their names will be announced. The winners are elated. The losers clap and smile but their hearts weep.  

Despite the many parties, gourmet foods and vintage wines, they will bring little comfort to a number of participants who were treated outright rudely by other members. Where are their manners?

 Always a favourite since its first sweep at the Golden Globes early in January, La La Land would have won, almost won, was announced winner but ended losing the most coveted award for “Best Picture” to Moonlight. It was outrageous.

Moonlight is a worthy movie about underprivileged and oppressed gay black guys, seeking a better life. But it is not popular at the box office. What is remarkable about the La La Land musical is: Firstly, it takes place in LA (for Los Angeles), the largest city in California where sits the biggest show-biz city in the world, aka Hollywood. Academy members like their city, and do believe this is where all the artists come to fulfil their dreams, hence the penchant for the name, and the 14 nominations. It won six awards and was more popular among the viewers than the critics. Unfortunately leading-man Ryan Gosling, (Sebastian), once a “mouseketeer”, cannot sing and his co-star Emma Stone (Mia) can neither sing nor dance, but her acting is flawless and she holds the film together keeping it fresh and uplifting. The academy likes that. One cannot say it is bad, just not outstanding and we prefer outstanding.

 Secondly, the film was written and directed by a young Damien Chazelle whose previous works as writer and director received critical praise. Despite a second rate score, Chazelle perhaps drew his inspiration from such masterpieces as Titanic, The Umrellas of Cherbourg or even Singin’ in the Rain. Only 32 years old, Chazelle snagged “Best Director’s Award”, the hardest prize to receive from academy members. Martin Scorsese won after six nominations. Hitchcock, never.       

For her inspirational acting and her immense effort to glue together the insipid plot, Emma Stone earned her award for Best Actress… and then some.

There is no Julia Roberts or Angelina Jolie. No George Clooney or Brad Pitt. But the sterling Shirley Maclaine made a brief appearance that brought the first glimpse of joy to our hearts. We feel like strangers watching strangers, cheering films we never saw. To make up for the lack of luster in star quality, they brought popular presenters like Warren Beatty, Halle Berry, Fate Dunaway and Nicole Kidman, some of the few joys of the evening.

There was the exceptional Denzel Washington who produced, directed and starred in a Tony winning play by August Wilson… Fences and co-star Viola Davis, a beautiful African-American star, got to take Oscar home for Best Supporting Actress.

Young, talented and capable of depth and poignancy, actor Casey Affleck, yes, Ben’s brother, won Best Actor Award for Manchester by the Sea, which also won for original screenplay.

The Oscars often have some surprise in store. This year’s was the worst. After Warren Beatty announces La La Land as Best Picture, and Chazelle got up to thank his crew, someone rudely interrupts him hysterically.

It turns up that it was the wrong picture. Moonlight was the academy’s selection for Best Picture. It was no Comedy of Errors. It was quite tragic and no one was laughing, not even Moonlight’s winners. A scuffle took place on stage leaving the millions of viewers in a state of shock. When such things happen, it is in order to let it go, avoiding embarrassment and a scandalous scene. Neither was avoided. It was a shameful mess seen around 225 countries.

We regret the time spent on a mediocre, boring, starless show much anticipated all year only to be insulted at the finale.

It started badly, but ended horribly.

Shame, shame, shame on the academy and all involved.

“I hate success! To have success is to have ended one’s business on earth.”

George Bernard Shaw (1856-1950)

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