It's impossible to not start at the top, with the debacle surrounding the announcement of Best Picture. If you have been living under a rock for the last 16 hours, you missed quite an event.
Faye Dunaway and Warren Beatty were the presenters, celebrating the 50th Anniversary of their huge film, Bonnie and Clyde. After the announcement of the nominees, Beatty opened up the envelope and looked genuinely bewildered. Moments passed while everyone awaited the announcement, but he seemed to be looking in the envelope for another card (at the time I thought maybe he was looking for a second card because the first one indicated a TIE!). He then showed the card to Faye Dunaway, who announced the winner as "La La Land".
Oops. Beatty had been given the wrong envelope (still shots of the envelope before he opened it clearly show the envelope said "ACTRESS IN A LEADING ROLE"). It read "Emma Stone, La La Land", and when Beatty showed the card to Dunaway, she obviously just saw "La La Land" and blurted out the 'winner'.
Oops. Since Emma Stone says she NEVER put down the envelope containing her name, there was obviously a duplicate, unopened, Best Actress envelope which mistakenly ended up in Beatty's hand. You can argue that Beatty should have just said something when he noticed the card just didn't make any sense, but in the moment, I guess confusion took over.
So La La Land, the producers, actors and crew, storm the stage to accept their award. There is no confusion at first; let's face it, this was the favorite to win the category anyway so there was no reason to be surprised. After a couple of speeches, we noticed producers in headsets mulling around, looking for envelopes. At this point, the correct envelope gets into the hands of La La Land producer Jordan Horowitz who, with uncanny poise and professionalism, walked to the microphone and announced that the actual Best Picture winner was Moonlight. He showed the card to the camera.
Unreal. Warren Beatty asked for the microphone to explain what had happened, that he wasn't trying to be funny, that he had been given the wrong envelope (which was later confirmed by several sources) La La Land left the stage, Moonlight came on to accept the Oscar. Host Jimmy Kimmel took the blame, although it's impossible that he had anything to do with it. The next morning, a statement from PWC was posted:
"We sincerely apologize to Moonlight, La La Land, Warren Beatty, Faye Dunaway, and Oscar viewers for the error that was made during the award announcement for Best Picture. The presenters had mistakenly been given the wrong category envelope and when discovered, was immediately corrected. [sic] We are currently investigating how this could have happened, and deeply regret that this occurred.
We appreciate the grace with which the nominees, the Academy, ABC, and Jimmy Kimmel handled the situation."
Oops. So there are two sets of envelopes, one set with one of the PWC Accountants on one side of the stage, one side on the other of the stage, and somehow both Best Actress envelopes ended up being used; one correctly announcing Stone as the winner, and then the second one minutes later incorrectly for Best Picture. What an incredible moment.
So Moonlight is our Best Picture. Did the Academy get it right?
IMO, no, they actually had it right the first time. I have seen all the Best Picture nominees except for Hacksaw Ridge (which I will watch soon) and I can unequivocally say that La La Land was by far my favorite film of the year and was deserving of the Best Picture prize. Moonlight, which I enjoyed, didn't even crack my Top 10, in fact. The Academy voters cast their ballot for the more important film, the more important story; and although I disagree with the choice, I can respect it.
Let's look at the other major awards and see how they did.
Best Actress - Emma Stone, "La La Land".
She really was terrific, and was deserving, but my pick would have been Ruth Negga in "Loving". Negga's performance was emotional yet understated, controlled yet passionate, and it was my favorite performance of the nominees.
The ACTUAL winner should have been Amy Adams for Nocturnal Animals (or, hell, even for Arrival), but I think she paid the price of having given two exemplary performances in the same year; her votes were split.
**note, I didn't see Isabelle Huppert in "Elle"
Best Actor - Casey Affleck, "Manchester By the Sea"
This was one of the great performances in recent movie history, and a deserving winner. It could have also gone to Denzel, and I wouldn't have been too disappointed, but Casey was my pick.
Best Director - Damien Chazelle, "La La Land"
A slam dunk, to me, and at the tender age of 32, Chazelle becomes the youngest Best Director winner in Oscar history.
Best Actor in a Supporting Role - Mahershala Ali, "Moonlight"
He gave a great performance, no question, but I would have given the award to, well, ANYONE else. Ali was in the movie for such little time, his impact to the film wasn't anywhere near what the others were. Think of it this way: Take him out of the film, replace him with a lesser actor who did just a decent job in that role, does the film suffer much? I don't think so.
You could argue that Lucas Hedges wasn't as central to his film either, so let's eliminate him (although he was very good).
Now do the same with Dev Patel in Lion. He gives a Lead Actor performance in half of the film.
Do it with Michael Shannon in Nocturnal Animals.
Do it with Jeff Bridges in Hell or High Water.
Those three performances are CRITICAL to the film. Lesser actors would drag those films right down with them.
My pick, if I had to make just one, would have been Jeff Bridges. Hell or High Water was a brilliant film, my #2 pick of the year, and his performance was one of the main reasons behind it.
Best Actress in a Supporting Role - Viola Davis, "Fences"
This might have been the runaway of the night. All the nominated performances were great, but this one carried the film. She was perfect.
Best Original Screenplay - Kenneth Lonergan, "Manchester By the Sea"
Interesting to see La La Land lose here, perhaps this should have been a sign that it might not win Best Picture. My choice would have been Hell or High Water or La La Land but this was also a well-conceived screenplay. Hard to argue.
Best Adapted Screenplay - Tarell Alvin McCraney and Barry Jenkins, "Moonlight"
Some controversy here as this qualified in the "Original Screenplay" categories at some other awards shows, due to (I believe) the fact that the play it was based on was never completed or produced. Arrival would have been my pick here.
Best Animated Feature Film - Zootopia
A total no-brainer here, with all due respect to the terrific "Moana". Zootopia was the #1 film on my list for most of the year, and it is probably the best animated film since "Up". It should have been nominated for Best Picture, but that hasn't happened since they created this category.
Best Original Score - Justin Herwitz, "La La Land"
Best Original Song - City of Stars, "La La Land"
This is one of those songs that gets stuck in your head. It's catchy, it's terrific, and it fit the story. No issues here, but if I had to pick, I would have gone with How Far I'll Go from Moana.
So that wraps up the major awards. Host Jimmy Kimmel did a great job, keeping the show going with lots of fun bits including a running gag with Matt Damon and a terrific bit where they brought in a tour group that thought they were going to see an exhibit of Oscar gowns; and ended up right in the middle of the action! Talk about a story they have for the rest of their lives.
Here is my list of the top 10 films of 2016, with some honorable mentions below. Two of the films that only made the 'honorable mentions' were given 4.5/5 stars, which is quite an achievement. A great year for movies!!
10. The Edge of Seventeen
9. The Jungle Book
7. Captain Fantastic
6. Manchester By The Sea
4. Nocturnal Animals
2. Hell or High Water
1. LA LA LAND
Honourable mention (in alphabetical order):
Captain America: Civil War
Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them
Star Wars: Rogue One