Feb. 27th, 2017

crash

Feb. 27th, 2017 06:01 am
calimac: (Default)
A few years ago, the Best Picture Oscar went to a movie called Crash. This year's Best Picture Oscar was a crash.

I was the Hugo Awards administrator the year after the presenter was given a card with the wrong winner on it. I was earnestly instructed by the executive committee not to do that. I said, "Don't worry: we will only make new and original mistakes." (I later learned that the late great George Flynn had said the same thing the first time he ran the Hugos, so it wasn't a new and original joke.)

I have no idea how the wrong name on the card happened, and it would never have happened under my watch. We didn't prepare anything except the templates until we finalized the winners, and then we made the cards, the press release, instructions for the plaque-maker, and everything else.

But that's not what happened at the Oscars. Instead of the card being incorrect, Beatty was given the card for the wrong award. How that happened, I don't know either. And so Dunaway saw the name of the movie the Best Actress winner was in and read that. I'd give them both some slack for screwing up: they weren't expecting this; they're actors, they work from scripts; and also but not only because of their ages, they may have "senior moments" from time to time, something that's fuddled previous venerable presenters worse than this without the wrong card as an excuse.

Contrary to statements that nothing like this has ever happened before at the Oscars, it has. In 1964, Sammy Davis Jr. was given the card for the wrong film score award (in those days there were two awards).
He read the nominees for the first award — scoring of music, adaptation or treatment — opened the envelope and proudly announced that John Addison had won the Oscar for "Tom Jones." The problem was Addison actually had won the Oscar in the music score, substantially original category. "They gave me the wrong envelope?" asked Davis, as a representative of Price Waterhouse quickly came out with the envelope that had the correct winner — Andre Previn for "Irma la Douce." "Wait'll the NAACP hears about this!" he quipped.
I've seen neither Moonlight nor La La Land - they don't sound like my kind of movies. I like musicals, but an attempt to watch Chicago proved that's not enough to save a movie for me if I'm otherwise uninterested in it. The only movies that won Oscars this year that I have seen are:
  • Manchester by the Sea - a very close cousin of Seth Meyers' Oscar Bait parody. Story about really depressed people with a happy ending consisting of their becoming slightly less depressed. Arrival was supposed to be the hard-to-follow movie this year, but this is the one whose plot confused me, because the flashback scenes were not stylized in any way, and I often didn't realize I was in one.
  • Zootopia - I realize this movie wasn't about its plot, but the plot was such a tedious routine crime-detection story it bored me, and the parallels with race relations were painfully self-conscious to the point of agony.
  • Arrival - hey, a movie I actually liked.
Other nominated movies I've seen:
  • Hell or High Water - a caper film, fun to watch, but typically for the genre quite amoral. And if the scene where the brothers are getting into separate cars to drive away didn't telegraph what was going to happen next, Samuel Morse never lived.
  • Hidden Figures - I saw this because I like historical movies about the Moon program, not to feel virtuous. But gosh, does it ever make you feel virtuous.
  • Jackie - far duller than I'd expected, and an uncomfortably eerie movie. Felt as if it had been filmed in that weird apartment at the end of 2001.
  • Florence Foster Jenkins - I saw this out of curiosity as to what would be done with a movie about the worst singer of all time. Turned out that they toned down the badness of her singing (she was actually much worse than Streep portrays her), and made the moral out of turning her into the kind of person who'd have sung "I did it my way!" if that song had been written yet.
  • Kubo and the Two Strings - arresting animation, sprightly dialog, but rambling and wayward story.
  • Deepwater Horizon - Liked Mark Wahlberg in Patriots Day? Come see him do the same sort of stuff on an oil rig! Actually, this was an impressively taut suspense/adventure movie.
  • Sully - a vicious libel on the investigating commission, but other than that, pretty good.
  • Hail, Caesar! - If you like this sort of thing, this is the sort of thing you'll like. Turned out I didn't.
calimac: (Default)
So who was it who read the wrong envelopes last year that said that Brexit and Trump won?
calimac: (Default)
As a former awards administrator for two literary societies, I continue to be fascinated by the Oscars snafu this year. There are two outstanding questions in my mind: 1) how and why was Warren Beatty handed the wrong envelope?; 2) why did it take so long for the PwC awards administrators, who have memorized all the winners precisely to prevent problems like this, to stop the train wreck? I checked the time stamps on my DVR, and it was 1 minute 50 seconds after Faye Dunaway read out "La La Land" until a production crew member collected the cards, though there'd apparently been some fuss going on behind for a previous 10 seconds or so. And it was 40 seconds after that - a full two and a half minutes after the wrong winner was announced - before the correct announcement was made: "Moonlight, you guys won Best Picture." And who said that? Jordan Horowitz, one of the La La producers, not an Academy or PwC representative. That's an unconscionable gap of time and dereliction of responsibility.

However, as the correct card was held up, proving that what Horowitz said was true, I could easily see what had confused Beatty and Dunaway: bad award card design.

The award card had the Oscars logo at the top. Below that was the name of the winning movie, and immediately below that, in the same large and bold-faced type, the names of its producers. Those are the parts the presenter was expected to read, in that order. Only at the very bottom, in very small, light-faced type, was the category, "Best Picture."

If the card Beatty had was laid out the same way, it would have said "Emma Stone / La La Land", in that order, in large and bold-faced type, and only at the bottom, in that tiny, light-faced type, would have been "Best Actress in a Leading Role."

Beatty clearly had the presence of mind to realize that something was wrong as soon as he saw the card. The next thing he did was to look in the envelope, as if speculating whether another card might be in there. Then he tried to draw out the announcement: "... and the Academy Award ... for Best Picture ..." perhaps hoping that someone would stop him or explain things to him. What he was wondering was why the card had the name of the lead actress instead of the producers. He probably didn't see the category in tiny type.

But then he handed the card to Dunaway, who thought he was clowning around and didn't realize anything was wrong. She glances at the card quickly, she doesn't parse the oddity of the personal name, she sees "La La Land" in big bold type, she knows it's a nominee, she reads it aloud. And the train crashes. As someone has pointed out, if instead of being an extra card for Best Actress, it had been for Best Makeup and read "Suicide Squad", this probably wouldn't have happened.

I'd just like to point out that when I was administrator of the Hugo Awards, our announcement cards had the category name in Big Bold letters at the top of the card, so there was no mistaking which was which.

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