It was a stunning twist in the tale. And right at the end, mind you. The kind that Indian descent director M. Night Shyamalan would have been proud of. When veteran actor & filmmaker Warren Beatty announced that the musical ‘La La Land’ had taken home the most coveted #Oscar of the evening, for Best Picture and even as the makers of the Emma Stone-Ryan Gosling starrer were halfway through their acceptance speech, came the shocker. The award was given then to the poignant ‘Moonlight’ and you could literally hear the collective gasps of all folks gathered in the #DolbyTheatre for the glittering ceremony. Beatty had supposedly been given the wrong cue cards. Really?! In many ways it was a climax that went very well with the narrative of the evening. An evening mired in protests & controversies that had little to do with cinema itself.
The tone for what was to follow was set at the outset itself. Popular talk show host and comedian #JimmyKimmel in his opening salvo took generous potshots at controversial US President #DonaldTrump and even mouthed the ‘Meryl Streep is overrated’ bit for dramatic effect. It was an #OscarAwards night that many expected to be dominated by everybody’s favorite musical #LaLaLand but though the film did quite well for itself (Best Director, Best Actress, Best Cinematography) with 6 nods in all it was not exactly a sweep. The first major award of the night was quite historic with black actor Mahershala Ali winning the Best Supporting Actor award for his portrayal of a drug peddler in ‘Moonlight’ This made Ali (born Eric Gilmore) the first Muslim actor to win an Oscar award. Coming after 88 Oscar Award ceremonies, this one was long overdue. Very long. And coming a day after a kin of the more famous ‘M.Ali’ (boxing legend Ali’s son) was harangued at US airports, it made for truly powerful symbolism.
Black Americans clearly held sway in this year’s Oscar Awards with three time nominated actress Viola Davis finally snaring her first Oscar for her gutwrenching performance in ‘Fences’ To add a bit of trivia this award makes Viola the first black woman to win the ‘Holy Trinity’ of awards with the Oscars, the Emmys and the Tony awards all in her kitty. Though critics suggest that the award to Viola this year was less for the performance in Fences and more for her consistent performances in the last few years. The other controversial moment of the night was when the Iranian film ‘The Salesman’ walked off with the Oscar for Best #ForeignLanguage film. Seen in light of the recent blanket ban on entry of immigrants of certain Muslim countries (that includes Iran) into the US it makes for some very absorbing discussion. The director of the film, who was boycotting the awards ceremony in a symbolic gesture made sure to send a video recording across. No surprises for guessing who he lambasted. Equally interesting was the fact that #AnoushehAnsari, an Iranian American accepted the award on the filmmaker’s behalf. Ansari incidentally is the first woman space explorer to do it with her own money.
If you thought that was all, there was more. In what is a dramatic turn of events for the actor, Casey Affleck won the Best Actor award for his bravura performance in the little seen/heard ‘Manchester by the Sea’ And unlike last year when everyone was rooting for DiCaprio there were not many expecting that Casey (brother of the more famous Affleck) would romp home. For this good looking, undeniably talented actor whose on screen exploits have thus been overshadowed by a dark past with serious accusation of inappropriate behavior with his female colleagues on set this is perhaps redemption time.