2017 Oscars: Envelope mix-up disguises boring show, tired formula, and breakthrough wins

When people look back on the 2017 Academy Awards, they will remember two films being announced as Best Picture and a pair of producing groups huddling on stage like a couple sports teams confused after a coin-flip. That’s it, painfully.

It wasn’t exactly Bonnie and Clyde: Part Two on stage with Warren Beatty and Faye Dunaway, but it was a bizarre scene.  The 79 year old actor was given the wrong envelope for the night’s biggest award, but were movie fans given the wrong show on Hollywood’s biggest night?

First, Jimmy Kimmel didn’t leave a mark as host, and that’s on him and the writing team. Perhaps people find him funny near the stroke of midnight or after dark, but on Sunday he was anything but funny. He’s the guy who gets up on the stage at open mic night at an underground comedy club, and literally slices through the room with his dry wit and arsenal of recycled jokes that had been overcooked by someone else already.

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On a night where Donald Trump’s new role as executive in chief was mocked more (not that much more though) than Oscar winner Mahershala Ali’s first name, Kimmel didn’t do much to impress. He was a popular yet tired dish as the Academy ordered.

As thoughts begin to move around the room for next year’s host, it’s important to look back on a show that was a spectacle for all the wrong reasons: the show’s late gaffe and mismanagement of a very long show. When it was all said and done, the channel was flipped and a smirk was on my face, and I love the movies. 

Who had the idea to transport a bus full of “regular” folks to the Oscars and present them to the viewing audience like, “attention millionaires, here’s the other side of the coin.” Denzel Washington posing with a couple, and fanny packs and squinting cell phone usage wasn’t cute. It was exploitation at its finest, and a bad idea. It was nearly as bad as dropping sweets from the ceiling. Ellen’s pizza idea will be ripped off for years to come.

What should have been valued highly was quietly shoved to the side, and that was a breakthrough in the winners. A year after the Oscars were proclaimed “too white”, Viola Davis won for Best Supporting Actor and Ali was the first Muslim actor to win an Academy Award. Those individual moments should have dominated the headlines more, but the Oscars got in their own way.

What about Moonlight-a challenging film about sexuality, race, and identity-being shuffled off as a sudden winner of the night’s biggest award? Conspiracies make my head hurt, but the more I think about it, perhaps a certain sector of Hollywood didn’t like their two hour commercial (La La Land) being defeated by a film with a strong and timely message in Moonlight. How about Casey Affleck upsetting the favored Denzel Washington or Kenneth Lonergan winning best screenplay? Damian Chazelle becoming the youngest director ever to win an Oscar got lost in the fray. Whatever the details actually were, it kind of stinks and puts the show in a tough position.

Putting the multi-talented entertainer Justin Timberlake at the kickoff of the show was a great launch, but it turned out to be the show’s biggest moment that didn’t make you scratch your head in confusion. Next year’s show needs more of that “fun” and less of the stiff jokes and mistakes.

Find a host who can dominate the stage without over-whelming the audience or putting the guests to sleep, and perhaps the four hours spent watching actors glad hand their co-workers could be more illuminating. The Oscars are nearing 90 shows, with Ellen’s hosting a couple years back standing as one of the best, but I can easily put the 2017 edition as one of their worst.

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