“And the winner is . . .”
I will admit it. I stayed up until some ridiculous hour watching the Academy Awards this past Sunday night. I have seen very few of the movies nominated for an Oscar this year. However, the day before the show was aired, I read that the Academy Awards was the second most watched live television program in the world. What was I missing?
It turns out, I was not missing all that much. I watched people I do not know talk about movies I have never watched that were nominated for categories that I clearly do not understand. For instance, who knows the difference between sound editing and sound design? In fact, what in the world is sound design in the first place?
The Academy defines a short film as less than 40 minutes. There is obviously a different set of criteria when you are considering the length of a short film versus a short sermon. In our town, you will be last in line at the restaurant for Sunday lunch if the preacher gives a short sermon of 40 minutes.
As the hour passed midnight, I was finally rewarded by watching likely the biggest mistake in television history. I watched as La La Land was named Best Picture. After listening to over two minutes of thanks given to people almost no one knows, the announcers broke in saying that Moonlighting, another movie I have not seen, was the actual winner. I went to bed not knowing if the weird final presentation was some sort of joke or simply something created to appeal to the elusive millennial generation.
The true winner of the night was Steve Harvey, who announced the wrong person as winner of the Miss Universe pageant in 2015. Harvey has finally been bumped from holding the dubious title of having the most awkward moment in television history.
Perhaps time does heal all wounds. The Academy certainly hopes that the memory of this year’s Academy Award quickly passes from the public’s memory. That may be wishful thinking.
There are probably few among us that remember the 1933 Academy Awards. Will Rogers, even more famous in his day that Warren Beatty and Faye Dunaway, announced the winner of the Best Director Award by saying “Come on up here, Frank”. Unfortunately, there were two nominees that year with the first name of Frank. They both started making their way to the stage to accept the award meant for only one.
You would have to be my age to remember the short lived phenomenon known as “Streaking”, which gripped the world in the early 1970s. David Niven was announcing the nominees for Best Picture in 1972 which a buck naked man ran across the stage on live television. Niven quickly recovered by saying how unusual it was that the man’s greatest claim to fame would likely be running across a stage naked and showing his own shortcomings.
Life is full of mistakes. Most of us are fortunate enough to not have them occur on live television before a worldwide audience. But in this awkward and embarrassing moment, the parties of both movies handled the mistake with extraordinary grace, even as most of the audience in the theater and around the world had no clue of what had just happened.
There is a certain irony that people who make a living making movies may have had their greatest performance on a live stage while dealing with another person’s unimaginable mistake. For the grace and compassion they showed each other as hearts were broken while others soared, I can only say Bravo!
Dan Ponder can be reached at email@example.com