The greatest moments from the 89th Academy Awards

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The 89th Academy Awards ceremony was definitely a fascinating one. There were surprises, mistakes, lots of fun and of course lots of stars. Here’s a list with the most memorable moments from last night’s ceremony.

Suicide Squad won an Oscar

As one member of the studio pointed out last night, we can now refer to Suicide Squad  as “the Oscar-winning movie”, joking that it had more awards than The Shawshank Redemption. Yes, the superhero (or I should say supervillain) film has gone against the odds to win the Academy Award for “Best Achievement in Makeup and Hairstyling”, becoming one of the lowest rated films to do so. I’m an ignorant when it comes to hairstyling, so I’m not going to judge the decision although we have to give it to the Academy for recognizing a good aspect in an otherwise bad film.

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Jimmy Kimmel’s bullying at Matt Damon

Matt Damon had predicted that his presence in a ceremony hosted by Jimmy Kimmel was “going to probably be ugly”. He was right. Jimmy Kimmel did everything to hit on Damon reigniting their infamous feud. Kimmel called him fat, selfish, a jerk, joked about his acting, he even took over as conductor to play him off while he was trying to announce the “Best Original Screenplay” nominees.

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Casey Affleck’s win

Casey Affleck did not only beat Denzel Washington to win the Oscar for “Best Actor in a Leading Role”, he also beat his brother and childhood friend Matt Damon, the latter’s first nomination dating back in 1998. Affleck was among the favourites, especially after winning both the Golden Globe and the BAFTA for his performance in Kenneth Lonergan’s Manchester by the Sea. However, even if his performance was widely acclaimed, many felt that he should have never been nominated after the controversial sexual harassment lawsuits against him in 2010. The incidents resurfaced a few months ago when Manchester by the sea  started gaining the public’s attention, but  apparently they weren’t enough to persuade the Academy

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Viola Davis’ acceptance speech

Davis was the frontrunner for the “Best Actress in a Supporting Role” category, so her win was not a surprise at all. A powerful and emotional speech was also expected by most and the acclaimed actress didn’t disappoint. Her acceptance speech left everyone speechless with many in the audience crying and Jimmy Kimmel joking that her speech had earned her an Emmy.

Exhume those stories — the stories of the people who dreamed big and never saw those dreams to fruition. People who fell in love and lost. I became an artist, and thank God I did because we are the only profession that celebrates what it means to live a life. So here’s to August Wilson, who exhumed and exalted the ordinary people.” – part of the speech.

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The records that were broken

It was a night filled with records. Damien Chazelle became the youngest person to win the “Best Director” award at 32 years. OJ: Made in America won the statuette for best documentary becoming the longest film ever to win an Oscar with a running time of 7 hours and 47 minutes. Redemption came at last for Kevin O’Connell who won an Oscar after being nominated for 20 different films in the past with not a single win. This was the biggest losing streak in the Oscars’ history. Finally, even though it sounds surprising, Mahershala Ali became the first Muslim ever to win an Oscar for an acting category.

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Asghar Farhadi’s message

Iran won its second “Best Foreign Language Film” Oscar last night for The Salesman, but sadly, the director of the film, Asghar Farhadi, didn’t attend the ceremony. The reason was Donald Trump’s ban that denies entry to the US to citizens of 7 countries including Iran. Iranian-American engineer Anousheh Ansari accepted the award on his behalf and read a message written by him for the occasion. Farhadi’s expressed his frustration over the controversial ban calling it disrespectful and inhumane.

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La La Land won best picture, oh wait…

The night was almost over. There was only one award remaining: “Best Motion Picture of the Year”. Warren Beatty and Faye Dunaway were summonned to announce the winner with La La Land  being the favourite. Warren Beatty opened the envelope, paused and after a puzzling look, he passed it over to Dunaway who announced La La Land as the winner. The winners (Jordan Horowitz, Marc Platt and Fred Berger) began their speech and the ceremony was reaching its end. But no, it couldn’t end like this. The night had a plot twist worthy of a Hitchcockian thriller. Horowitz announced that the real winner was Moonlight. Among disbelief from pretty much everyone, the content of the winner’s envelope was revealed. It was plain: “Best Picture – Moonlight”. I was trying to figure out if a mistake did happen or if it was another of Kimmel’s jokes, when Beatty said that he was given the wrong envelope and specifically the one for “Best Actress in a Leading Role”. Now Emma Stone had won the award for that category. That explained Beatty’s puzzling look. However, the envelope was passed to Faye Dunaway who just said “La La Land”. This might well be the biggest mistake in the history of the awards and it is definitely one of the main reasons we will remember this year’s ceremony.

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You can see the results in detail on http://www.oscars.org/oscars/ceremonies/2017

Congratulations to all the winners!

Review: Arrival (2016)

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“If you could see your whole life from start to finish, would you change things?”. You may have come across this question before but never has it been so relevant as in Denis Villeneuve’s latest sci-fi film, an exciting picture that explores a wide variety of topics including time-travel, extra-terrestrial life and linguistics. Arrival aims to inspire and challenge the audience and it does so very well.

Eric Heisserer had been trying for years to adapt the Nubella winner novella “Story of your life” by Ted Chiang. As of 2012, he had almost given up and the screenplay found its way in “The Black List”, a collection of the best unproduced screenplays. Fortunately for all of us, Denis Villeneuve got an interest in it and the result was one of the best director/writer pairings of the year. The main character is Dr. Louise Banks (Amy Adams), a linguistics professor who is hired by the US military who are trying to translate the language of some unidentifiable beings that have apparently come from another place in the universe in twelve mysterious spacecrafts.Political tension grows all over the planet as the aliens’ purpose is unknown and their only way of communicating is an incomprehensible writing. Teamed up with physics professor Ian Donnelly (Jeremy Renner), Louise must find a way to decipher the bewildering writing before the situation gets out of hand as nations all over the world start to face the spacecrafts with hostility.

Denis Villeneuve proves again that he is one of the most exciting directors working now in Hollywood. The directing is top-notch and combined with Bradford Young’s cinematography and Jóhann Jóhannsson’s score we have an excellently paced, visually stunning and deeply affecting feature. To top it all, Amy Adams gives an extraordinary performance. The absence of her name in the Best Leading actress Oscar nominations is probably the single most shocking snub of the year. She is absolutely stunning in this one. I could almost feel nausea myself when I first saw her in that suit. 

The reason why Arrival works is that it tackles so many matters without offering a specific take on them. Everything is left to the audience. How should humanity tackle a possible alien approach? How important is language in our way of perceiving our nature? What would we change if we knew the future? I don’t even dare to put myself in Louise’s place. I can’t tell if she made the right or wrong decision and the film won’t tell you either. What else is remarkable about Arrival is how thoroughly it was researched scientifically. Several scientists, especially linguists, were approached to give their consult and this is what gives the film a realistic tone and solid background. If there is one thing that I didn’t like was the confrontation with the “Bootstrap Paradox”. This is when a future and a present action are both caused by one another without a logical explanation of how this cycle started. It’s actually common among sci-fi films that deal with time travel, but it always feels irritating to me. Interstellar, Minority Report and Donnie Darko are just some of the titles. The paradox even has its own film titled Predestination. Fortunately, it’s not so important in the plot of this film.

In summary, Arrival is an outstanding picture and I was delighted to know that it was nominated for 8 Academy Awards including Best Picture, Best Director and Best Cinematography. I repeat it’s a shame Amy Adams was snubbed. It’s good to know that films like these are produced in Hollywood and can’t wait to see Villeneuve’s next feature, the long-awaited Blade Runner sequel. He has showcased better than ever what he is capable of with Arrival and I really hope he continues to do what he knows best.

8/10

Review: La La Land (2016)

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Finally, I got to see La La Land and finally I understood what all the fuss was about. I’m not much into romantic films and so I had my doubts about it. I couldn’t be more wrong! I don’t know if it’s the best film of 2016 (I still have a lot to watch), but it certainly is one of the most amazing and memorable cinematic experiences of the year.

La La Land, written and directed by Damien Chazelle, follows Mia (Emma Stone) and Sebastian (Ryan Gosling) as they’re both trying to fulfill their ambitious dreams in the city of Los Angeles. Mia, currently working in a coffee shop, wants to become a famous actress while Sebastian dreams of revitalizing the jazz scene by creating his own jazz club. They fall in love with each other and together try to achieve their goals. For a while everything seems perfect, but the challenges they face test their faith in both their relationship and their visions.

The film has won a record-breaking 7 Golden Globe Awards and received a record-tying 14 Academy Awards nominations. Surely, you can’t always trust the Academy on deciding which is the best picture of the year, but this many accolades cannot be overlooked. So what is it that makes La La Land so special. Well, first of all, it is technically flawless. Cinematography, editing, costumes and acting are top-notch. Emma Stone is one of my favourite actresses and she is absolutely dazzling. However, two other things are what make the film stand out.

The first is the music. The score of Justin Hurwitz (who also composed the music for Damien Chazelle’s two previous features) is utterly enchanting. Hurwitz also wrote most of the songs with two of those being nominated for an Oscar. It really felt that the songs were woven together, like every song was just another verse of a bigger song. The second thing was its thought-provoking ending. I’m not going to spoil it (you can find my interpretation of it here), I just want to say that I spend days trying to figure out what it meant and what message was the film trying to transmit to the audience. It came out unexpectedly to distinguish the film from the average romance film that, satisfying as it may be for teenage girls, lacks any significant substance.

For these reasons, I believe La La Land will be remembered for years and years to come and I wouldn’t be surprised if it broke the Academy Awards record. Overall, an unforgettable masterpiece!

9/10