One year ago tonight, the 89th Academy Awards aired on ABC. It was produced by Michael De Luca & Jennifer Todd, and hosted by Jimmy Kimmel. While last year's telecast was the least watched since 2008 (garnering over 32.9 million viewers, which on its own, is still pretty great), it still received tons of headlines due such an unexpected conclusion. Before we address that elephant in the room, let's talk about the events leading up to it, shall we?
Going into Oscar night last year, almost everyone on the face of the Earth thought it was going to be a big night for La La Land. That film received 14 nominations (including Best Picture), where it tied the all-time record with All About Eve and Titanic as the most nominated film in Oscar history. The telecast began with such an energetic opening number, which featured Justin Timberlake performing his nominated song from Trolls titled 'Can't Stop the Feeling'. That was such a great way to get the party started! Afterwards, Jimmy Kimmel made his entrance, and gave quite a memorable opening monologue. He of course addressed our political climate, his ongoing feuds with Matt Damon, the previous two years of 'Oscars So White', and a certain somebody who slammed Donald Trump at the Golden Globes the month before...
After Kimmel's opening monologue, the first award of the night was presented. In fact, what I loved about how the four acting awards were presented last year was that they were each introduced with a clip montage of acceptance speeches given by previous winners. So Alicia Vikander (who had won Best Supporting Actress the year before for The Danish Girl) got to present the award for Best Supporting Actor, where Mahershala Ali had been the frontrunner for his performance in Moonlight since the beginning of awards season, sweeping through critics’ groups across the country. He continued leading the pack through Oscar season with wins at the Critics’ Choice and SAG Awards, but had hiccups at the Golden Globes (Aaron Taylor-Johnson won for Nocturnal Animals) and more importantly at BAFTA (Dev Patel won for Lion). Johnson wasn’t nominated at the Oscars, but Patel was in consideration. He played the lead character in Lion, though only for the second half of the movie, giving him lots of time to steal the spotlight. Lion was a Best Picture nominee without many other opportunities to win, so voters could've taken the opportunity to give it a moment to shine.
Though I think given how Ali also appeared in fellow Best Picture nominee Hidden Figures, that visibility factor probably helped him. Then Jason Bateman & Kate McKinnon presented the next two awards. The first was for Best Makeup & Hairstyling. I still have no idea why that category only has three nominees as opposed to (at least) five in everything else. But in any case, there were two sole nominees last year (which were Star Trek Beyond and Suicide Squad) and A Man Called Ove, which was also up for Best Foreign Language Film. So what ended up winning?
Many people were furious about the fact that Suicide Squad won an Oscar of all things. While the film was a big hit at the box office, it still received negative reviews from critics and audiences alike. Then again, Suicide Squad won here based more on the strength of the hair & makeup work as opposed to the movie itself.
For Best Costume Design, many people (myself included) thought this race was between Jackie and La La Land. While the costumes in La La Land might've been seen as too contemporary, several of them were still pretty stylish. Plus, the fact that it was a musical meant that costume designer Mary Zophres had to give the clothing a sense a fantasy in order for audiences to suspend their disbelief that the characters would all of the sudden be bursting into songs. On the other hand, the costumes in Jackie still received a lot of acclaim for recreating the outfits of Jackie Kennedy from the era of when the film was taking place. While La La Land could've taken this prize in a sweep, Jackie still managed to beat it here at the Critics Choice and BAFTA Awards.
Yet, Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them snuck in and took the gold. Something we probably should've seen coming given that aside from La La Land, it was the only other film that was nominated for both Production Design and Costume Design. Though Fantastic Beasts was also a spinoff of the Harry Potter series, and no Harry Potter film had ever won an Oscar despite countless nominations. I guess the thing they had to do was make it a period piece.
Before the next award was given out, Taraji P. Henson, Janelle Monae, & Octavia Spencer were introduced as the next presenters along with a certain somebody...
That quartet of women then presented the award for Best Documentary Feature Film to...
It was quite a year for O.J. Simpson not only with him being the subject of the first season of American Crime Story, but also with the ESPN miniseries, O.J.: Made in America. Though shortly after the Oscars, the Academy made a new rule where multi-part/limited series' would no longer be eligible for the documentary categories. It's a good thing O.J.: Made in America was able to win the Oscar while it could.
The next two awards were presented by Sofia Boutella & Chris Evans, and they were pretty much categories that have often (if not, always) been presented together. First up was Best Sound Editing. Although La La Land did manage to receive a nomination there, it was not a sure thing since musicals usually only get in for Sound Mixing, and not Sound Editing. While it was certainly possible that La La Land could've taken this prize in a sweep, many of us thought that this would be the one award Hacksaw Ridge was going to take home, especially given how well war movies have done with the Sound categories in the past.
Yet, it was good news for Arrival as many of us expected that film to go home empty handed on Oscar night despite the 8 nominations it received. Looking back on that victory, it certainly would've had my vote given all the sounds Sylvain Bellemare had to create for the aliens. But then, I started to feel that Hacksaw Ridge (which was my favorite film of 2016) would be the one to go home empty handed.
For Best Sound Mixing, musicals usually have a great track record of winning this award. Many of them included Oklahoma!, The King & I, South Pacific, West Side Story, My Fair Lady, The Sound of Music, Oliver!, Hello, Dolly!, Fiddler on the Roof, Cabaret, Chicago, Dreamgirls, and Les Misérables. Even music-based films that weren't really musicals have done well here such as Amadeus, Bird, Ray, and Whiplash. So on paper, La La Land looked like a slam dunk for Best Sound Mixing.
Yet, Hacksaw Ridge won a Sound award after all, even though it was not the category many of us thought it would take. In other words, La La Land ended up joining the ranks other musicals or music-based films to have lost Best Sound Mixing such as Brigadoon, Pal Joey, Porgy & Bess, The Music Man, Bye Bye Birdie, Camelot, Doctor Doolittle (1967), Thoroughly Modern Millie, A Star is Born (1976), The Buddy Holly Story, The Rose, Coal Miner's Daughter, Fame (1980), Pennies From Heaven, A Chorus Line, Evita, Moulin Rouge!, Walk the Line, and Inside Llewyn Davis.Again, looking back on this win, Hacksaw Ridge certainly would've had my vote because aside from all the musical moments in La La Land, the latter is a very quiet film. Not to mention that sound mixer Kevin O'Connell (who's the one giving the speech in the clip above) was previously the biggest loser in Oscar history. He had earned 20 nominations prior to last year, and had never won. Another example of how one's losing streak has to end at some point.
The next presenter was none other than Mark Rylance (who had won Best Supporting Actor the year before for Bridge of Spies), where he got to present the award for...
Probably the biggest lock of all the acting categories last year, Viola Davis became latest performer to have won the triple crown in acting for her powerhouse performance in Fences. She also became the 11th performer in history to win a Tony and an Oscar for the same role.