Two scoops of entertainment and a pinch of politics: A recap of the 89th Academy Awards
One year after Chris Rock nearly ruined the Oscars, the 2017 Academy Awards gave a cautious audience the show they were looking for.
An introduction by Justin Timberlake — singing his Oscar nominated song “ Can’t Stop the Feeling” — set the tone for the production. Entertainment, not politics, is what a world-wide audience wanted from Hollywood.
Jimmy Kimmel proved a suitable host. He pulled no punches in making fun of everyone from the president of the United States to a random group of tourists. No one was berated more than Matt Damon. From start to finish, a hilarious, age-old mock grudge between Kimmel and Damon was thematic.
Kimmel’s opening monologue placed President Trump at the butt-end of a subtle string of jokes in response to his disparaging references labeling Meryl Streep as overrated. As of 2017, Streep has been nominated for more Academy Awards than any other actress, and Streep’s three awards place her behind only Katharine Hepburn’s lead with four Oscars.
Focus shifted from comedy to tribute as the more serious business begun.The awards went to films and the professionals behind them, but the audience was most impressed by the acceptance speeches. The winners for best lead actor and actress, and best supporting actor and actress, showed perspective, strength and humility in their speeches.
“I still have a lot of growing and learning and work to do,” said Emma Stone, winner of best actress for her role in La La Land, “ and this [award] is a really beautiful symbol to continue on that journey. … I’m so grateful for that.”
Mahershala Ali used personal experience to remind people everywhere of their place in this world. “It’s not about you,” said Ali, winner for best actor in a supporting role. “ It’s about these characters. You are in service to these stories and these characters.”
Some were disappointed by Casey Affleck’s acceptance speech after winning the award for best actor in a leading role. Others interpreted his reaction as having been genuinely surprised. “Man, I wish I had something bigger and more meaningful to say,” said Affleck, “but I’m really proud to be a part of this community and I look out at all of you. … I have this whole year and I’m just dumbfounded that I’m included. It means a lot to me.”
Viola Davis stole the show after being awarded best actress for her supporting role in Fences. Her poise, dignity and depth of character rang out as she praised the creativity of artists and the realities of life in her inspiring speech. “I became an artist and thank God I did, because we are the only profession that celebrates what it means to live a life,” said Davis. “Here’s to August Wilson who exhumed and exalted the ordinary people.”
This year featured an understated production value compared to previous years. Sara Bareilles’ rendition of Joni Mitchell’s ballad “Both Sides Now” was a superb choice, perfectly delivered and well received as the musical accompaniment to the “ In Memoriam” segment of the production. Despite Bill Paxton’s sudden death, the actor was not featured in the memorial video. Jennifer Aniston tearfully mentioned Paxton during her introduction to the segment. Many potential viewers were concerned about an oversaturation of politics and viewership was reported to be four percent lower than the previous year. All seemed grateful for the Academy’s emphasis on entertainment rather than politics.