Scene Selections: The Oscars
Best Acceptance Speech — Frances McDormand (Best Actress)
By Adam Ramos, Scene Editor
In an award show focused on brevity (the shortest acceptance speech earned a new jet ski), Frances McDormand still managed to deliver an electric moment upon accepting her award for Best Actress. McDormand, accepting the award for the second time after winning in 1996 for her role in “Fargo,” was honored this year for her role as Mildred Hayes, a gritty and grieving mother in the highly acclaimed “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri.”
McDormand began her speech by placing her Oscar on the ground and petitioning to have “all the female nominees in every category stand with me.” Her request was met as women all over the crowd stood, including Rachel Morrison, the first female to be nominated for best cinematographer, and Greta Gerwig, the first women to be nominated for best director in eight years. While not everything about the night screamed “progress,” McDormand’s stunning celebration of female success in some traditionally male-dominated fields was the capstone to a night focused on inclusivity.
Yet, her final two words might have been the most powerful: “inclusion rider.” The peculiar phrase, meaning a clause actors and actresses can ask to have included in their contracts requiring a level of diversity among a film’s cast and crew, triggered a mass Google search worldwide. McDormand’s cunning conclusion demonstrated how celebrities can effectively use their platforms to better their world around them — something unfortunately rarely accomplished, especially in acceptance speeches.
Least Deserved — Jordan Peele (Best Original Screenplay)
By Charlie Kenney, Scene Writer
In order to truly deserve the Oscar for Best Original Screenplay this year, the winner had to be audacious, incredibly well-written, clever and innovative. Jordan Peele’s debut feature and winner of this award, “Get Out,” is none of those.
“Get Out’s” chief crime is that it’s a horror film that has no intention to surprise you. From the first five minutes of the film you know the premise — these white people are racist and they possess black people. Furthermore, Peele is blatant and un-clever in the racism that sets up the “horror.” Early in the film, Jeremy (Caleb Landry Jones), Rose’s (Allison Williams) brother, goes on a neo-Nazi rant at the dinner table and her father jokes about how African-Americans stole his grandfather’s Olympic medal — both remorselessly racist. Good writing and satire is supposed to be subtle, nuanced and make you guess — Peele’s does the opposite of that.
It’s not just the content of “Get Out” that makes it undeserving, however, but also the competition it was up against. Guillermo del Toro wove a forbidden romance between an amphibian man and mute janitor, Paul Thomas Anderson brought a post-war British fashion mogul into being out of thin air and Martin McDonagh created a multi-layered conflict of love and unbridled revenge in the middle of rural Missouri. Jordan Peele created a satire that doesn’t understand how to satirize.
“Get Out” is a film that only worked and only won awards because it was released during 2017 in the middle of incredible racial division in America. Had it been released in any other year it would have been taken as it is — unremarkable. Film should be evaluated in an objective, not subjective, manner — “Get Out” was not.
Best Film Ever to Get NO Awards — “Lady Bird”
By Nora McGreevy, Associate Scene Editor
“Lady Bird” wasn’t made for the Oscars. Greta Gerwig’s quirky coming-of-age tale wasn’t a shoo-in for any particular category at this year’s Oscars, in part due to the stiff competition and in part due to the inclinations of the Academy.
In the film, Lady Bird (Saoirse Ronan) struggles through Catholic girls’ school, argues with her mother (Laurie Metcalf), applies to college, has sex, acts in a high school play, goes to prom and grows up.
The power of “Lady Bird” lies in the fact that it takes the ordinary life of a young woman seriously. Lady Bird, despite all of her character flaws, has profound depth of character — and she, not to mention her friend Julie Steffans (Beanie Feldstein), represent two of just a handful of portrayals of young women in popular culture that are realized as thinking, feeling and fully-formed individuals. The relationship between Lady Bird and her mother transcends typical portrayals of teenaged angst and exposes a fierce, angry kind of love that many women and their mothers can relate to.
It’s frustrating to witness the only female director in her category go without a prize, in the same way that it’s frustrating for such an important film to go unrewarded. “Lady Bird” didn’t need an Oscar to prove it was great — but to not win a single thing at all? Ugh.
Most Dramatic Entrance — Rita Moreno
By Matthew Munhall, Scene Writer
In an Oscar ceremony largely devoid of any surprising wins, the most dramatic moment of the evening came courtesy of Rita Moreno, presenting the award for Best Foreign Language Film. The actress and EGOT winner had one of the night’s best looks, donning the same elegant black-and-gold gown she wore to the 1962 Academy Awards — where she won Best Supporting Actress for her role in “West Side Story” — and accenting it with a gold collar necklace and black headwrap. Moreno brought the same dramatic flourish to her presenting duties, making a showy entrance as she struck a pose with her back turned to the audience, before dancing her way upstage to the microphone. Perhaps it’s no surprise that a teaser beforehand showed her strutting toward the stage with a glass of champagne in hand. It was the kind of glamorous entrance only a true Hollywood legend can make and the most iconic moment of the night.
Worst Ceremony Gag — Recycling Warren Beatty and Faye Dunaway
By Owen Lane, Scene Writer
Having Faye Dunaway and Warren Beatty once again present the Oscar for Best Picture was so achingly representative of modern Hollywood. It was painful to watch. What is this, a “Tosh.0” Web Redemption? If the logic (even jokingly) is that these two elderly, accomplished actors need to be redeemed in front of the American public, I think we can dismiss that by agreeing that neither actor likely cared much at all. Would you? This gag didn’t effectively pay tribute to any accomplished filmmaker. This year’s pseudo-political Oscars didn’t even bother to end on a remotely political note. It was just plain lazy and uncreative. Reusing Dunaway and Beatty was the Oscars equivalent of releasing four Marvel movies in a year (which is exactly what is happening in 2018).
The main reason people even cared about the “Moonlight” vs. “La La Land” mix-up last year was because it actually brought some intrigue to the ceremony portion of this award ceremony. Many of the 2017 films being honored last night were daring, creative forays in the medium. I wish they would let talented nominees like Greta Gerwig, Guillermo del Toro or Jordan Peele have some say in the Oscar ceremony itself. Maybe then, viewers would have a show that feels like genuine entertainment rather than one bloated inside joke.