Alliance of Women Film Journalists Members’ Oscars 2017 Opinions

March 6, 2017

AWFJ Members’ Oscars 2017 Opinions, in Brief — Jennifer Merin reports

oscar trophyOur goal is to present a compendium of AWFJ members’ perspectives on Oscars 2017. Not surprisingly, the views vary widely from utter enthusiasm to complete dismay, with mix of meh in between. Quite a few of our members opted out of the project, claiming awards burn out, indicating frustrations with the Academy’s new press procedures and/or stating that this year’s entire awards campaign and media buildup was either too political or not political enough. To see what Jeanne Wolf, Susan Wloszczyna, Moira Sullivan, Diana Saenger, Sheila Roberts, Nell Minow, Brandy McDonnell, Michelle McCue, Karen Martin, Kimberly Lindbergs, Leba Hertz, Candice Frederick, Marilyn Ferdinand, Chaz Ebert, Katherine Brodsky, Liz Braun, Betsy Bozdech and Erica Abeel have to say about Oscar 2017, Read on…

ericaabeel1ERICA ABEEL: I was happy that “Moonlight” won best picture over “La la Land” (a film I found deeply annoying). That “Moonlight” approached material that’s usually handled with doc style realism as an art film contributed to its power. Pleased that the wonderful turns by Casey Affleck and Mahershala Ali were recognized. Dismayed that Emma Stone won over Isabelle Huppert, who deserves an award.
And also dismayed that “I, Daniel Blake” by Ken Loach wasn’t even nominated.

bozdech headshotBETSY BOZDECH: I was pleased to see this year’s Oscars recognize a more diverse slate of filmmakers and actors than they have in recent years — still lots of work to do, of course (where were the female directors??), but all progress matters. The Best Picture snafu will ensure that this year’s ceremony is never forgotten, which hopefully means Moonlight will also never be forgotten; it’s an important, groundbreaking movie that deserves all the accolades it’s received.

lizbraun130 (1)LIZ BRAUN: I gave up believing in the Oscars the year Titanic won everything, so I’ve been disgruntled for many years. Winning an Oscar can mean the difference between a big career and a middling one. Or not. For every actor (or filmmaker) who wins a little statue, there are many others of merit — Annette Bening, Alan Rickman, Samuel L. Jackson, John Malkovich, Hugh Jackman — who don’t. Anyway, the Academy Awards don’t matter anymore. Here’s my coverage of this year’s televised debacle: FIVE REASONS THE ACADEMY AWARDS DON’T MATTER.

brodskyKATHERINE BRODSKY: This year had several worthy nominees and they were well-recognized. Although as a whimsical musical fan, I was rooting for “La La Land” as Best Picture, having finally caught up on “Moonlight” a few nights prior, I recognized what a great film it was as well. But here’s a sad fact: This year’s Oscar ceremony will be remembered most for the hiccup at the end rather than anything in between. Every year, I tune in to the Oscars telecast hoping for a great show, thinking that this year will be the one. Read on…

chaz ebertCHAZ EBERT:The Oscars continue to be on my “must see” list and this year’s 89th edition was not only immensely enjoyable, but historic for many reasons. It was the first time in history that an African-American director won for Best Picture; it was the first win for Supporting Actor for a Muslim; it was the first win for a picture about someone in the LGBTQ community, and the first Best Foreign Film win for someone who was not there in protest of a travel ban instituted by the President of the United States. Sometimes it is difficult to remember from year to year who won Best Picture, but the “Moonlight” – “La La Land” flub will forever be in our collective memories. Read on…

marilynferdinandjpgMARILYN FERDINAND: The 2017 Oscars offered the expected and the unexpected. The nomination of Mel Gibson’s Hacksaw Ridge in the Best Picture category carries on the tradition of recognizing comeback artists, as with Sylvester Stallone in Creed and George Miller with Mad Max: Fury Road in last year’s Oscars race. Hollywood polished its own apple by nominating crowd-pleasing, Hollywood-focused La La Land for so many awards. It also showed that a well-run campaign can win Oscars, with Casey Affleck’s win in spite of the shadow of sexual harassment complaints in his past, a fate that sunk Nate Parker’s The Birth of a Nation barely before it got out of the blocks. Nonetheless, this year’s Oscars truly broke new ground with the selection of Moonlight as Best Picture. I happen to believe it was the best picture of 2016, but of course, the most deserving film doesn’t always take home the Oscar. I think that the concerted effort AMPAS made this past year to recruit more people of color as members and phase out the voting rights of people who are no longer able to put the best interests of the industry first paved the way for Moonlight’s win. Now it’s time for the industry as a whole to work toward parity in telling diverse stories and hiring more diverse producers, directors, actors, and crew members to tell them.

candice fredrick200CANDICE FREDERICK: It was an unfortunate ending to a nearly flawless awards run, but let the record show that Moonlight is the best picture of the year. And Mahershala Ali, the soft-spoken mentor we all wish we had in our lives, won for his best supporting actor performance in Moonlight, becoming the first black Muslim to earn the award. Not only that, the amazing Viola Davis capped off the evening when she clenched the Oscar, reminding us all of the importance of acting. Lastly, Ezra Edelman, son of prominent civil rights activist Marian Wright Edelman, earned an Oscar in the best documentary category for O.J: Made in America, a riveting look at race, the LAPD, and the broken criminal justice system in America. While the #OscarsSoWhite campaign is not even close to being over, especially with the way in which the Oscar gaffe narrative has leaned toward a white gaze, it’s good to know that at least 4 winners are helping pave the way for a new conversation.

lebaherzLEBA HERTZ: I probably would have written that this year’s Oscar winners were predictable until that finale. I actually predicted and anticipated all the big winners (except best picture) but in the end, I along with millions of people, was surprised and mortified about the screwup, announcing the wrong picture. Both films were brilliant but I must admit I had a certain soft spot for “Moonlight.” Congratulations to Barry Jenkins and Co.

lindbergs (1)KIMBERLY LINDBERGS: Many of my favorite films and performances of last year were overlooked by the Academy so I was not particularly invested in the Oscars but I was pleasantly surprised that the understated drama Moonlight picked up so many awards. The highlight of the show for me was when the Iranian film The Salesman won Best Foreign Film. I wrote a piece about the director Asghar Farhadi for FilmStruck’s Streamline blog last month that discussed his Oscar protest in light of recent U.S. travel restrictions. His films tend to be subtle and astute observations about life in Iran that provide a window into a culture that many Americans are unfamiliar with. I hope that his second Academy Award will entice more viewers to seek out his work. A link to myAsghar Farhadi piece: “The Search for Common Ground: A Separation (2011)”

karenmartin150KAREN MARTIN: I usually get bored with watching the Academy Awards after about an hour. Not this year. Jimmy Kimmel’s biting diatribes were hilarious, the presenters were gorgeous, the awards went to appropriate films, and the inclusion of the tour-bus visitors brought a fun moment of humanity to the glamorous proceedings. The commercials were in tune with the culture and politics of the evening. Then there was the ending, which nobody could have made up. I watched the show from beginning to end.

michelle mccueMICHELLE McCUE: For some members of society, LA LA LAND reflects what’s going on in the world and in the U.S. The loss symbolized unfulfilled dreams while others thought the whole movie was a bit over-hyped. It was Emma Stone’s time to win the Oscar for LA LA LAND, but sadly it was not meant to be Denzel Washington’s night as he should’ve won Best Actor for his remarkable inspiring work in FENCES. Read Michelle McCue’s Oscars Preview.

brandy mcdonnellBRANDY McDONNELL:The 2017 Oscars ended with a twist that only Hollywood could dream up, and Viola Davis made history! Director and co-writer Barry Jenkins’ gritty drama “Moonlight” earned three Oscars, including best picture, best adapted screenplay for Jenkins and Tarell Alvin McCraney and best supporting actor for Mahershala Ali. “To hell with dreams. I’m done with it. This is true,” Jenkins said in accepting best picture. Read the full report on THE WEEK IN WOMEN.

nell minowNELL MINOW: You might say it was a Hollywood ending. At the end, it came down to two passion projects, made by young Hollywood newcomers, neither one based on a well-established property. And ultimately the prize went to “Moonlight,” the lowest-budget Best Picture awardee of all time. We do not have to feel too sorry for the people behind “La La Land,” which took home a bunch of Oscars and handled the mix-up with grace. And we can feel very, very happy for “Moonlight,’ which proved once again that the best way to be universal is to be very, very specific. Plus, it was great to see Kevin O’Connell, the Susan Lucci of the Oscars, win after a record-breaking 21 nominations without winning. As is so often the case, the awards I was rooting for most were the supporting actor and actress. I wanted Mahershala Ali and Viola Davis to win, and their speeches, which both focused on why the work matters to them, were the best reminder of why we care about the Oscars.

robertsSHEILA ROBERTS: Etched indelibly in my mind about the Oscars this year is how graciously the presenters and the filmmakers from “La La Land” and “Moonlight” handled the confusion that ensued on stage after the wrong Best Picture was announced. Noteworthy was the leadership of “La La Land” producer Jordan Horowitz who took charge and stepped in to clarify what had gone wrong, even when it meant acknowledging his own loss. It was done with a lot of class, dignity, and poise under pressure. Read on…

dianasaengerDIANA SAENGER: I thought the Oscar show was good. The changing stage settings were wonderful, Jimmy did ok, I did not like the people on the bus coming in to take up time when those in charge try to limit the speeches to 45 seconds (which most went beyond).I was ok with most of the nominations, Moonlight was not my pick for best film, It was the true story of an amazing man in Hacksaw Ridge. The mix up at end was unfortunate.

moira sullivanMOIRA SULLIVAN: This year’s Oscars was not as white but still very white, and still very male. Only two films directed by women were nominated for Academy Awards–Ava DuVernay (13th) and Maren Ade (Toni Erdmann). One short live action film directed by Kristof Deák and Anna Udvardy won an Oscar. Only four women have been nominated for best director since 1929. Only Kathryn Bigelow, has won for “Hurt Locker” (2008). Lina Wertmuller was nominated in 1976 for “Seven Beauties”, Jane Campion in 1993 for “The Piano” and Sofia Coppola in 2003 for “Lost in Translation”. Let’s talk odds here for winners: 1 in 88. That’s it. Read full coverage.

WloszczynaSUSAN WLOSZCZYNA: This is the kind of last-act twist that would be too far-fetched for most Hollywood screenwriters to even consider. But for anyone who relishes such Oscar lore, this is the sort of historic flub that just made a better-than-average telecast go right through the roof when it comes to memorable Academy moments. The show was overflowing with diversity and not just because the acting categories all featured nominees of color after two years of all white contenders. Those in charge also made sure that presenters represented an array of backgrounds. Read full report.

jeanne wolf 3JEANNE WOLF: While the people in the audience were gasping with surprise, Jordan Horowitz — as if to assure them this wasn’t fake news — held up the card just pulled from the correct award envelope. “I’m going to be really thrilled to hand this to my friends from ‘Moonlight,’ ” he said. Horowitz wasn’t just a gracious loser; he became the closest thing the Oscars can get to a folk hero.” Read the full article.

In closing, it’s interesting to note that there’s a consensus of relief that the 2017 movie awards season is over, and all indicate that they’re eager to move on to other items of interest — like real world politics and similar concerns, and the new crop of movies that are coming around for consideration for next year’s awards.

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