Tag Archives: Mahershala Ali

An Oscars with no host? No problem. My many thoughts on a pretty good Academy Awards show, with a great diversity of winners

One of my favorite nights of the year came around Sunday night, and for once nobody complained about the host of the Oscars.

That’s because, of course, there was no host. And you know what? The show was fine without one. Sure, some of the skits the host does every year are funny, but mostly they’re a waste of time.

I have to say, even though I saw so few of the movies nominated (life with two small kids doesn’t allow much time for adult flick theater-going), I enjoyed this year’s Oscars. No one movie dominated, the show didn’t drag, and I actually saw and liked the movie that won.

Now a lot of people on social media Sunday night were hating on “Green Book,” because of its historical inaccuracies (the friendship between Dr. Shirley and Tony Vallelonga was nowhere near as close as the movie made it, and the family of Dr. Shirley is very unhappy with the portrayal, and there is a bit of a “white hero saves the day” theme of the film), but I have to say, I enjoyed it a lot. Is it a perfect movie? No. But I thought the acting and writing was terrific. I’m happy it won.

— Other things I was super-happy about: Mahershala Ali winning for “Green Book,” Spike Lee finally getting a long-overdue Oscar (you knew his speech would be something epic in scope, and it was), and Lady Gaga winning for best song for “Shallow.”

— Speaking of which… Gaga. Cooper. “Shallow.” Freaking mesmerizing performance. One of the two highlights of the night for me. And Gaga gave a terrific speech, too. I’m rapidly becoming more and more of a fan of hers.

— Haven’t seen it yet but I hear “Bohemian Rhapsody” was fantastic, and it was very, very cool having the “Wayne’s World” stars Mike Myers and Dana Carvey introduce the film. If only we could’ve gotten a “schwwwinnnggg!” out of them.

–It was a night without too many great speeches, but Olivia Colman winning for best actress had the speech of the night. She was adorable, charming, thanking everyone, telling her kids “This won’t happen again” and practically apologizing to Glenn Close for winning, telling her “You’ve been my idol for so long, this is not how I wanted this to be.”

Really sweet, special stuff.

— The other speech I found awesome was from Melissa Berton, co-director of the Best Documentary Short winner, “Period. End of Sentence,” who opened her remarks with “I’m not crying because I’m on my period. I can’t believe a film about menstruation won an Oscar!”

Truer words may never have been spoken from that stage.

— Just a general question: Is there no end to the movies that are made about queens, kings, monarchs, and royals? I mean, haven’t they been exhausted as a subject matter? Please can they be exhausted as a subject matter?

— So there was no host, but Tina Fey, Amy Poehler and Mya Rudolph did the closest thing to an opening monologue, being funny and charming and I once again please, why can’t Tina and Amy host every awards show, ever? Please???

–OK, most importantly, the best and worst dressed categories, as judged in the Lewis house, as always, by my wife. On the women’s side, to the good we loved Angela Bassett’s gorgeous dress (above), Julia Roberts is 51 years old and looks amazing, and wow wow wow, again, on Jennifer Lopez, who fulfilled my No. 1 rule for women: You can never, ever be too sparkly. Big points also for Gaga’s dress. The men who dressed great were Chadwick Boseman, Daniel Craig (hey, he’s 007), and Mahershala Ali, who always looks good.

On the bad side, oof, Stephan James and that red tuxedo, my wife was really not a fan. And Kacey Musgraves looked like the cotton candy display at the county fair.

— Enjoyed the Death Montage as always, really thought Penny Marshall should’ve been the Hammer at the end, but hey, Albert Finney was fabulous too, so no beef.

— So Alfonso Cuaron won for Best Director, the 5th time the last six years a Mexican-born filmmaker has taken that prize.

So the beautiful people from the New York Times Twitter feed made this to celebrate, and of course mock the idiot in Chief:

— Can we get a buddy road trip movie starring Spike Lee and Barbra Streisand, please? Like you WOULDN’T go see that? Two kids from Brooklyn who made it big, driving from New York to L.A., and having adventures along the way. I’ll buy my ticket for that now.

— This is hilarious: Apparently Trevor Noah, while discussing “Black Panther,” mentioned a phrase in the Xhosa language, “‘Abelungu abazi ubu ndiyaxoka’- which means, ‘In times like these, we are stronger when we fight together than when we try to fight apart.”

But in reality, many Africans on Twitter pointed out, that phrase he spoke actually translates to “White people don’t know I’m lying.”

Brilliant. Maybe Trevor should host the show next year.

The craziest Oscars ending ever, my jaw is on the floor, and what the hell happened? Oh yeah, the rest of the show was great.

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It’s 2:11 a.m. New York time, I’m exhausted and wired and still kind of in shock.

So, you know, typical Sunday.

Look, I had this whole Oscars blog post pretty much written by midnight. As you’ll read, I loved the telecast though I’m sure many didn’t. I loved who won (except for Casey Affleck who robbed Denzel), I thought Jimmy Kimmel was a terrific host, and the whole thing was done.

All I needed was a quick few paragraphs at the top about who won Best Picture, whether I was happy or sad about it, and boom. I’m off to bed.

Instead, I’ve spent the last few hours scouring Twitter and the Internet trying, like a million other people, to find out what in the hell happened at the end there.

“La La Land” won Best Picture. Their producers and director and actors all go up on stage, they make their speeches, oh well, I was hoping for “Hidden Figures” or “Moonlight” to win, but whatever.

Then there are men running around behind the “La La Land” folks, looking all frantic. Then the guys at the microphone are looking around crazily. And then it turns out… well, if you didn’t see it, watch this craziness:

I mean, HOW THE HELL DOES THAT HAPPEN? The wrong winner is called out in front of a billion people for the most important award of them all? Craziness.
So many thoughts: First, what a horrible feeling for both “winners” of Best Picture. The “La La Land” folks spent two or three minutes feeling better than they’ve ever felt, they’ve made it, they’ve won! And then… it’s ripped away.

And the “Moonlight” folks! They were robbed of the incredible moment of hearing their names called for the biggest award they’ll likely ever win. They think they’ve lost, then they find out they won and rush onstage. Craziness. (An aside many pointed out on Twitter: Can you imagine if it happened the other way around? If a film made by African-Americans, starring African-Americans, was announced as the winner and then it was changed? You would’ve heard the screaming from L.A. to New York).

— So how did this happen? Well, turns out there are two people, one on each side of the stage, who hold the envelopes for all 24 awards. There are duplicates of each envelope so depending on whichever side of the stage the presenters walk out on, they can grab the correct envelope.

Emma Stone held on to her envelope that said she won Best Actress, and apparently somehow when Warren Beatty and Faye Dunaway walked out, Beatty took the OTHER envelope for Best Actress instead of the Best Picture one.
If you watch, you can see Beatty looks confused, like he knows something is wrong, and Dunaway just saw “La La Land” at the end of the Best Actress card and read it.

Just amazing. The documentary about how this happened will win an Oscar one day.
And one more coherent thought before I drift off: Why didn’t the 2 people who hold the envelopes realize that each of them STILL had the Best Picture envelope in their hands when Beatty/Dunaway walked out, and raise hell then? Like tell somebody in charge or something?

Nuts. But I’m so, so glad “Moonlight” won. Fantastic picture. OK, off to bed. Here’s all the stuff I wrote before the biggest screw-up in Hollywood award show history…

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Sunday night was the 2017 Oscars, or as they were known heading in, “Hey, #OscarsnotsoWhite anymore!”

Jimmy Kimmel was hosting for the first time (he did a real nice job, and the dropping Junior Mints and other candy from the ceiling was pretty clever), and we had some fresh winners, excellent speeches, and overall a pretty terrific show (your opinion may vary)

Some thoughts on a pretty entertaining telecast:

— Gotta start with the great and deserving winners: Viola Davis, my goodness, what a tremendous speech. Emotional, poignant, thanking everyone in the cast of the fantastic “Fences” movie, and then closing with an extraordinary tribute to her parents, thanking God that they were her first role models and caretakers.

Also loved that Mahershala Ali won for “Moonlight,” (the first-ever Muslim winner of an Oscar, so take that Steve Bannon), and that the “Moonlight” director Barry Jenkins and screenwriter Tarell Alvin McRaney won for Best Screenplay, and I thought the music awards for “La La Land” were well-deserved.

— I thought the opening was pretty novel, getting all the movie stars on their feet and dancing while Justin Timberlake did his thing (I love that song.) Very cool seeing Denzel and Jeff Bridges and the like having a good time.

And I thought Kimmel’s monologue was sharp, especially the hilarious part “mocking” Meryl Streep for being a highly overrated and unqualified actress, obviously a dig at Donald Trump’s ridiculous critique of Streep. She played along, but it looked like her husband still is mad at our President.

— Sara Bareilles, singing Joni Mitchell’s “Both Sides Now,” over the dead montage. Absolutely perfect. So achingly beautiful. 

— Actual conversation in my house when The Rock (Dwayne Johnson) came out to present:
Me: “Why is Dwayne Johnson at the Oscars, he can’t act.”
Wife: “I think he did one of the songs in the Monet movie.”
Me: “You mean “Moana?”
Wife: “Oh yeah, that.”

See, now I really want to see a musical about the French painter.

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— Awesome-looking celebs, according to the fashion expert in my house (my wife): Mahershala Ali (stunning in his tux); the three “Hidden Figures” women (particularly Taraji P. Henson, wow what a dress), Charlize Theron who will always look beautiful, and Dev Patel, a handsome man.
Badly-dressed celebs: Dakota Johnson (hideous dress),

— I’m sure lots of people hated it, but we loved the little historical montages about past winners of the big categories

— Very legitimate question. What the hell was Jennifer Aniston, who was never once in a good movie, doing in the second row at the Oscars? We saw her in the interminable (but kind of amusing) sketch where Kimmel gave random people on a bus tour a thrill of a lifetime. Seriously though, how does Aniston get such prime placement?

— Of course everyone was wondering if any of the winners would make political statements in their speeches, and there were a few jabs. Actor Mark Rylance’s statement about “being in opposition but not hatred” was pretty good.

But the sharpest critique came from someone who wasn’t there: Iranian director Asghar Farhadi, whose “The Salesman” won for best foreign film. He boycotted the awards telecast, but had a letter he wrote read, attacking Trump’s “inhuman” travel ban. It was powerful and necessary to remind the billion people watching around the world that millions upon millions of people disagree with this.

“Moonlight” is worth all the Oscar noms it got. 7 ways Trump really is Making America Great Again (not how he planned). And Alex Trebek raps on “Jeopardy” like only he can

Sometimes, you see a movie that has been lauded nearly universally and think “Really? This is what everyone is going nuts over?” (I kind of felt that way about “Traffic” all those years ago, and “Birdman” more recently.)

This is a school vacation week for here in the Northeast, so instead of trying to make middle-school kids be quiet in my weekly substitute teaching gig, I got to go see “Moonlight,” which has a 98 percent score on Rotten Tomatoes and was nominated for a bucuketload of Oscars.

And honestly, I wasn’t sure if I’d love it. The story, about a young African-American boy growing up in a poor section of Miami with a crack-addicted mother and a stranger who becomes a father figure, sounded like something I’d read and seen a hundred times before. Why would this be different?

Well… I shouldn’t have worried. “Moonlight” was outstanding. Really, really great. I don’t know if it was better than “Hidden Figures” or “Fences” or “LalaLand” or its other competition for Best Picture at next week’s Oscars, but it was a wonderful piece of film-making.

I have to start with the acting. The performances were sensational. The best was Mahershala Ali, who was only in the film for about 30 minutes but was so powerful as Juan, a drug dealer who serves as sort of a mentor to Chiron, the movie’s protagonist who we get to see at three different stages of his life.

Ali delivers his lines with such force, and meaning, and there’s one scene near the end of his time in the film that’s just devastating.
Naomie Harris, who plays Chiron’s drug-addicted mother, is also phenomenal, as are Trevante Rhodes (playing 25-year-old Chiron) and all the actors playing Chiron’s best friend, Kevin. (The director, Barry Jenkins, had different actors play the same characters as they grew up. Such a simple thing, but different than most movies try to do it, making a 22-year-old try to look 14, or something.)
The plot is a little slow but meaningful, and the direction is gorgeous: Every scene has a purpose. Chiron’s life is difficult throughout, but we truly see what an impact his awful childhood had on him when we see him as a grownup, falling into familiar Liberty City (a dirt-poor section of Miami) patterns and occupations, as he searches desperately for something good.

The last half-hour, as Chiron and Kevin reunite and have a very hard time with their feelings toward each other, is just achingly beautiful.

“Moonlight” hasn’t been a big box-office hit, because it doesn’t have famous actors or a huge studio behind it. But it’s really a terrific film, and I wouldn’t be surprised if it wins some Oscars. It would totally deserve them.

**Next up today, as the White House operates like “a fine-tuned machine” as our delusional President says, we have a pretty funny short video I enjoyed.

Donald Trump and the 7 ways he’s making America Great Again. I thought this was terrific (And a quick aside: So many GOP Congressmen across the country have been cancelling their town halls, so afraid to be held to account by their constituents. These men talk all the time about “being strong” and being “men of the people” and all that crap, and yet they’re too scared to talk to voters? Give. Me. A. Break.)

**And finally today, don’t we all enjoy Alex Trebek rapping clues on “Jeopardy?” Of course we do. Here was Alex rapping a whole category, called “Let’s Rap, Kids!”
I could watch this 50 times. Just mesmerizing and awesome.

Alex Trebek rapping…