The 2017 Oscars will be forever remembered as a debacle over naming the “Best Picture” in a mixup that was more human than mechanical, and for that pleasure, I’m grateful. We continue to prove, even in our dearest moments, we are not beyond the touch of the fallible, and that we are mortally are bound to fail — by proxy of The Gods — for even tempting to create beauty over form, and meaning over function.
I thought it was delicious “La La Land” was mistakenly named Best Picture until “Moonlight” shone on as the winner — because that moment in amber proves why Art must never be a competition — even though many strive to make it just that.
Art must always be heretical — sometimes that means losing for winning.
Art must always be heuristic — and force us to find our way in the dark only by the navigation of our own inner light, and there’s no better teacher against the depths than a false win inside a cheering auditorium. The winner is humbled. The loser is lifted.
Art must never be a game of taking and giving and who has the highest bid and which actor is paid more than another. Yes, I understand this is “showBUSINESS” and not “showSHOW” — but would it be such a terrible thing to take the economic dagger from our backs, for just a moment, to delight in the creation of beauty, and not in the color of the bottom line of the bank account?
When Dustin Hoffman won Best Actor in 1980 for “Kramer vs. Kramer” — he gave an acceptance speech that both bothered me and thrilled me — and that dyad has stayed with me, and inspired me, for over 37 years. Here is my delight:
I refuse to believe that I beat Jack Lemmon, that I beat Al Pacino, that I beat Peter Sellers. I refuse to believe that Robert Duvall lost. We are a part of an artistic family. There are sixty thousand actors in this Academy – pardon me – in the Screen Actors Guild, and probably a hundred thousand in Equity. And most actors don’t work, and a few of us are so lucky to have a chance to work with writing and to work with directing. Because when you’re a broke actor you can’t write; you can’t paint; you have to practice accents while you’re driving a taxi cab. And to that artistic family that strives for excellence, none of you have ever lost and I am proud to share this with you. And I thank you.
Here’s the video of Dustin’s acceptance speech:
I was bothered that he didn’t do the right — and more memorable thing — and leave his Oscar behind on the podium, and walk away from the award. Now that would have been a moment to believe in for generations of Actors and Artisans and Craftspeople to come!
Much of the 2017 Oscars coverage also dealt with SuperGenius Lin-Manuel Miranda NOT winning EGOT last night — the Emmy-Grammy-Oscar-Tony — even though Forbes initially got it wrong, and then corrected their error later. A Google search is forever, while the truth remains feral!
Some were also overwhelmed with the notion of Miranda losing as a PEGOT — the “P” is for “Pulitzer” — but what those disappointed fail to understand is that a career cannot be measured by box office alone, or by awards bound together with acronyms, or by any kind of memoriam, because to do so merely denigrates the process of the life in the struggle.
We have sadly set up our society to only celebrate a winner, and to brand everyone else losers.
I urgently argue giving out awards is the wrong way to create depth and meaning in an inclusive society with a vibrant culture — because winners are chosen by the majority for many reasons — not all of them right and depreciated.
There are a thousand arcs and valleys in winning any award, and none of all that has anything to do with intention or interstitial. Does anyone really believe “Moonlight” is “better” than “La La Land” except — of course — for the voting Academy that hands out awards to their own with the condescending intention of separating instead of unifying?