For most of the last 16 years, I covered the Oscars — a few times from the ballroom of the Renaissance (now the Loews Hollywood) Hotel at Hollywood & Highland, more often from my desk at CNN Center. Inevitably, the show would end past midnight here on the East Coast — and then I’d be at work for another hour or two, putting the finishing touches on the wrap story and making sure all the galleries worked. Sleep came sometime between 2:30 and 3 a.m.
I’m no longer at CNN — some of my old tasks have long since fallen to the amazing Lisa Respers France, who has supervised Oscar Night for awhile and done an amazing job (especially with social media, which didn’t exist in the Old Days) — so last night I did something I haven’t done since 2000: I hosted my Team Trivia show at Manuel’s Tavern, came home, watched the Oscars for a bit … and went to sleep.
So I had no idea how things ended until this morning.
I thought I’d wake up to the news that “La La Land” had won handily, or that “Moonlight” had pulled off an upset. I didn’t think I’d see both.
It’s both a shame and a wonderment that the Oscars had to end in such controversy. A shame because it may feed into the narrative of crumbling institutions and astonishing (if not necessarily bad) outcomes. (It’s been that kind of year: Brexit, the Cubs, Trump, the Super Bowl and now the Oscars. What’s next — gravity?) When I heard the news, I couldn’t help but think: Was Bud Selig handling the ballots?
But wonder, too, because of the obvious admiration between the “La La Land” and “Moonlight” gangs and the classy way both sides handled the fiasco. I’m a huge Damien Chazelle fan, and though I thought “La La Land” was only good, not great (well, until that amazing sucker-punch ending), the guy has talent to spare and soul, too. And “Moonlight”? What beauty from director Barry Jenkins.
I can only hope the two of them continue to make powerful, original movies, along with the already underrated J.C. Chandor, the terrific Ava DuVernay and other relative newcomers, like David Mackenzie and Sarah Polley. We need more movies like “La La Land” and “Moonlight” (and “All Is Lost” and “Selma” and “Hell or High Water” and “Stories We Tell”), not fewer. (The comic-book blockbusters will take care of themselves.) If this controversy helps bring more attention to those movies — and the Oscars have always been about attention and marketing — all the better.
And next year, I guess I’ll stay up late.