Heather Watches The 2017 Oscars


It’s finally Oscar time – the Super Bowl for movie lovers. I ended my Oscar Death Race strong, binging 10 movies between Friday night and the Oscar kickoff show. This was a diverse year for movies, not only in the greatly improved ethnic diversity in the acting categories (#Oscarslesswhite) but also in the types of movies that were nominated. The Best Picture nominees cross many genres, more that they have done in recent years. There was also diversity in the acting categories in that many of the performances recognized in these categories were from movies that were not nominated for many other categories; this is especially true in the Best Actress category. This also made the Oscar Death Race a little harder this year, because it increased the number of movies that I needed to watch. I made it through a whopping 32 movies, which ain’t too shabby. If I had another week or so, I might have been able to finish. The quest continues.

As usual, I kept a running diary of my thoughts while watching the Oscar ceremony. And, as usual, I skipped the red carpet coverage because that’s not my jam; I don’t care much what people are wearing and my tolerance for pointless small talk is pretty low. I’m here to see who takes home the hardware. Let’s do this!

8:29 pm – Why does this nonsense start so late? This is one of the few times that I wish that I lived on the West Coast. It’s going to be a long night.

8:30 – Justin Timberlake kicks things off with a performance of “Can’t Stop This Feeling,” his nominated song from Trolls.


8:32 – Man, people in Hollywood really love grooving to JT.


8:33 – He couldn’t have thrown the rest of *NSYNC a bone and have him back him up?

8:34 – JT touched Ryan Gosling as he danced through the audience, so that was a mini-Mickey Mouse Club reunion for some of y’all.


8:35 – Not sure what was up with JT throwing that microphone across the stage. That was weird.

8:36 – LOL – shots fired at Mel Gibson.

8:37 – I’m guessing that this is leading up to a Matt Damon joke.

8:37 – Yup.

8:38 – “He went on to make a Chinese ponytail movie instead.”

8:38 – Kimmel’s not wrong – Trump makes the Oscars look less racist.

8:39 – “Black people saved NASA and white people saved jazz. That’s what I call progress.”

8:40 – That “happy ending” joke about Moonlight didn’t land.

8:41 – “We don’t discriminate in Hollywood over where you come from. We discriminate based on age and weight.”

8:43 – “Meryl Streep has phoned it in for more than 50 films over the course of her lackluster career.”

8:44 – She gets an “undeserved” standing ovation.


8:45 – “Nice dress. Is that an Ivanka?”

8:46: “It’s what most parents are still doing….supporting actors”

8:47 – Alicia Vikander here to present Best Supporting Actor. I have this going to Mahershala Ali, but this is a strong category overall.


8:48 – I would have also liked to see little Sunny Pawar get recognized for Lion. That kid is incredible in that movie.

8:50 – 1/1 – Congrats to Mahershala Ali for a stunning performance in Moonlight. I am tremendously happy for him. And he’s the first Muslim actor to win an Oscar.

Mahershala Ali accepts the award for best actor in a supporting role for "Moonlight" at the Oscars on Sunday, Feb. 26, 2017, at the Dolby Theatre in Los Angeles. (Photo by Chris Pizzello/Invision/AP)

(Photo by Chris Pizzello/Invision/AP)

8:51 – Thanking teachers is always a good move

8:52 – What a week for him– an Oscar and a new daughter in four days.

8:55 – Kimmel throws out any reporters. “We don’t like fake news. We like fake tans”

8:56 – Kate McKinnon and Jason Bateman here to present Best Makeup and Hairstyling.


8:56 – Sweet baby Jesus – Suicide Squad is now an Oscar winner. That just doesn’t seem right. I’m down to 1 out of 2.

8:59 – They at least dedicate the award to all the immigrants.

9:00 – McKinnon and Bateman back to present Best Costume Design. I went La La Land on this.

9:01 – Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them wins instead. Oh well 1/3. Let’s hope this isn’t the beginning of a La La Land backlash or my predictions are for crap.

9:07 – “Doctor Strange was named Secretary of Housing and Urban Development.”

9:07 – The ladies of Hidden Figures (Janelle Monae, Taraji P. Henson, and Octavia Spencer) are here to present Best Documentary Feature.


9:09 – They bring out the real Katherine Johnson (portrayed by Henson in the film). She gets a standing ovation.


9:10 – Fun fact – the Documentary category has the greatest diversity behind the camera. 4/5 directors in this category are people of color.

9:11 – A win for OJ: Made in America. I’m back on track. 2/4 This is an incredible documentary; well worth the time investment.

9:12 – He dedicates the award to Nicole Brown and Ron Goldman, as well as victims of police brutality.

9:13 – Kimmel: “OJ, you get an extra slice of bologna on your sandwich tonight.” The crowd doesn’t know how to react.

9:14 – Dwayne Johnson is here. And he’s singing! Well, briefly.


9:15 – He’s here to introduce “How Far I’ll Go” from Moana. Prologue by Lin-Manuel Miranda, performance by Auli’I Cravalho.

9:17 – I’m pretty sure one of the performers just knocked her in the head with the fabric. Get it together backup performers. She handled it like a pro though.


9:18 – She did a very nice job.

9:19 – Did I just hear that right? These commercials feature short films based on a Walmart receipt? Glad it isn’t my receipt – that short film would be “This girl buys too much ice cream and beer.”

9:22 – The people handing out awards are actually student Oscar winners.

9:23 – “A rare thing these days – a president that believes in arts and sciences.” Here’s Academy president Cheryl Boone Isaacs. This is her #Oscarslesswhite speech.

9:25 – Red Vines and Junior Mints are raining down from the sky. Those aren’t even good candies!


9:26 – Chris Evans and Sophia Boutella here to present Best Sound Editing. I picked Hacksaw Ridge since War movies tend to win these awards.


9:27 – A win for Arrival. Good for them, bad for me. 2/5

9:29 – Evans and Boutella return to present Best Sound Mixing. I boycotted this category because I didn’t want to have to watch Rouge One. That’s how strongly I feel about anything Star Wars related.

9:30 – Damn. Hacksaw Ridge won this one instead. I was right in theory, just picked the wrong category.

9:31 – Kevin O’Connell, one of the winners, just ended the longest Oscar-losing streak. This is his first win after being nominated 20 times. Good for him. That’s a nice story.


9:36 – “The story of a conscientious objector who still worked with Mel Gibson.”

9:36 – Vince Vaughn here to talk about the lifetime achievement awards.


9:36 – Jackie Chan was a winner – and has a stuffed panda sitting next to him in the box for some reason. (More on the panda)


9:38 – Other lifetime award winners were Anne Coates, Lynn Stalmaster, and Frederick Wiseman

9:40 – Mark Rylance is here to present Best Actress in a Supporting Role. He’s wearing a sweet hat.

Mark Rylance, right, presents Viola Davis with the award for best actress in a supporting role for "Fences" at the Oscars on Sunday, Feb. 26, 2017, at the Dolby Theatre in Los Angeles. (Photo by Chris Pizzello/Invision/AP)

(Photo by Chris Pizzello/Invision/AP)

9:42 – Obviously Viola Davis is going to win but I really wish Michelle Williams could also get an award. That scene they showed still wrecks me.

9:44 – That would have been anarchy if she didn’t win. Congrats to Viola Davis! She’s about to give a great speech. I can feel it. 3/6


9:46 – As usual, she’s flawless. And she just became the first black actor to win and Oscar, Emmy and Tony for acting. How do we get this woman a Grammy?

9:46 – Denzel gets an “O Captain, my captain.”

9:47 – True story – if I ever win an award, I’m going to see if I can get Viola Davis to give the speech for me.

9:47 – Did they just play “The Heat is On” as she walked off the stage? That was a peculiar choice.

9:54 – Whoa – they are surprising a tour bus group by bringing them into the Oscars. This could go either way.

9:55 – The Oscars apparently have a theme (like the prom?) so Charlize Theron talks about her inspiration Shirley MacLaine.

9:55 – Now the two of them are here to present Best Foreign Film. I had to punt this category since too many of them weren’t easily available for me to see.


9:56 – Ha! Shirley MacLaine makes a joke about her belief in reincarnation. That’s an oldie but a goodie.

9:58 – The Salesman win, which I really wanted to see. I enjoyed his film A Separation a lot.

9:58 – The director, Asghar Farhadi,  did not attend, a protest of Trump’s Muslim Ban. He sent a statement instead, which was important and also gracious. It was read by Anousheh Ansari, the first Iranian to go in to space.


10:00 – Dev Patel presents “The Empty Chair” from Jim: The James Foley Story, performed by Sting.


10:01 – I’m relatively meh on Sting overall but this is a beautiful song. Still have to watch the documentary that it’s from.

10:07 – Hailee Steinfeld and Gael García Bernal are here to present Best Animated Short. I didn’t see these either. Sacrifices had to be made, but I’m guessing Piper wins since that had some buzz.


10:09 – I’m a good guesser.

10:10 – Steinfeld and Bernal are back to present Best Animated Film. I didn’t see all of these either, but I really have to recommend Kudo and the Two Strings. That was really great. Moana was good too, but doesn’t need the bump.

10:11 – Zootopia takes home the gold. I’ll have to watch it now. I’ve heard good things.

10:13 – Jamie Dornan and Dakota Johnson present Best Production Design. I went La La Land on this one too; that was my general fallback position on the technical awards.


10:14 – Thank goodness! I was getting worried that Suicide Squad had more Oscars than La La Land. 4/7

10:16 – Here comes the tourists!

10:17 – The audience yelled Merhershala on the count of three.

10:17 – These tourists seem pretty nonplussed about all this.

10:18 – I love that Ryan Gosling is shaking everyone’s hand.


10:19 – This tourist Gary is stealing the show. He’s kissing everyone’s hand.


10:20 – I would believe that Denzel has the power to marry people.


10:20 – Jennifer Aniston gives her sunglasses as a wedding present.

10:20 “This is not a vagrant, this is Academy Award nominated actor Casey Affleck.”

10:20 – “Ignore the jerk behind him”

10:22 – That segment was fine, but it went on too long. Should have just been Gary and his fiancée (maybe now wife?) Vicki.

10:28 – A return from commercial break with…a tribute to the movies. Now with more subtitles, which Middle America just loves.

10:29 – Felicity Jones and Riz Ahmed are here to present Best Visual Effects. I picked The Jungle Book. But this is a good time to put in another plug for Kubo and the Two Strings.

10:31 – Whoo-who! Jungle Book wins! 5/8

10:33 – Seth Rogen was inspired by Michael J. Fox in Back to the Future. I bet I can predict what’s about to happen next.

10:33 – Yup – here’s Rogen and Fox, who arrive in a DeLorean (that last part is a surprise).


10:35 – Rogen even has future shoes.


10:35 – “All I have to do is sing the Schuyler Sister and I’ll have completed my bucket list.”

10:35 – Lin-Manuel Miranda is freaking delighted by this bit, but in fairness he’s delighted by everything.


10:35 – Fox and Rogen are here to present Best Film Editing. Assume I went La La Land.

10:37 – Nope – Hacksaw Ridge wins. That was my least favorite of all the Best Picture nominees. I’m not a war movie girl. I didn’t like Saving Private Ryan, which is blasphemy to a lot of people. 5/9

10:38 – Yay! It’s my pal Sunny Pawar.

10:39 – They are Lion King-ing this kid and more candy falls from the sky.


10:39 – Sunny requested Lemonheads and Mike & Ikes which is even more of a reason to like this kid. #teammikeandike

10:43 – Salma Heyek and David Oyelowo here to present Best Documentary Short. I have never seen these. They are tough to find. I’ve heard of White Helmets so that would be my guess.


10:44 – I should stop wasting time actually watching these movies and just guess. White Helmets for the win.

10:45 – This is a big night for people reading statements from others.

10:46 – That was a nice statement, but that guy also just tricked everyone into giving him a standing ovation.

10:47 – Hayek and Oyelowo are back to present Best Live Action Short. I had to skip these too this year, which is too bad as I really enjoy them. Just ran out of time.

10:47 – Sing wins. I hadn’t heard much about these nominees, but will have to check it out. And no, it’s not the animated film.

10:49 – Kimmel is worried that Trump hasn’t tweeted about the Oscars, so he sends Donald tweets.

10:50 – John Cho and Leslie Mann are here to talk about the sci-tech awards, which already happened (and which they hosted).


10:56 – Ummm….do I want to know why Jack the Ripper is trending on Twitter?


10:56 – Here’s Javier Bardem talking about his inspiration Meryl Streep.

10:57 – And what do you know – here are Bardem and Streep to present Best Cinematography. Y’all know what I picked. And this category is the damn reason I had to watch Silence, which was fine but I would rather watched at home.


10:59 – Whew – La La Land. We’re back in business. 6/10

11:01 – Kimmel sends his sympathies for what happened in Sweden (nothing happened in Sweden).

11:01 – Oscar Mean Tweets. Not my favorite bit. Though that dog did look like Tilda Swinton.

11:02 – And I’m totally willing to believe that Miles Teller requests “Gangnam Style” at weddings.

11:03 – Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone here to, I don’t know, look gorgeous?

Ryan Gosling, left, and Emma Stone introduce a performance at the Oscars on Sunday, Feb. 26, 2017, at the Dolby Theatre in Los Angeles. (Photo by Chris Pizzello/Invision/AP)

(Photo by Chris Pizzello/Invision/AP)

11:03 – Nah – they are introducing songs from La La Land, which john Legend is performing.

11:05 – The set design is great.

11:12 – Jimmy Kimmel chats with Lin-Manuel Miranda in the audience.

11:12 – Matt Damon trips Kimmel as he walks down the aisle.

11:13 – Samuel L. Jackson here to present Best Original Score.

11:13 – Why is the camera shot so far away? A close-up would make more sense here, not a wide shot. Though Jackson’s jacket is pretty cool.

11:15 – The Oscar goes to La La Land. Because if your movie is a musical and you can’t win this, maybe rethink your career choices.7/11

11:16 – Scarlett Johansson is here to present the award for Best Original Song.

Scarlett Johansson arrives at the Oscars on Sunday, Feb. 26, 2017, at the Dolby Theatre in Los Angeles. (Photo by Richard Shotwell/Invision/AP)

(Photo by Richard Shotwell/Invision/AP)

11:17 – And the winner is “City of Stars” from La La Land. Lin-Manuel Miranda’s EGOT will have to wait. 7/12

11:18 – “This is dedicated to all the kids who sing in the rain and all the moms who let them.”

11:19 – Jennifer Aniston pulls the downer slot and introduces the “In Memoriam” segment.


11:20 – Sara Bareilles performs “Both Sides Now” by Joni Mitchell.

11:21 – So many people died in 2016 that this may take forever. *Update – they messed this up too, using the photo of a woman who is still alive in the montage. These Oscars are a hot mess.*

11:24 – Carrie Fisher pulls the power position of being the final person, upstaging her mom. Something kind of poetic about that, given their relationship.

11:27 – Kimmel pokes fun of the inspiration theme by talking about Matt Damon in We Bought a Zoo.

11:29 – “Two-time Academy Award winner Ben Affleck and guest” are here to present Best Original Screenplay.


11:29 – Matt Damon is being played off as he is presenting.

11:30 – I picked The Lobster since this award tends to recognize the stuff that is too weird to win in other categories. I don’t think it will win, but I like the idea of that.

11:31 – Nope. Manchester By the Sea wins. I’m not counting this against me though since I was making picks based on my preferences. Plus no one cares how many I got right other than me.

11:33 – Amy Adams is here to present Best Adapted Screenplay. She should have been nominated for Arrival.


11:33 – Not for nothing, this ceremony was supposed to end three minutes ago.

11:34 – Hooray! A win for Moonlight!!!!! GO SEE THIS MOVIE! It was so good I couldn’t find the words to review it.

11:36 – Now cookies and doughnuts have rained down on the crowd. “It’s like a horror movie – gluten is literally falling from the sky.”

11:37 – No one gets more excited for food at these ceremonies than Taraji P. Henson. She has the best reactions.


11:38 – If I ever host the Oscars, everyone is getting In-N-Out burgers (animal style) and Roscoe’s chicken and waffles.

11:41 – Halle Berry is here to present Best Director. This will be telling. If Damien Chazelle doesn’t win, that could be trouble for La La Land.

Halle Berry presents the award for best director at the Oscars on Sunday, Feb. 26, 2017, at the Dolby Theatre in Los Angeles. (Photo by Chris Pizzello/Invision/AP)

(Photo by Chris Pizzello/Invision/AP)

11:43 – And Chazelle comes up with the win. This dude is 32 freaking years old. I’ve done nothing with my life.


11:47 – Brie Larson will present the award for Best Actor. I’m still not sure how this one is going to shake out. I think it’s between Casey Affleck and Denzel Washington.


11:49 – They chose Ryan Gosling “mansplaining” jazz to Emma Stone as his clip? That’s like the worst scene in the film.

11:51 – Casey Affleck pulls it off. His performance is tremendous – he does so much in that film, so quietly. But the allegations made against him shouldn’t fade away because of this.


11:54 – Leonardo DiCaprio presents the award for Best Actress.


11:54 – I’m almost rooting for Natalie Portman to win just because she isn’t there and that would speed this whole thing up.

11:55 – Elle is a film that I still don’t know what I think about it. Isabelle Huppert was compelling to watch, but I think the fact that entire film is in French hurts her chances.

11:57 – Emma Stone wins for La La Land. She made that movie and gave the performance of her career, so this is worthy.


12:02 – Warren Beatty and Faye Dunaway are here to present the award for Best Picture. This is a reminder that I still haven’t seen Bonnie and Clyde.


12:08 – La La Land finishes strong and takes home Best Picture. But you should still see Moonlight.

12:11 – Hold up. What is happening? Did Moonlight really win? Did Warren Beatty f*ck this up? Are they calling an audible? Did someone hear about my fantasy ballot?


12:11 – OMG – they gave them the wrong envelope with the Best Actress winner instead. La La Land didn’t win.


12:12 – OMG – Moonlight did actually win?


12:13 – This is real life. Moonlight won! Hooray!


12:13 – This is what happens when they don’t do the bit where they thank the accountants.

12:13 – But how completely heartbreaking for the La La Land folks. They were gracious but that is just devastating. And how terrible for Moonlight that their big moment is marred by this awkwardness. And Warren Beatty was set up to fail. Just a disaster for everyone involved.

12:13 – Did Gary have something to do with all this?

12:14 – Well, I guess that’s why you watch until the end. People who turned off the TV after the announcement are going to be so confused tomorrow morning.

This puts things in terms that I am familiar with:

What a wild finish! People say that the Oscars are boring, but that was a straight up bananas ending. At least Steve Harvey is off the hook.

Heather’s Oscar Ballot


For some reason, the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences has failed to extend membership to me. Probably some sort of bureaucratic oversight. It’s their loss, really, since they are denied having my insight into what movies and performances deserve an Oscar. But there’s no reason that you should have to suffer because of their short-sightedness, so tonight I present to you who I would have voted for if I had been an Academy member. This isn’t necessarily the same thing as who I think is going to win; I’m going with my heart here and letting the chips fall where they may. I’ve also only made picks for the categories where I have seen the majority of the nominees. So without any further ado, here’s my fantasy Oscar ballot:

Best Picture: Moonlight (La La Land will likely win)

Best Actor: Casey Affleck, Manchester By The Sea

Best Actress: Emma Stone, La La Land

Best Supporting Actor: Marshala Ali, Moonlight

Best Supporting Actress: Viola Davis, Fences

Best Director: Damien Chazelle, La La Land

Best Documentary Feature: OJ: Made in America

Cinematography: La La Land

Costume Design: La La Land

Film Editing: La La Land

Makeup and Hairstyling: A Man Called Ove

Original Score: La La Land

Original Song: How Far I’ll Go,” Moana (Like I’m not picking Lin-Manuel Miranda)

Production Design: La La Land

Sound Editing: Hacksaw Ridge

Visual Effects: The Jungle Book

Original Screenplay: The Lobster

Adapted Screenplay: Moonlight

Manchester By The Sea – A Review


Here’s a good rule of thumb – if Kyle Chandler shows up in a movie, it’s probably good. I’m sure that there are exceptions to this, but in general it holds up. Chandler is rarely the star – he always has a small but significant part – yet he has demonstrated pretty good taste in choosing the movies in which he appears after his role as Coach Eric Taylor on Friday Night Lights. Carol, Zero Dark Thirty, The Wolf of Wall Street, and Argo all have two things in common – Kyle Chandler turns up and all of them received Oscar nominations. The Spectacular Now was an indie darling. His presence is often a pleasant surprise; rarely do I go into a movie expecting to see Chandler, but like the harbinger of good things, I am always relieved to see his face. If it’s good enough for Kyle Chandler, it’s probably good enough for me.

So I was delighted when I discovered that Chandler has a role in Manchester By The Sea. I had gone into the movie knowing very little about the plot and while the film had a lot of positive buzz around it, I wasn’t fully sure what to expect. Enter Kyle Chandler stage right and I knew everything was going to be fine. Manchester By The Sea is a drama that is sad and tragic, but also occasionally has moments of humor and lightness. The story is simple, but the characters are incredibly complex; the actors that inhabit them give beautifully nuanced performances that leave an impression. At times, Manchester By The Sea can be unbearably sad. I cried many times while watching it in the theater and I really hate doing that. But there is beauty in that sadness, a compelling story about loss, grief, and family.

Casey Affleck stars as Lee Chandler, a janitor for an apartment complex in Quincy, Massachusetts. Lee is a loner and seems ready to lash out at the world, especially after he has been drinking. When his brother Joe (Kyle Chandler) dies, Lee is surprised to discover that he has been named the guardian of his teenaged nephew Patrick (Lucas Hedges). Taking care of Patrick requires Lee to move back to Manchester-by-the-Sea, where he is forced to face his own tragic history, personified by his ex-wife Randi (Michelle Williams). Lee tries to help Patrick through his own grief while battling his own demons.

There is no doubt that Manchester By The Sea is a sad movie, but it also finds the humor in grief. There are a lot of humorous exchanges between Lee and Patrick as they explore the unchartered waters of their new reality. Patrick is a good kid, but he’s also a bit of a wiseass and both he and Lee are undoubtedly using comedy to help them deal with the death of Joe. This humor helps balance Manchester By The Sea out; the film can delve into some very dark territory but the viewer never feels like they are completely drowning in sadness because there is inevitable some laughs around the corner. They cut the tension and make Manchester a better movie.

Casey Affleck really delivers a powerhouse performance; as more facets are revealed of Lee’s past, Affleck plays the many different notes of his personality in a natural and understated way. There’s a lot going on with Lee and the film is not afraid to make him completely unlikable one minute and deeply sympathetic the next. Affleck really disappears into the role, inhabiting all the complex and conflicting attributes. Lee really is trying to be there for his nephew in this time of sorrow, but Lee also cannot outrun the past that he is forced to reckon with. There’s a lot going on in this role, but it always feels real and Affleck’s performance is lived in and natural. Casey often toils in the shadow of his more famous older brother, but Manchester is a tour de force performance that solidifies that the talent in the Affleck family runs pretty deep.

Newcomer Lucas Hedges holds his own in the film as well and deserves the critical recognition that he’s received. Hedges and Affleck have excellent on-screen rapport and Hedges feels like a real teenager – overwhelmed by grief, but also a little selfish and self-centered, focused on what everything means to him rather than anyone else. Michelle Williams, who is one of my personal favorites, doesn’t have a ton of screen time but makes the most of what limited time she has with a heartbreaking and devastating performance. There is a scene between her and Affleck toward the end of the movie that just destroyed me and made you feel the pain of both of these characters. They have dealt with their past in very different ways and though they share a history, they cannot seem to figure out a way to help each other without causing more heartache. If Viola Davis wasn’t submitting herself in the supporting actress category this year, I think Williams would have been the frontrunner to win. It’s been nearly a month since I’ve seen this movie, but her scene with Affleck is still the first thing I think about when I hear a reference to this movie. That’s how powerful it was.

I really enjoyed Manchester By The Sea, at least as much as you can enjoy a film with this subject matter. The acting is strong across the board and while the story is emotionally challenging, it is told in a beautiful and artistic way. Casey Affleck is currently the frontrunner for Best Actor at the Oscars and while his personal history may (rightly) jeopardize that, on a purely artistic level this is perhaps the best performance of his career. Manchester By The Sea is chock full of realistic depictions of grief and what happens when running away from your demons is no longer an option. The characters feel real and their journeys are authentic; while they are all impacted by their ordeal, they are not completely transformed. This is a heavy movie that is tempered by its interludes of lightness. It’s a film that has stuck with me, which is one reason that it took me so long to review as I struggled to articulate why it was so captivating. And, for the record, in his limited screen time, Kyle Chandler is, as always, aces.

Manchester By The Sea is currently in theaters.