We did it guys!
We’ve done it again, New Zealand: against the odds, Kiwis have taken on Tinseltown and gone home the victor.
As ever, the 89th Academy Awards were an event of spectacle and splendour. Stars mingled, speeches were spoken and shiny, shiny trophies were handed out.
To whom, you ask?
In the inherently collaborative industry of cinema, there is no easy answer to this question. Sure there are the winners: winners like Wellington film editor John Gilbert, awarded Best Editing Oscar for his work on Hacksaw Ridge, or Weta Digital’s Dan Lemmon who took home the Oscar for Best Visual Effects for The Jungle Book alongside fellow animators.
But are these two noble New Zealanders our only success stories of last night? Not by a long shot.
One way or another, we Kiwis have wormed our way deep into the hearts and minds of Hollywood’s greatest and, humble as we may be, the Oscars was a night to celebrate our success.
And celebrate we did.
Best Supporting Actor: Mahershala Ali for Moonlight
Paying tribute to his new baby son as he accepted the award, one could not help but recall Mahershala’s appearance in The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part One, the soundtrack for which was curated and produced by our very own wunderkind Lorde. Penning the hit song Yellow Flicker Beat especially for the film, it is hard to imagine Mahershala was not inspired by Takapuna’s best and brightest as he walked the path to greatness. Nice one, Mahershala!
Best Supporting Actress: Viola Davis for Fences
Viola’s first Oscar, the prize puts her on par with one-time co-star Ben Kingsley, alongside whom she performed in 2013’s Ender's Game in which he played a Māori war hero. With Sir Ben taking a keen interest in the culture he appropriated, Viola was no doubt privy to some fascinating discussions of New Zealand’s indigenous customs and culture. Anytime Viola!
Best Original Screenplay: Kenneth Lonergan for Manchester by the Sea
Renowned for his writing talent, it was no surprise when Lonergan picked this one up. A frequent collaborator with Kiwi sensation and Oscar-winner Anna Paquin, Lonergan’s last put his screenwriting skills to use creating 2011’s Margaret as a starring vehicle for the actress. Bonded for life by this very special experience, Lonergan’s success could hardly be imagined without her. You’re welcome, Kenneth!
Best Director: Damien Chazelle for La La Land
Chazelle (whose screenplay for 2013’s Grand Piano was brought to life by honorary Kiwi and OG hobbit Elijah Wood) thanked La La Land’s stars, including actor Ryan Gosling. Memorably spending his formative years in Auckland filming classic television show Young Hercules, Gosling’s star power now can arguably be traced straight back to that pivotal role. Would Chazelle be where he is today without our small Island nation? Guess we’ll never know, Damien!
Best Actress: Emma Stone for La La Land
Stone’s breathless acceptance speech was humble and gracious, qualities she no doubt picked up from one-time co-star and proud Kiwi export Melanie Lynskey, with whom Stone worked on the short-lived 2007 television series Drive. We’re on to you Emma!
Best Actor: Casey Affleck for Manchester by the Sea
Against the odds (and serious sexual harassment allegations) Casey Affleck proved once more that Hollywood loves an underdog! Affleck will be remembered by Kiwis everywhere for his star turn in 2007’s The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford, directed by our very own Andrew Dominik, and no doubt the antipodean auteur was in the troubled actor’s thoughts as he took to the podium.
Celebrating with brother Ben last night, quite possibly with a round of NZ Lager, the two will likely have reminisced back to just four years earlier when the elder Affleck used his own Oscar win to express his love for our fair nation at the 2013 ceremony. Cheers Ben, we love it too!
Best Picture: Moonlight
Of course, the crescendo of the night was the brouhaha caused when Warren Beatty and Faye Dunaway accidentally named La La Land the recipient of Best Picture when it was in fact awarded to the stunning and deserving Moonlight.
Beatty apologised to the crowd stating the kerfuffle was due to an envelope switcheroo.
Yet, watching the slowly dawning horror on the faces of La La Land’s cast and crew, one could not help but think of a tweet penned on the 22nd of December 2016 by Sonja Yelich, renowned poet and mother of the single greatest living New Zealander, warning the public at large that La La Land “made me want to dig my eyes out with a raw carrot”.
Perhaps it was a gaffe. Perhaps it was a conspiracy. Who’s to say?
But maybe, just maybe, there really was a little Kiwi magic in the air last night.