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Oscar with a Twist

Somebody at PriceWaterhouse Coopers has been busted down to the mail room.

That's the only conceivable reaction to the kerfuffle that ended an otherwise smooth but overlong Academy Awards broadcast Feb. 26. I'm not sure who I felt sorrier for: the makers of "La La Land," for having their hopes dashed; the makers of "Moonlight" for having their big moment trampled on; or Warren Beatty, Faye Dunaway and Jimmy Kimmel for being made to look foolish in a mixup that was not their fault.

That said, I'm glad that "Moonlight," a delicate masterpiece, beat "La La Land," a well-made and tuneful commercial film. Both films, of course, did very well that night. But "Moonlight" is one of those highly personal, lyrical films that too often get lost in the shuffle. It wasn't my favorite film this year--that was "Hell or High Water"--but it is a totally deserving winner.

Some things that were revealed after the ceremony were more dispiriting. Casey Affleck's Best Actor victory for "Manchester by the Sea" unleashed a spate of new articles describing exactly what he was accused of saying and doing in the two sexual harassment suits filed against him in 2010. I never saw those details until now. I want to think they are untrue, or at least exaggerated--but how can I? I still think Affleck's performance was magnificent, but my happiness at his winning is now, shall we say, mitigated.

Though this is a lesser issue, I was also saddened to read about how Theodore Melfi, director and co-screenwriter of Best Picture nominee "Hidden Figures," changed the details of the story. Everyone who has seen the movie knows about how Katherine Johnson was forced to walk a half-mile to the only "colored" women's restroom at NASA, until her supervisor Al Harrison took action on her behalf. However, Margot Lee Shetterly's book tells the real story--that Johnson simply defied the rules and used the white women's restroom, a courageous and dangerous act in the segregated South. It isn't uncommon for movies based on true stories to change the facts. But, as the author of the article I read pointed out, no black screenwriter or director would have made that change.

In any case, Oscar season is over for another year, and we await what Hollywood will bring us in 2017, for good or ill.

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