If you are one of those now rare birds who 1) watches the Oscars at all and 2) watches it on a “television set,” then surely you’ll remember an MTV show called Punk’d. Seemingly little known now, it was the thing to watch at its outset in 2003. Perfecting the art of the celebrity prank, Kutcher played games with the minds of the likes of Justin Timberlake, Kanye West, Lindsay Lohan and Taylor Swift. Though the show ended as we knew it in terms of Kutcher being the host back in 2007, the former Demi Moore boy toy resuscitated it last night by seeming to possess the events of the evening, as well as Jimmy Kimmel and the producers of the 89th Annual Academy Awards.
From the zaniness of setting up Starline tour bus riders to enter the Dolby Theater completely unaware that they would be walking into the Oscars to Chrissy Teigen falling asleep in her chair, there was no shortage of tomfoolery to set the tone for a highly political Oscar year. But even politics can find room for humor (in fact, it’s the only way to cope with it at the moment)–as evidenced by Kimmel tweeting at Donald Trump: “hey @realDonaldTrump, u up?” and “#Merylsayshi” in response to the “president’s” lack of tweeting about the Oscars and his general beef with Meryl Streep. Indeed, political messages peppered the evening from the very beginning, starting with Suicide Squad (yes, to all the haters, it now has an Oscar) winning for Best Makeup and Hairstyling from Alessandro Betrolazzi, Giorgio Gregorini and Christopher Nelson. In case you can’t tell, that’s a lot of Italians for one mainstream stage, and Bertolazzi did not waste the opportunity to highlight his Italianness by declaring, “I’m from Italy, I work around the world. This is for all the immigrants.” This sentiment also reached a peak when Asghar Farhadi’s Iranian movie The Salesman won for Best Foreign Picture. Instead of subjecting himself to the conditions of entering the U.S. under Trump travel ban fuckery, Farhadi had the acceptance speech read on his behalf, slamming the actions of the U.S. government by writing, “My absence is out of respect for the people of my country, and those of the other six nations who have been disrespected by the inhumane law that bans entry of immigrants to the U.S.”
The night moved along at a fairly steady clip from then, barring those uncomfortable moments of having to see Hollywood icons you once knew as young suddenly look gray as fuck (Ben Affleck, Matt Damon–the Casey Affleck bodyguards, of a sort). And yes, Shirley MacLaine, Michael J. Fox, Faye Dunaway and Warren Beatty all looked as though they had been given a new battery for the evening.
The Punk’d elements continued to arise in the form of both Best Actor and Best Actress winners for the night, Casey Affleck and Emma Stone. Are you fucking serious? For a start, Affleck is a sexual assaulter (proving, once again, that Hollywood is the ultimate safehouse for sexual predators). Paired with a speech that was as embarrassingly banal as Manchester by the Sea itself in terms of being merely a showcase of white boy problems, Affleck at least kept it brief. And then there’s Stone, the Taylor Swift of the cinema world, whose win was mainly egregious for usurping Isabelle Huppert’s far superior performance in Elle.
Of course, Kutcher body-snatched the envelope accountants for his pièce de résistance, the false announcement of La La Land as the winner for Best Picture, creating a very Kanye “I’ma let you finish but…” moment in the form of Jordan Horowitz giving his thank you speech and then handing the award to the Moonlight cast and crew. It was during this historic scene that honorary gay men like myself wondered what Madonna’s diabolical facial expression must have been while watching Warren Beatty stumble through the announcement process.
Elsewhere, Kutcher seemed to have a chuckle at keeping The Lobster from winning for Best Original Screenplay, allowing, instead, the far less inventive Manchester by the Sea to take the award. The choice of The Lobster for greatness was, one supposes, too obvious. And he even managed to trick the ultimate Hollywood film insiders by putting the wrong picture of deceased costume designer Janet Patterson (best known for The Piano and Bright Star) in the In Memoriam tribute, instead using a photo of producer Jan Chapman.
In the realm of Punk’d, these hijinks would have been all elaborately planned, a foil to make light of just how gaffe-laden the current administration is and how easily the masses take things at face value when they’re told a piece of information. But alas, it was just another night in Los Angeles, where the only thing crazier than the crackhead standing on the Hollywood Walk of Fame is the truth.