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February 2017

Oscars 2017: And the Winner for Biggest Flub Is…

Wow. I tuned into the Oscars hoping for at least one surprise and I got it, all right.

In case you’d bailed on the very long show and haven’t heard: the wrong best picture winner was announced (La La Land) and the winners had already come on stage and were in the middle of their speeches when Jordan Horowitz, one of LLL’s producers, announced Moonlight actually won best picture, saying “It’s not a joke,” and raised the correct card to prove it.

My reaction:

Horowitz and the rest of the La La Land crew were incredibly gracious to the Moonlight group, hugging and congratulating them as they came onstage in a daze.

Before they could give their acceptance speeches, however, Warren Beatty explained he was given the best actress card by mistake. To make things momentarily weirder, Emma Stone, who’d won that category, said backstage she was holding the Best Actress card the whole time. Whaaaat?

Turns out there were two cards for each winner. See explanation here. Mystery solved. Or at least some of it. How/why was Beatty given the wrong envelope? Why did Faye Dunaway say La La Land when looking at the wrong card? (She declined to comment when The Hollywood Reporter asked her at the Governors Ball afterward.)

Here’s a clip of the confusing moment:

This closeup, tweeted by ABC News, shows Beatty holding the wrong envelope.

I liked both movies and would’ve been happy with either as the winner. In a way, both did win, for Best Handling of a Mistake Seen by a Billion People.

Now, let’s see…what else happened during the show?

Justin Timberlake opened it with an energetic performance of best-song nominee “Can’t Stop the Feeling” that got everyone up and dancing, which was fun. But little did they know when they sat down that they wouldn’t be getting up again for many, many hours.

Some highlights:

Most delicious surprise: No, I’m not talking about Viggo Mortensen in a tux. That’s no surprise. I’m referring to the free candy and donuts dropping from the ceiling to keep the audience happy and not hungry. I swear, if bag o’ chips had started dropping, I would’ve jumped in my car, driven over to the Dolby Theater, and tried to grab a few.

Funniest disrespect of a celebrity: Host Jimmy Kimmel’s continuing diss of Matt Damon. The actor was announced only as Ben Affleck’s guest when the two came out to present Best Original Screenplay, and then Kimmel tried to play Damon off with music when Damon tried to announce the nominees. His takedown of Damon’s performance in We Bought a Zoo—“his acting is so effortful”—got in some good digs.

Cutest kid in the candy store: Lin-Manuel Miranda. The Hamilton creator was enjoying the heck out of himself, happy and smiling big the whole night, like someone had put all his favorite things in the world in one place and he couldn’t believe his eyes. It was nice to see someone who wasn’t too cool or jaded to be there.

Cutest kid who’s actually a kid: Sunny Pawar. I’m not sure how I feel about Kimmel holding up Pawar Simba-style, but it was adorable how Pawar asked for Mike & Ike candy while that was happening.

Favorite dedication to theater nerds: best song co-winner Benj Pasek (with Justin Paul and Justin Hurwitz for “City of Stars” from La La Land) said, “[My mom] let me quit the JCC soccer league to be in a school musical, so this is dedicated to all the kids who sing in the rain and all the moms who let them.” I hated soccer in high school, too, and was much happier in theater. High five, Benj, and to all the cool moms.

Moments that made me cry: tie between Katherine Johnson, now 98, one of the real-life “Hidden Figures,” coming out on stage; and the In Memoriam segment, with Sara Bareilles singing “Both Sides Now.”

On top of the reel reminding us of so many greats we lost last year (nice touch to have presenter Jennifer Aniston mention Bill Paxton, who died yesterday), that song guts me every time I hear it. And then the segment ends with Carrie Fisher as General Organa saying, “May the Force be with you.” I was gone.

From L: Janelle Monae, NASA astronaut Yvonne Cagle, Johnson, Taraji P. Henson, and Octavia Spencer. Credit: Kevin Winter/Getty Images

Best political statements: there were many, done eloquently. It was as simple as Alessandro Bertolazzi, who won best makeup for Suicide Squad, dedicating his Oscar to “all the immigrants.” Or as pointed as best foreign film director Asghar Farhadi, who stayed in Iran to show solidarity with his people being banned from the US, sending someone in his place to read his statement that says, “Dividing the world into the us and our enemies categories creates fear, a deceitful justification for aggression and war.” I never felt hit over the head or lectured by these remarks. And oh, yeah, Mahershala Ali became the first Muslim to win an Oscar.

OK, Mr. PCN is yelling at me from the other room that I have to wrap this up because it’s 1:30 a.m. I’d better move on to the fashion commentary before he cuts me off by playing loud music.

No one’s gown wowed me. Most looked fine but safe. Below are a few who did stand out, for better or worse.

Emma Stone

Mr. PCN: She looks great on the top half, bottom half is a lampshade.


Nicole Kidman

Mr. PCN: Nude woman with doilies.

PCN: It does look in photos like she’s wearing a fancy nude bodysuit, but the beading looked much prettier on TV.


Janelle Monae

PCN: So much going on, but she carries it well.

Mr. PCN: Why is she carrying two birdcages?


Halle Berry

Mr. PCN: Auditioning for The Wiz.

PCN: Little Orphan Halle gets caught in fishing net.


Jessica Biel

Mr. PCN: Cleopatra in space.

PCN: Golden camo, so she can be invisible in a jungle of Oscars.


Karlie Kloss

Mr. PCN: Isn’t she a Victoria’s Secret model? She should be wearing wings instead of a cape.

PCN: I just want to know—why is she at the Oscars?

Ginnifer Goodwin

Mr. PCN: Spanish vampire.


Leslie Mann

Mr. PCN: I thought Emma Watson is playing Belle.

PCN: I didn’t know IKEA shopping bags could be worn as evening gowns.


Isabelle Huppert


PCN: My favorite look, elegance crossed with badass. Look at that pose and those dark nails.

Did you watch? What did you think? (See complete list of winners here.)

Photos: Stone–Kevin Mazur/Getty, Huppert–Steve Granitz/Wireimage, all others–Frazer Harrison/Getty


Nerdy Special List February 2017

Like many people, I’ve been distressed by what’s going on in DC and have found it hard to focus on reading for pleasure. I also wondered if movie and book reviews are too frivolous to write at this time.

But then I realized books are never frivolous, and we need to support the arts right now because arts programs are at risk of being defunded. Arts are a part of culture, and our culture is our history.

So, with great pleasure, I present you this list of February releases we recommend.

From Jen at Brown Dog Solutions:

The Refugees by Viet Thanh Nguyen (Grove Press, February 7)

I read The Refugees long before the travel ban executive order was written, but how stunningly appropriate that I can recommend it as my Nerdy Special List pick this month.

Pulitzer Prize-winning author Viet Thanh Nguyen’s collection of short stories is rich in complex characters and relationships, with identity playing a recurring theme throughout the stories. Nguyen’s skill encourages his readers to connect with characters who are likely very different from themselves. In the current political climate, we can all benefit from more of that because, after all, we don’t tend to fear what we understand.

Nguyen’s language and imagery are stunning, making this collection captivating and memorable. I’m certain that even those who don’t tend to favor short fiction will find themselves engrossed in these gorgeous stories.

From Rory at Fourth Street Review:

The Shimmering Road by Hester Young (Putnam, February 1)

A little over a year ago, I was in one of the biggest reading slumps of my adult life. On a whim, I picked up Hester Young’s The Gates of Evangeline and absolutely loved it.

So I was both excited and nervous to read The Shimmering Road, Young’s second book featuring journalist Charlie Cates. I am happy to report it’s an enthralling read and a solid follow-up to her first novel.

Charlie, expecting her first daughter, is now in Arizona, searching for clues that might help solve the murder of her mother and half sister. Plagued by recurring nightmares, she can’t help but worry about the fate of her unborn daughter and that of her half-sister’s daughter, even as she gets drawn further into the mystery surrounding the murders.

The novel is fast paced, unexpected, and a pleasure to read. The Shimmering Road, as is its predecessor, is everything a page-turner—with a supernatural flare—should be.

From Erin at In Real Life:

Distress Signals by Catherine Ryan Howard (Blackstone, February 2)

I find the idea of taking a cruise both intriguing and terrifying, so Catherine Ryan Howard’s debut thriller Distress Signals was right up my alley.

Adam figures he has a pretty great life, right up until his girlfriend, Sarah, doesn’t come back from a cruise to Barcelona. Adam goes after her, and that’s where any predictability in this story ends.

Help from the police? Nope. Her family? Nah. Adam doesn’t know whether Sarah is gone permanently or temporarily, voluntarily or by force, and as his unease builds, it’s impossible not to be roped into a story that doesn’t let up until the final page.

This alone would make this a fantastic book. But Howard shows herself to be a masterful storyteller by creating a parallel story that ties together with Adam’s beautifully and in a way I can’t explain without giving too much away.

If you like stories brimming with suspense and plot twists you’ll never see coming, you’ll want to grab a copy of Distress Signals immediately.

From Lauren at Malcolm Avenue Review:

Desperation Road by Michael Farris Smith (Lee Boudreaux Books, February 7)

After an 11-year prison sentence, Russell Gaines returns home to McComb, Mississippi, where he tries to get on with his life, apologetic to no one.

Despite a supportive father, however, the pull of his ex-fiancée and the vengeful family whose lives he changed keep throwing a wrench in his plans. Maben, a woman on the run with her young daughter, seems permanently caught in a web of problems. When Russell’s bumpy path intersects Maben’s troubled one, their rough lives only get rougher.

Smith is a beautiful writer, and a sense of poetry underlies the straightforward nature of his words. He writes about the slog of everyday life with integrity and grace, making even the difficult parts beautiful to read. This is a fantastic follow-up to Smith’s wonderful debut, Rivers.

From Patti at Patti’s Pens & Picks:

August Snow by Stephen Mack Jone (Soho Crime, February 14)

August Snow is an amateur detective in what is hopefully a new series from Soho Crime. It’s set in Detroit, and is an excellent mystery in the tradition of Robert B. Parker. A bit of violence, a lot of smartass talk—set in my favorite city!

August is half Hispanic and half African American, and lives in the Mexicantown area of Detroit in the house his parents owned. He’s a former cop who went up against the department and was awarded 12 million dollars in a lawsuit.

He is asked to look into the business dealings of a private bank, and while he hesitates to take the case, the woman who wants to hire him is killed. August looks into her death, going up against the police department again, as well as hired thugs from the private bank.

August ends up with some great friends and/or teammates, and they work well together to take care of a variety of issues. He’s pretty firm about not being a private investigator, but I would be thrilled if he becomes one. Highly recommended!

From PCN:

A Darkness Absolute by Kelley Armstrong (Minotaur, February 7)

The first in the Casey Duncan series, City of the Lost, knocked me out last year, and Darkness is weird and menacing, too.

Casey is still the detective of Rockton, the off-the-grid town in Canada where people go to hide from someone or something. She and sheriff’s deputy Will find a woman who’s been kept in a hole in a cave for over a year. All Rockton residents have shady pasts but that’s just nasty. And almost anyone could be the sick bastard who abducted the woman (she never saw his face).

On top of the twisted plot and a heroine I continue to root for, the setting of blizzardy Rockton gives me the creeps, amplifying how isolated Casey is, and how if she gets in trouble, she’s on her own.

What are you excited to read this month?