Not Just Another Night at the Oscars – The La La Land/Moonlight Mix up!

The Oscars always have at least one outrageous or standout moment, but this year’s Oscars are unprecedented!  With a show that was already running late, everyone was waiting for the Best Picture announcement.  Up until this point, there really weren’t any big surprises, but many were hopeful that Moonlight, written and directed by Barry Jenkins, would upset the favorite, La La Land.   (Yes, this was a thing. SNL did a hilarious skit on the issue.)

The Set Up: The Oscars Diversity Issues

After last year’s #OscarsSoWhite fiasco, this season had plenty of diversity in the nominees. Lion, Hidden Figures, Fences, and Moonlight, certainly was a more colorful palette of stories being told than the 2016 slate.  Still, nominations and winning are two different things.

Sure, the first Oscar of the night, for Best Supporting Actor, had gone to Mahershala Ali for Moonlight, and Viola Davis won Best Supporting actress for her work in Fences.  Those wins were expected. The Oscar races people were looking at for a real shake up didn’t happen.

Despite controversy over an alleged and a loss at the SAG awards to Denzel Washington, Best Actor was won by Casey Affleck for his work in Manchester by the Sea.  Best Director had just gone to Damien Chazelle for La La Land.  Since Best Director and Best Picture rarely split, the hope that many had for Moonlight was pretty low.

Surprise, Surprise! Moonlight Wins Best Picture!

When presenters Warren Beatty and  Faye Dunaway came up to present the award, I got a little hopeful.  Although no one in the Academy knows the actual winners until announced, the amount of lobbying that goes on can give some major players an idea of what’s coming.  He certainly sounded like he thought Moonlight was going to win.  However, the look on his face when he opened the envelope said otherwise.  Watch his face before he hands the envelope to Dunaway.




The Wrap Up: The Oscars Made History…Unintentionally

If Barry Jenkins had won Best Director he would have been the first African-American director to do so. (Instead Chazelle is the youngest person to win.  That’s great, but somehow the age of another white guy winning doesn’t have the same impact.) Likewise, a win for Washington would have put him into the superstar small group of actors who have won 3 or more Oscars.  He’d have been the only black actor in that group.  Furthermore, Washington’s Oscar-nominated performance in Fences was self-directed – the pat your head & rub your belly trick to the 10th degree! Director Michael Moore still can’t believe Washington didn’t win!



If Moonlight had simply won Best Picture, the above issues would likely be at the top of the Oscar news.  After this horrendous mistake that was truly mortifying for the producers of La La Land (who handled it gracefully), they seem mild.  After all, someone being “robbed” of an Oscar happens every year.  An unlikely winner actually winning has occurred before as well.  A presenter getting the wrong envelope and thus announcing the wrong winner? That is truly a first!

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