Aka that time we all watched a train wreck explode into rainbows on live television.
I mean. Wow. I had some expectations for how this year might go down, a few scenarios in mind ranging from the totally possible to the never in a million years.
But literally never in a million years did I imagine something like this.
But before we get into all that, some thoughts on the rest of the show because even without that bizarre ending, this year’s ceremony left much to be discussed, praised, and critiqued.
I’ll start with Jimmy Kimmel — the Oscars is probably one of the most difficult hosting gigs, and it requires a damn near impossible balancing act of sincerity, humor, creativity, and originality to make the overly long show sail smoothly. And I gotta say, Kimmel was easily one of the most entertaining hosts we’ve had in a good long while. His Matt Damon roasting never got old (will it ever?) and most bits landed that delicate balance of friendly teasing.
However, (and I know opinions are divided on this one) the sketch with the tourists seemed like such an unjustifiable waste of time for a show that was already running over, and he gets points off in my book for his off-putting comments on foreign names (also what was up with that Lion King thing?) He also could have handled the Best Picture mess a bit better (seriously, suggesting La La Land also gets to keep the Oscar…?) but to be fair, that was one of the most bizarre things I’ve ever seen and I can excuse him not thinking too clearly there.
And speaking of La La Land (and boy is there a lot to say) — look, this happens every year. The most beloved movie begins to rapidly pick up steam until the attention is so overwhelming that it runs the risk of what I call the frontrunner backlash. It’s inevitable and La La Land was no exception. But honestly, everyone needs to back off and give credit where it’s due. Musicals and all that jazz (pun very much intended) may not be your cup of tea but there’s no denying Damien Chazelle’s success in recreating the glory days of classic musicals and infusing it with modern culture and original music. And yes look, as much as I love them, Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone are no Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers (not to mention I didn’t really feel their chemistry as much as I have in other films).
But it doesn’t take away their much-deserved awards. And even their not-so-deserved awards — no offense to Emma Stone’s great work but Amy Adams not even being nominated is the CRIME OF THE YEAR FIGHT ME. Probably second only to the CRIME OF VIOLA DAVIS BEING IN THE SUPPORTING ACTRESS CATEGORY LITERALLY DON’T EVEN GET ME STARTED.
Okay. Sorry. That said, La La Land‘s ultimate haul was… unexpected to say the least. It won some of its most expected (Best Director, Best Original Score) but also lost some of its most expected (seriously it is SO weird for a musical to lose Sound Mixing). Not to mention its expected win for Best Picture — and we all know how that went down. But more on that in a bit.
Because we can’t talk about La La Land without talking about Moonlight and we can’t talk about Moonlight without talking about the “#OscarsSoWhite no more” narrative circulating since nominations morning.
Yes — the incredible achievement of so many diverse films and actors getting recognized this year absolutely needs to be celebrated. However, we are still a looooong way away from true diversity across the industry and across award shows. For starters, our world isn’t “Black and White” and while it’s amazing to see any underrepresented minority shining, we must remember that the fight doesn’t end there. Calling for more improvement does not diminish the incredible progress that has been made this year. It’s simply realizing that one year isn’t enough to declare a problem resolved (case in point: #OscarsSoWhite followed 12 Years A Slave‘s Best Picture win).
I want to see the industry continue to make way for diverse filmmakers and professionals who will show us unique storylines on the big screen. The fault, as I’ve said in years before, lies not with award shows, but with the executives and decision-makers who continue to turn them away. This year, those stories spoke in a way they understand ($$$$) — so let’s hope the massive success (critically and financially) of films like Hidden Figures, Lion, Fences, and of course Moonlight serve as the wake-up and shake-up the industry needs.
And that brings me to Moonlight. It is literally impossible to overemphasize the unprecedented unbelievable absolutely extraordinary phenomenon that is Moonlight winning Best Picture. It speaks volumes about the wave of change that may potentially be simmering underneath the industry surface. It is the first LGBTQ film EVER in the history of the Academy to win Best Picture. It is the only film to EVER win Best Picture with an all-Black cast. No movie, not Brokeback Mountain or Milk or even 12 Years A Slave, has come close to achieving what Moonlight did for these two underrepresented communities.
And that’s not even its only historic claim. Moonlight is also a triumph for small indie films, the Davids who are constantly battling the studio Goliaths. With its modestly humble budget (shot under a month for approximately $1.5M) and an almost completely unknown cast (even its well-known actors are nowhere near Gosling and Stone stardom), Moonlight is a testament to the wealth of talent dancing around the industry’s edges. Its eight nominations (the second highest) were an achievement in themselves, but also made history by making Joi McMillon the first Black woman to be nominated for Best Editing. Not to mention Mahershala Ali becoming the first Muslim actor to win an Oscar.
Moonlight is proof of the beauty that happens when opportunity is provided, for those in front of the camera and behind the scenes. And as much as I loved La La Land (and so many other films this year), there can be no doubt that Moonlight was easily the most wholly deserving of the industry’s highest honor.
What happened in those last few minutes of the ceremony will not soon be forgotten. My heart is torn in so many directions — for the La La Land team, for the Academy, even for those poor PwC accountants. But nothing like the painful frustration that Barry Jenkins and his team did not get their proper, hard-earned moment of glory. And I think that, more than anything, is the reason for this post. To make sure they do receive the attention and praise they rightfully deserved on Sunday night. To make sure their historic win is remembered and recognized.
We saw an incredibly refreshing moment of civility from the La La Land team on Sunday night, who showed true grace amidst all the chaos. But let’s not forget the true winners. Let’s not forget to praise Moonlight and its incredible team. Let’s make sure their moment in the sun doesn’t get eclipsed.
And yes. Pun always intended.