I know, I know – you can’t believe what just happened at the Oscars. How could you? Nobody saw it coming. How in the world did “Sing” beat “Ennemis Interieurs” for Best Live-Action Short Film? You can’t tell me you predicted that massive upset. You liar. We all thought director Selim Azzazi had that award in the bag, man!  But, no, Kristóf Deák, that Hungarian devil, just slipped in there and snatched it away. Wow. The Academy will never – ever! -live this down.

Now, excuse me now while I just take a drink from this nourishing glass of water. All this Best Live-Action Short talk has left me so parched:

raw

Go shut the front door! They Steve Harveyed Beest Picture? What, did the Russians infiltrate Price Waterhouse? As Vince Lombardi would say, what the hell is going on out here?

Deadline, you want to take this:

Price Waterhouse has two envelopes (two copies) for every winner. So when they handed the envelope to presenters they opened that for Emma Stone for Best Actress rather than the envelope for Best Picture. That’s why Beatty sputtered and was confused wondering what was going on. This has happened before, according to our colleague Pete Hammond, back in 1964 when Sammy Davis, Jr. also got the wrong envelope for the two music categories.

Thank you, Deadline. So, apparently the Oscars have found a new way to stand out from the Golden Globes, SAG and Spirit Awards, just to name a few: unlike those other shows what if the Academy botches the announcement of the biggest award of the night? That’ll drive the news cycle for a good 24-48 hours until Trump cuts the entire EPA and replaces it with The Weather Channel because they’re basically the same thing, right. It’ll also forever make it kind of, sort of feel like 2016 had two best Picture Winners, La La Land AND Moonlight.

It was the biggest amateur hour moment at the Oscars since Phil Donahue Officer Frank Drebin was a presenter:

Oh, the field day social media had with this:

I even got in on it:

However, let us not forget this:

Yes, Moonlight won. The much feared La La Land backlash was very, very real (it only won 6 of its 14 nominations), and we ended up with one of those odd years where the Best Picture winner wins hardly anything else. According to Wikipedia (he says laughing to himself about citing Wikipedia), Grand Hotel is the only Best Picture winner to ever simply win Best Picture and nothing else. Last year, Spotlight won Best Picture and just Best Original Screenplay. Now, this year Moonlight wins Best Adapted Screenplay and Best Supporting Actor to go along with Best Picture. Other recent Best Picture winners to top out at 3 total Oscars include 12 Years a Slave, Argo, Crash and Chariots of Fire (sorry, I stopped looking after Chariots because it’s 1:07 AM and I’m tired). So, some real mixed company there.

However, years like this should theoretically leave more of us happy. Sure, Hell or High Water, Lion and Hidden Figures didn’t win anything. But there also wasn’t any one film dominating the entire night like the snoozefest years when English Patient, Titanic and Return of the King won so many awards the people accepting them started to look embarrassed. Nope, this year the love was spread more evenly:

Hacksaw Ridge won twice (Editing, Sound Mixing) which gave us two glorious excuses to watch crazy ass Mel Gibson make, well, crazy facial expressions while tech people kissed his ring from the stage. Arrival won once (Sound Editing). Jungle Book picked up its expected Visual Effects award as did Zootopia for Best Animated Film. Viola got her win and big speech for Fences. Casey Affleck and Kenneth Lonergan won Actor and Original Screenplay for Manchester, and Affleck even got a surprising semi-standing ovation while his brother Ben no doubt waited to hear his name mentioned in the thank you’s in the acceptance speech (no such mention came because that’s just how life is going for Ben Affleck in 2017).

Colleen Atwood won Best Costume for Fantastic Beasts in a slight surprise victory over Jackie.

And just about everything else went to La La Land – Director, Actress, Score, Song, Production Design, Cinematography. Those of us cynics as well as the math nerds over at FiveThirtyEight predicted an even bigger night for La La Land (I had it winning 9 awards). However, Academy President Cherly Boone Isaacs recent efforts to purge membership of the old and professionally inactive and invite 683 new members might have worked just well enough to shake the Academy out of its usual ways. If they can give Best Picture to the gay drama directed by a black man and co-written by a gay black man in the same year they could have instead voted for (or, more accurately, ranked) La La Land (higher in the preferential voting system used for Best Picture) then maybe change really is underway with the Oscars.

And maybe that’s why I only went 17/24 with my predictions this year.

To me, this was  a repeat of last year. A socially conscious movie hailed as a near-masterpiece upon its film festival debut in Aug-September never rises above specialty fare at the box office upon its release a month or two later. Then, over Christmas a movie comes along which enchants critics and audiences alike, turning into a box office hit while sweeping through other awards shows. For Moonlight, that’s La La; for Spotlight, it was both Revenant and The Big Short. Inevitably, a backlash forms. Oscar voters get sick of seeing the December-released movies winning at all the awards show they have to go to even as those very same movies continue to sell tickets at a rate uncommon for a modern Oscar movies. Suddenly, the voters remember, “You know what was really amazing? That movie from back in October that no one went to see. Plus, that film just seems more important, socially. Oscar movies are supposed to have a message, not just be a lot of fun.”

Plus, in both cases real life intervened. Spotlight was able to push itself as a film so important The Vatican actually screened it to gain more insight into the depth of its abuse scandal. Moonlight could be…

Something, something, something Trump

You probably see where I’m going with this, but I’ll stop because in my effort to psychoanalyze the average Oscar voter I’ve started to come off as if I mean to delegitimize Moonlight’s win and that’s not my intent. I’ll make that argument against O.J.: Made in America (it’s not a film doc!) and Suicide Squad for Best Makeup (I don’t want to live in a world where Suicide Squad has an Oscar). But Moonlight vs. La La Land?  A bunch of good movies won at least one award tonight, and their legacies will now be determined by history. In the short term, the one film that likely most needed the financial boost from a Best Picture win just got it. La La Land will be just fine without the win.

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Posted by Kelly Konda

Grew up obsessing over movies and TV shows. Worked in a video store. Minored in film at college because my college didn't offer a film major. Worked in academia for a while. Have been freelance writing and running this blog since 2013.

12 Comments

  1. I used to watch the Oscars many years ago for the spectacle. I’ve stopped watching because I kept noticing that the films that won best picture were movies no one cared about or even heard about on a few years. I got tired of one-month wonders being lauded as groundbreaking, only to never hear about those movies again. Now I just go to bed, and wait for the news the next day

    Ten ,twenty years from now, people will be watching Moonlight, but probably no one will remember LaLa Land was released.

    Reply

  2. Gay dramas have won the best picture before (Midnight Cowboy in 1969, Brokeback Mountain in 2005).

    Reply

    1. Yes to midnight cowboy, no to brokeback mountain. It lost to Crash.

      Reply

      1. Right, forgot about Crash. I forgot it even existed.

  3. I don’t think the either Lala Land or Moonlight will be remembered all that much in a few years aside from being the two movies involved in this embarrassing affair. Either way, all in all, they did some good picks…the only things I really disagree with is that Moana didn’t win best song (and that only one song was nominated in the first place…it is a serviceable movie by Disney standards, but the soundtrack is freaking amazing), Suicide Squad get best Make-up (and yes, I know that it took some skill to keep that Make-up consistent, but it still looks freaking stupid, to me it disqualified for that category the moment they wrote “damaged” on Joker’s forehead….Star Trek beyond would have been my pick) and Toni Erdmann getting snubbed after winning every single runner-up award easily so that they could make a political statement.

    Reply

    1. La La Land and Moonlight will now forever be the answer to a trivia question related to the historic nature of the Beatty/Dunaway flub, but, as you said, the films themselves will probably fade from popular memory, most cherished by musical fans and the historically underrepresented who find strength and inspiration in a movie like Moonlight.

      Moana just came out in the wrong year. It’s so rare for an original live action musical to get made these days, and “City of Stars” is repeated enough throughout La La Land and used to such initially uplifting but ultimately heartbreaking effect in the context of the story that it was impossible to deny its unique importance to the film. Plus, it’s surprisingly catchy. Moana, on the other hand, simply had a “Disney princess wants to leave her home and find adventure” song – a really, really good done – but there are dozens of those already. I agree that Disney might have been better off pushing some of the other songs for consideration since the soundtrack is astounding, but at least this way the world got to see the 16-year-old voice behind Moana sing her out heart out, even after getting hit in the head by a backup dancer.

      I do also agree, and from what I’ve seen most everyone does: The Salesman only beat Toni Erdmann because of the Trump controversy factor.

      Reply

      1. Actually….the Moana song is repeated multiple times during the movie, with a changing context, turning it from the “I want” song into the very heart of the movie. It is also used in a very sad and a very triumphant moment…but above all, it is ridiculous catchy. I have tried to get it out of my mind for weeks!!! It’s is also respecting the culture on which the movie is based…while I am kind of uncomfortable with the White Jazz in La La Land (not that I mind white people being into Jazz, but what we got to see on screen during this era and who was actually responsible for most of the music, those are two different stories altogether).

      2. Well, shut my mouth.

      3. I mean, I get the notion that it is “just another Disney song”…hell, Menken won so often in the early 1990s that they had to change the rules for the awards. But sometimes one has to get over the notion that Disney always wins and give them the due they deserve.

  4. […] how Jimmy Kimmel referred to Warren Beatty’s treatment of Faye Dunaway in the aftermath of their historic Oscar flub Sunday night. Beatty opened the envelope, hesitated and showed it to Dunaway, who announced La La Land the […]

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  5. […] halfway through what turned into the longest (and most memorable) Oscars telecast in a decade, host Jimmy Kimmel threw to a video montage of foreign […]

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