WHAT JUST HAPPENED.
Let’s start at the end because that’s the only place to begin on an Oscar night that was quite historic, and not just for good reasons.
So…the Best Picture winner was Moonlight, but due to an envelope mix-up, La La Land was announced as the recipient of the award.
Chaos, shock, cursing all ensued when La La Land producer, Jordan Horowitz, took to the microphone and grabbed the correct envelope to reveal Moonlight printed on the card. Warren Beatty then took to the mic to try and explain how in his announcement, his confused face was not in fact planned farce, but genuine. He and Faye Dunaway are getting a bit of flack for this but really, the blame likely lies in whoever hands out the envelopes…someone’s future in their job is likely looking a little bleak right now.
What made matters so much more worse than they needed to be was the extremely poor reaction time that was taken to correct the mistake. The fact that the producers of La La Land had all but finished their acceptance speeches made the revelation all the more heartbreaking. It really is unfair to all those who descended on the stage for La La Land, to be given a brief moment of glory, only to have it ripped away. However, it was handled very graciously by all involved. It almost feels, in this short time after the ceremony, that the award is almost shared.
Unfortunately, at least for a while, this ‘snafu’ will likely overshadow the two films involved…probably following Moonlight, as the actual winner, around for longer. Hopefully, it won’t take away from the two films.
At least it seems to have spawned a multitude of hilarious memes.
Now onto the Best Picture win itself. It was a huge surprise (although not quite shock) for Moonlight to win over La La Land, the assured frontrunner who seemed to have claimed every best film award throughout the season. Especially, seeing as it held six other wins (as opposed to Moonlight‘s two), including Directing, it looked to be going the same way on Oscar night too. It will likely be considered one of the greatest upsets of the Oscars.
It’s always curious when the winner of a few gongs beats the winner of many; it appears that being the frontrunner for so long can be detrimental, as the La La Land backlash and fatigue that set in as a result appears to have won out.
There are claims that due to Moonlight‘s representation of minorities (both in skin colour and sexuality) that it won more on a political vote, pure speculation, although these claims have been, possibly offensively, deemed racist.
A lot of the other awards went as expected. Both supporting acting gongs provided no surprises, but both resulted in great speeches. Mahershala Ali’s was beautiful, providing genuine and personal thanks, as opposed to the generic rattling off of names. Viola Davis’ was one of the best of the night; brilliantly eloquent, emotional and powerful. One of the more political, but less direct speeches of the night. Moonlight’s other two speeches also provided similarly empowering messages.
Emma Stone and Damien Chazelle’s La La Land wins were expected and welcomed. The biggest (expected) race of the night, Best Actor, went to Casey Affleck, causing Denzel Washington to miss out on joining the ranks of 3-time-acting-winners. Two very different performances, so both had supporters, but ultimately it was Affleck’s more restrained and emotive portrayal that garnered the gong.
It was great to see Kevin O’Connell finally win an Oscar (for sound editing for Hacksaw Ridge), after 21 nominations. Similarly, other firsts of the night including the highest number of black winners as well as the first win for a muslim actor (Ali). There was a great show of diversity all round.
And…yes…Suicide Squad is now an Oscar-winning movie (although it did deserved this award). It was during this speech that the most obvious and forceful ‘wrap up your speech’ moment occurred. Yes, they have to keep the show moving as it is long enough already, but to literally push a group off stage before some of them even have a chance to speak (especially when there’s multiple winners), seems pretty rude.
Jimmy Kimmel as a host was good, balancing the political with little skits well. The Trump zings got in straight away in the opening monologue, focusing on Meryl Streep as ‘overrated’, and culminating in the most direct reference to Trump – a tweet at him. He continued the tradition of mocking the nominees, although the jabs at Gibson seemed a little outdated now he’s been welcomed back into Hollywood’s good graces. He was very self-aware, and handled the Best Picture mishap well. Occasionally, he seemed a little stiff on stage or had a few awkward segways, but as a whole was on good form. His stunts were also great. It was funny with the sweets falling from the sky to see the audience break their composure and act like children, scrambling for the food. This stunt could have been a nod to the late Gene Wilder, if not, then was a bit of a missed opportunity. The arrival of unsuspecting tour bus tourists was also hilarious and brilliant, a real, genuine moment where Hollywood’s elite met their fans.
Some staples of Kimmel’s talk show also made an appearance. An amusing ‘Mean Tweets’ video was shown, but the real star was the Kimmel-Damon feud. There were multiple brilliant references to their rivalry. Matt Damon tripping Kimmel up, the parody ‘inspiration video’ of We Bought a Zoo was also fantastic. It also made for one of the funniest presenting gags as Kimmel played Damon off stage, whilst he was presenting the Original Screenplay award.
The presenting as a whole was good, with very few cringe-worthy attempts at jokes. It was frustrating to see Amy Adams on stage as a presenter, not a nominee (yep, still not over that), but each actor did a great job. There were great reunions of old casts, but the theme of the awards – ‘inspiration’ – led to some of the most touching presenter pairings, where younger actors walked on stage with their idols. It is never not exciting to see Michael J Fox with a Delorean (topped off by this inspiree, Seth Rogen, wearing the BTTF lace-up Nikes).
The sporadic performances of the nominees for Best Original Song provided fun breaks in the proceedings. Justin Timberlake kicked off the show with his upbeat hit, later followed by a brilliant performance of Moana‘s entry. Sting’s performance of the song from Jim, added an emotionally poignant moment to the proceedings, as well as a reminder of what is going on in the world. John Legend’s medley of the two La La Land song nominees was great, but really highlighted how much the power of a film’s context and characters can elevate a song’s emotional side.
The awards were political, but not to the extent that might have been expected. Kimmel took most of the direct shots at Trump, often using Streep as his aide, with other direct references coming from the speeches, most notably in the documentary categories, the statement read out from the filmmaker behind the Best Foreign Language film, who boycotted the ceremony as a protest against the travel ban, and in spontaneous statements from presenters on stage. Other speeches, such as Davis’, more indirectly referenced the goings on in the world, choosing to emphasise the need for unity in times like these.
Overall, the 89th Annual Academy Awards provided an entertaining show, and a nice spread of awards (though still lead by La La Land). It had firsts galore, and showed progress in the industry. However, it will almost definitely be remembered for the Best Picture mess-up, an occurrence that hopefully won’t hang over the two films involved too heavily.