Regardless of the mix-up in the presenting of the award, Moonlight‘s win was one of the biggest upsets in Oscar history.
Looking purely at the results of other awards shows, La La Land would have been (and was) fully expected to win, having swept up virtually every Best Film award. It therefore makes it seem even more of an anomaly that what is seen as the biggest award of the season, would go in a different direction (especially seeing as its voting body shares members with the voters of other awards organisations). Similarly, the fact that La La Land brought home the most awards of this year’s Oscars, and up until that point in the night had six Oscars (including Directing) vs Moonlight‘s two, would also suggest the former would earn the final prize.
This has brought about one of the first possible reasons for La La Land’s loss. It seemed that because it was the front-runner for so long, and sweeping up awards left and right, fatigue set in, as people became tired of one film receiving so much praise. It suddenly became fashionable to hate on the film, creating an essentially unfounded backlash, not based on the film itself but as more of a counter-action to the love it was receiving. The tide seemed to turn not long before the Oscars at all, and no-one was sure of its strength – making the initial calling out of La La Land‘s name entirely believable.
However, the upset follows a trend that has set in in recent Oscar history: the Best Director – Best Picture split. In the past five years, only once have the two awards gone to the same film. Is this a way to spread the love? Due to the high prestige with which both awards are held (and how they used to often go together), is it a way of almost sharing the top prize? Alternatively, arguably the ‘best’ artistic vision and overall product are not always found in the same film (with the two awards arguably separating these). However, this can also lead us to the potential reasoning of discrimination, both positive and negative. In another major Oscar upset, Crash‘s Best Picture win in 2006, arguably, it was negative discrimination that stole Brokeback Mountain‘s chance at Best Picture. Arguably, the Best Director prize was to show the artistic merit of the film and award it in some way, yet it has been suggested that the reason the film deemed much better lost the Best Picture prize was due to homophobia. In a similar sense, some have suggested that Moonlight‘s win was a result of positive discrimination, in an attempt to rectify the lack of diversity in the Oscars over the past couple of years, and even make up for the Brokeback Mountain loss (in becoming the first film focused around homosexuality to win the award).
However, it seems that the most likely explanation was for the upset appears to be the fatigue. Either way, I think both films will be remembered, with La La Land‘s loss not necessarily meaning it will get lost in time (I personally think it will become a classic). Hopefully, they will not be overshadowed by the on-stage mix up, and will stand as the great films they are in their own rights.