Well, that happened. We officially had a Kanye West moment at the Oscars, but the fault lies simply with negligence, not pride.
The instant that Warren Beatty squinted and completed a hurried hand off to his former co-star and fellow Awards announcer, Faye Dunaway, it was clear that some minor detail was amiss.
Within the painful 20 seconds that followed, it was clear that the whole announcement for Best Picture had been derailed by a faulty card, the duplicate of Emma Stone’s Best Actress win. Neil Patrick Harris even got a screenshot of the moment:
How must Martha Ruiz and Brian Cullinan, the PricewaterhouseCoopers accountants whose sole job was to monitor the content of each envelope for accuracy, feel about the incident? Readers can judge themselves from their prompt and public apology:
February 27, 2017
We sincerely apologize to “Moonlight,” “La La Land,” Warren Beatty, Faye Dunaway, and Oscar viewers for the error that was made during the award announcement for Best Picture. The presenters had mistakenly been given the wrong category envelope and when discovered, was immediately corrected. We are currently investigating how this could have happened, and deeply regret that this occurred.
We appreciate the grace with which the nominees, the Academy, ABC, and Jimmy Kimmel handled the situation.
While the incident shocked everyone in the room or watching at home, some argue that it was hardly a disaster for anyone besides the false initial recipients. In fact, Olivia Waring of Metro.co.uk published an article declaring the 2017 Oscar’s twist to be “the best thing to have ever happened to the film industry.” Why? She asserts that it’s proof that while some movies have the flair of a winner, and a great deal of fuss is made over them, in the end the stories that clearly have a deep and enduring message should prevail. Moonlight, she said, “was the most deserving winner” despite the fact that Hollywood basically marketed La La Land as a film harkening back to the golden era.
It’s not that it wasn’t rather a pleasant surprise to see a musical make it into the Oscar nominations, but seeing a movie that wasn’t Hollywood patting itself on the back via big stars and a storyline about the struggle of “making it” as an artist was … refreshing.
Overall, that moment did more to bring together a large group of people than Kimmel’s funny but thankfully fairly brief monologue. After a few moments of false hope, followed by public devastation and heartbreak, even the La La Land cast went home with several wins and nominations — not to mention the memory of candy falling from the ceiling of a historic building while surrounded by people applauding each other.
Kimmel opened by referencing how divided we are as a nation, offering scalding hints of Trump bashing, such as reminding the audience that we once worried about a racist Oscar’s ceremony. He included us all in on a fake feud (we hope) with everyone’s favorite Martian, Matt Damon. Seeing these two engage in fake banter and Damon endure some zingers was enough to remind viewers that not every major star has an ego the size of a small constellation.
On the aforementioned subject of division and race, Kimmel was criticized for a few lines about non-Western names, including Mahershala Ali, the Best Supporting Actor winner, which should come as no surprise to anyone who’s watched his show over the years. In case anyone forgets that he’s an irreverent white guy, that’s been a fact for a while. Mahershala himself didn’t look offended, and the personal moment of triumph evident on his face as he divulged that he was a new father was easily one of the top five most memorable moments of the evening.
It was a pretty remarkable year for cinema. The type of films nominated crossed borders that had previously been left for more “indie” features, and themes therein were deeper and less familiar than the oft-trodden paths of superhero-esque protagonists. The host captured it succinctly: “Black people saved NASA and white people saved jazz.” In other words, the artists in the room managed to surprise us by defying stereotypes.
The films presented had us invested in the stories of some real individuals with real struggles. Even if we can’t believe all the speeches, such as Viola Davis telling us that artists are the ONLY ones who celebrate life (*ehem* teachers, parents, doctors …?), we can certainly believe in the tales of victory despite — and because of — adversity that these screenwriters, actors, directors, producers and designers all work tirelessly to tell.
Guiding us through the night with his signature self-deprecating and snarky sense of humor, the host included not only a lack of reverence for names and politics, but a sarcastic tirade of anti-praise for Meryl Streep.
“Is that an Ivanka?” he quipped, playfully acknowledging Streep’s earlier speech against Trump.
The night wasn’t entirely hanging between an odd assortment of humorous and glum. Sara Bareilles brought us a beautiful rendition of “Both Sides Now” for this year’s very poignant In Memoriam, and Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson sang for two seconds rather jokingly before introducing the very talented young star behind Moana, a remarkably composed Auli’i Cravalho.
Though the twist at the end of the ceremony was indeed less welcome and more difficult to anticipate than the final act of an M. Night Shyamalan movie, the night overall touted stories and people who remind us of the best and worst parts of ourselves. Even the mix up, in its own way, spoke to the churning in your stomach at potential, as we watched the other nominees all endure a moment of tormented wonderment as the mistake was announced.
Here’s hoping the winners listed below enjoy their success, and that next year people don’t feel the need to push the (wrong) envelopes.
Mahershala Ali, Best Supporting Actor – Moonlight
Viola Davis, Best Supporting Actress – Fences
Zootopia, Best Animated Feature Film – Byron Howard, Rich Moore and Clark Spencer
La La Land, Best Cinematography – Linus Sandgren
Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, Best Costume Design – Colleen Atwood
La La Land, Best Director – Damien Chazelle
O.J.: Made in America, Best Documentary (Feature) – Ezra Edelman and Caroline Waterlow
The White Helmets, Best Documentary (Short) – Orlando von Einsiedel and Joanna Natasegara
Hacksaw Ridge, Best Film Editing – John Gilbert
The Salesman, Best Foreign Language Film – Iran; Directed by Asghar Farhadi
Suicide Squad, Best Makeup and Hairstyling – Alessandro Bertolazzi, Giorgio Gregorini and Christopher Nelson
La La Land, Best Music (Original Score) – Justin Hurwitz
“City Of Stars” from La La Land, Best Music (Original Song) – Music by Justin Hurwitz; Lyrics by Benj Pasek and Justin Paul
La La Land, Best Production Design – David Wasco (Production Design);
Piper, Best Short Film (Animated) – Alan Barillaro and Marc Sondheimer
Sing, Best Short Film (Live Action) – Kristof Deák and Anna Udvardy
Arrival, Best Sound Editing – Sylvain Bellemare
Hacksaw Ridge, Best Sound Mixing – Kevin O’Connell, Andy Wright Robert Mackenzie and Peter Grace
The Jungle Book, Best Visual Effects – Robert Legato, Adam Valdez, Andrew R. Jones and Dan Lemmon
Moonlight, Best Writing (Adapted Screenplay) – Screenplay by Barry Jenkins; Story by Tarell Alvin McCraney
Manchester by the Sea, Best Writing (Original Screenplay) – Written by Kenneth Lonergan
Moonlight, Best Picture – Adele Romanski, Dede Gardner and Jeremy Kleiner
Casey Affleck, Best Actor In a Leading Role – Manchester by the Sea
Emma Stone, Best Actress in a Leading Role – La La Land
Top photo: The crew from “Moonlight” accepting the award for Best Picture (YouTube screen shot)