Many tuning in to the Oscars this year did so with an eye on the speeches for anything memorable or newsworthy. Oh there was one for the ages alright, but not at all what anyone would have been expecting.
The final award of the night, Best Picture, was presented by Bonnie & Clyde co-stars Warren Beatty and Faye Dunaway. La La Land was announced as the winner and its thrilled cast and crew went up to the stage. Halfway into acceptance speeches however, the mistake was finally caught. Moonlight had actually won, and so the statues were transferred to its producers
Just how this could have happened I don’t know, but it made the show, which was running long past when it should have ended, worth sticking the whole way through for. The Oscars began their season with dumb mistakes (the official website listing nominations for Tom Hanks and Amy Adams) and ended it with a huge one. All that said however, it’s a shame that a momentous moment for Moonlight to shine was overshadowed (double puns there not intended) by this spectacle.
Politics certainly came up, most explicitly when Asghar Farhadi pulled a Marlon Brando. Sent in his place to accept the Best Foreign Language Film award, Anousheh Ansari read a prepared statement railing against the travel ban. Others speakers had things to say on the issues, which ranged from poignant (screenwriters of Moonlight assuring people feeling marginalized that they’ll be looking out for them) to cringe-worthy (presenter Gael Garcia Bernal bringing up the border wall out of nowhere and then having nothing to say about it other than that he’s against).
Host Jimmy Kimmel had some inspired lines, though the Donald Trump material was rather forced. But the real fun came with him going after Matt Damon. The faux feud between them was mined throughout the entire night, even having the announcer and orchestra in on the jokes. His best gag was lampooning the Oscars’ own preamble to some presenters (one actor watching another’s film and talking about their admiration), with him giving that treatment to We Bought a Zoo.
As for the other winners, there weren’t any particularly huge upsets. Casey Affleck’s was probably the closest to, as many were thinking Denzel Washington would take it or that there was no way the Academy would award a sexual harasser (allegedly). On a related note, brother Ben was also a winner that weekend, collecting another Razzie this time for Batman v. Superman.
Elsewhere, records and bad luck streaks were broken. Viola Davis made history again as the first black actress to have earned three nominations; she of course won and gave a speech too amazing for words (these puns, ugh). Mahershala Ali’s win was the first for a Muslim in an acting category. Damien Chazelle became the youngest recipient of the Best Director award. And sound mixer Kevin O’Connell, a 21-time nominee that received his first over 30 years ago, finally landed a win for his work on Hacksaw Ridge.
Back to the flubs, the In Memoriam segment also suffered a major error. Janet Patterson, a costume designer who passed away last year, had name on screen but not her picture. Instead the woman seen was Jan Chapman, a producer who is still very much alive. And like always, they left out beloved figures such as Robert Vaughn (an Oscar nominee!), Miguel Ferrer, Alexis Arquette, Florence Henderson, Garry Shandling, and Dan Ireland.
And lastly, some of the bits were grossly miscalculated. A part called “Movies Around the World” featured interviews with moviegoers in France, Italy, and China. However, they mentioned and discussed what American films they liked best, not films of their home countries. There were a few clips of those, but none were ever named or otherwise identified. Wouldn’t the whole point of a segment like this be to point American viewers to movies beyond their nation? But no, same old Hollywood ethnocentrism at work.
You can bet that the showrunners are on full alert now to not let any of these mishaps recur, so take this in while you can. It’s going to be years, maybe decades, before anything this memorable happens again.