Going in, the Oscars had been cast as a face-off between Hollywood insider romance La La Land and tiny queer gem Moonlight. With 23 awards handed out, Warren Beatty and Faye Dunaway walked out to present best picture. Moonlight, with two wins previous (best supporting actor Mahershala Ali and adapted screenplay fir director Barry Jenkins and Tarel Alvin McCraney), was a longshot, since by then, La La Land had six, including best actress Emma Stone, best director Damien Chazelle, cinematography, song (“City of Stars”), production design and score. Beatty seemed to vamp about what would win. He showed the card to Dunaway who declared the winner for best picture: La La Land. The team rushed the stage. Three producers gave acceptance speeches… until one of them revealed the horrible, horrible mistake: The real winner was Moonlight. People seemed to think he was just being gracious. The he turned the card to the camera, and without a doubt, the sole winner was Moonlight.
It was awkward it was terrible, it was unconscionable. No one knew if they should applaud. It seems like there’s time for a new hashtag: #OscarsSoSteveHarvey.
But when it was all sorted, this $1.5 million art picture was the night’s biggest champ, if not in number, then in prestige.
It felt like Election Night all over again. Was Putin to blame? Had James Comey been talking out of school?
It’s too bad the end of was shit show, since host Jimmy Kimmel and the performances were overall pretty good, even though politics were largely ignored. Manchester by the Sea took home original screenplay and best actor for Casey Affleck. Viola Davis won best supporting actress for Fences. Even Mel Gibson’s Hacksaw Ridge won two (sound mixing and film editing). Arrival‘s eight nominations netted one win, for sound editing; best picture contenders Hell or High Water, Hidden Figures and Lion went home totally empty-handed. Some on social media were appalled that the panned Suicide Squad gets to claim an Oscar victory (for makeup). Zootopia won best animated feature, as expected. Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Then won for its costumes. The Jungle Book took best visual effects. But all most people will remember was the night the winner wasn’t the winner. And the real winner was awesome.