OSCARS 2017: Thoughts on the Historic Night with the Biggest Shocker in Academy History

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The dust has settled considerably over the last few hours where one of the biggest shockers in the history of the Oscars unraveled right before our eyes.   Barry Jenkins’ urban masterpiece “Moonlight” bested out the long standing frontrunner “La La Land” by Damien Chazelle, in the Best Picture category.

Today, the media will be focused heavily on the confusion that surrounds presenters Warren Beatty, Faye Dunaway, and the accounting firm Price Waterhouse Coopers.  This is quite tragic as the world will not focus on the fact that “Moonlight,” a modern film about the black experience, that surrounds homosexuality, and written by an African-American writer/director, won the Academy Award for Best Picture.

Mirroring the same trajectory of 2013’s winner “12 Years a Slave,” Jenkins’ film won three awards in total: Motion Picture, Adapted Screenplay, and Supporting Actor for Mahershala Ali, the first Muslim actor to ever win an acting award.  There are several things to learn from last night, and things that one shouldn’t scoff at:

  • Dede Gardner, producer of “Moonlight,” became the first woman to win two Best Picture trophies.
  • 8 out of the last 10 PGA (Producers Guild of America) winners went on to win the Oscar for Best Picture, but not the last 2 (“Spotlight” and “Moonlight”).
  • Still a recurring statistic, the last film to win Best Picture without a SAG Ensemble nomination is “Braveheart” in 1995.
  • 3 out of the last 4 years have seen splits in Picture and Director.
  • BAFTA is one of the strongest indicator of Oscar support as proven by wins for “Hacksaw Ridge” in Film Editing, “Arrival” in Sound Editing, and “Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them” winning “something” on the night.
  • No film has won Best Picture that has been released in December and the Telluride premiere still looms strong.
  • Asghar Farhadi won Best Foreign Language Film for “The Salesman,” his second overall, and the first to do so in over thirty years.
  • Jimmy Kimmel was probably one of the best hosts in some time, and the show itself was one of the best produced in the last ten years.
  • Casey Affleck broke a 12-year streak where the winner of Best Actor at SAG, went on to win the Academy Award.
  • Greg P. Russell has now become the most nominated person without an Oscar win, thanks to Kevin O’Connell finally picking up his first Oscar.
  • Damien Chazelle is the youngest Best Director winner in Oscar history at 32.
  • Mahershala Ali is the first Muslim acting winner in Oscar history.
  • The last musical to win Best Original Screenplay was in the 1950’s.
  • “Zootopia” proved all the Animated Feature guilds and prizes matter.
  • The Oscar voter can watch your film on television and like you just the same, as proven by “O.J.: Made in America” winning Documentary Feature.
  • Only 3 Best Picture nominees went home empty handed: “Hell or High Water,” “Hidden Figures,” and “Lion.”
  • ASC is not the best indicator for Best Cinematography at the Academy Awards.

To share some other thoughts about the unprecedented upset for “Moonlight” in Picture:

All season, there have been indicators that this win was utterly possible.  On several podcast episodes, Oscar Circuits, and prediction pieces, awards “enthusiasts” claimed victory FAR too early.  This all points to my ongoing idea that it is NEVER over until the envelope is opened.  Considering “La La Land” lost Sound Mixing (a category made for the musical), Editing, and Original Screenplay, shows that it was not universally beloved.  AMPAS voters were on record as stating just that.

“Moonlight” was second in critics wins all year, winning a few guilds like the Writers Guild of America, and the Golden Globe for Best Picture (Drama).  This is not a presumed #8 film leapfrogging everyone and taking the award.  Musicals are divisive, no matter how “beloved” you think it is.  Even when we get on to win (a la “Chicago”), it narrowly loses to “The Pianist” which picked up three big prizes on the night.  “La La Land” did well, there’s no denying that.  Emma Stone’s Oscar is one of the film’s biggest highlights, and though Natalie Portman’s loss stings some, Stone’s win is one that will age gracefully.

You have to commend Jordan Horowitz, who I spent much time with at the Critics Choice Awards this year, and the rest of the “La La Land” team, that took the debacle and handed it like champs.  It was great to see such respect by both the “La La Land” and “Moonlight” teams, giving it to each other all over social media.

With that, we move on.  It was my single worst prediction making in my career.  I’m okay with that.  I have learned to stick to my guns.  I had “Manchester by the Sea” winning Original Screenplay and second guessed it, and had “La La Land” taking home 8 before I made the sweep-ish switch to 10 Oscars.  Modern films that win Best Picture, don’t win a whole lot of Oscars.

New predictions coming on Wednesday, along with your opportunity to sound off in the Circuit Center with “Year-in-Advanced” predictions.

Sound off with your own thoughts in the comments below!

Full list of winners:

BEST PICTURE
“Arrival”
“Fences”
“Hacksaw Ridge”
“Hell or High Water”
“Hidden Figures”
“La La Land”
“Lion”
“Manchester by the Sea”
“Moonlight” (WINNER)
ACTOR IN A LEADING ROLE
Casey Affleck in “Manchester by the Sea” (WINNER)
Andrew Garfield in “Hacksaw Ridge”
Ryan Gosling in “La La Land”
Viggo Mortensen in “Captain Fantastic”
Denzel Washington in “Fences”
ACTOR IN A SUPPORTING ROLE
Jeff Bridges in “Hell or High Water”
Mahershala Ali in “Moonlight” (WINNER)
Lucas Hedges in “Manchester by the Sea”
Dev Patel in “Lion”
Michael Shannon in “Nocturnal Animals”
ACTRESS IN A LEADING ROLE
Isabelle Huppert in “Elle”
Ruth Negga in “Loving”
Natalie Portman in “Jackie”
Emma Stone in “La La Land” (WINNER)
Meryl Streep in “Florence Foster Jenkins”
ACTRESS IN A SUPPORTING ROLE
Nicole Kidman in “Lion”
Viola Davis in “Fences”
Naomie Harris in “Moonlight”
Octavia Spencer in “Hidden Figures”
Michelle Williams in “Manchester by the Sea”
ANIMATED FEATURE FILM
“Kubo and the Two Strings”
“Moana”
“My Life as a Zucchini”
“The Red Turtle”
“Zootopia” (WINNER)
CINEMATOGRAPHY
“Arrival”
“La La Land” (WINNER)
“Lion”
“Moonlight”
“Silence”
COSTUME DESIGN
“Allied”
“Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them” (WINNER)
“Florence Foster Jenkins”
“Jackie”
“La La Land”
DIRECTING
“Arrival” – Denis Villeneuve
“Hacksaw Ridge” – Mel Gibson
“La La Land” – Damien Chazelle (WINNER)
“Manchester by the Sea” – Kenneth Lonergan
“Moonlight” – Barry Jenkins
DOCUMENTARY (FEATURE)
“Fire at Sea”
“I Am Not Your Negro”
“Life, Animated”
“O.J.: Made in America” (WINNER)
“13th”
DOCUMENTARY (SHORT SUBJECT)
“Extremis”
“4.1 Miles”
“Joe’s Violin”
“Watani: My Homeland”
“The White Helmets” (WINNER)
FILM EDITING
“Arrival”
“Hacksaw Ridge” (WINNER)
“Hell or High Water”
“La La Land”
“Moonlight”
FOREIGN LANGUAGE FILM
“Land of Mine”
“A Man Called Ove”
“The Salesman” (WINNER)
“Tanna”
“Toni Erdmann”
MAKEUP AND HAIRSTYLING
“A Man Called Ove”
“Star Trek Beyond”
“Suicide Squad” (WINNER)
MUSIC (ORIGINAL SCORE)
“Jackie”
“La La Land” (WINNER)
“Lion”
“Moonlight”
“Passengers”
MUSIC (ORIGINAL SONG)
“Audition (The Fools Who Dream)” from “La La Land”
“Can’t Stop The Feeling” from “Trolls”
“City Of Stars” from “La La Land” (WINNER)
“The Empty Chair” from “Jim: The James Foley Story”
“How Far I’ll Go” from “Moana”
PRODUCTION DESIGN
“Arrival”
“Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them”
“Hail, Caesar!”
“La La Land” (WINNER)
“Passengers”
ANIMATED SHORT FILM
“Blind Vaysha”
“Borrowed Time”
“Pear Cider and Cigarettes”
“Pearl”
“Piper” (WINNER)
LIVE ACTION SHORT FILM
“Ennemis Intérieurs”
“La Femme et le TGV”
“Silent Nights”
“Sing” (WINNER)
“Timecode”
SOUND EDITING
“Arrival” (WINNER)
“Deepwater Horizon”
“Hacksaw Ridge”
“La La Land”
“Sully”
SOUND MIXING
“Arrival”
“Hacksaw Ridge” (WINNER)
“La La Land”
“Rogue One: A Star Wars Story”
“13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi”
VISUAL EFFECTS
“Deepwater Horizon”
“Doctor Strange”
“The Jungle Book” (WINNER)
“Kubo and the Two Strings”
“Rogue One: A Star Wars Story”
WRITING (ADAPTED SCREENPLAY)
“Arrival”
“Fences
“Hidden Figures”
“Lion”
“Moonlight” (WINNER)
WRITING (ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY)
“Hell or High Water”
“La La Land”
“The Lobster”
“Manchester by the Sea” (WINNER)
“20th Century Women”

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Clayton Davis--prolific writer and autism awareness advocate of Puerto Rican and Black descent, known for his relentless passion, dedication, and unique aptitude. Over the course of a decade, he has been criticizing both film and television extensively. To date, he has been either featured or quoted in an array of prominent outlets, including but not limited to The New York Times, CNN.com, Variety, Deadline, Los Angeles Times, FOX 5, Bloomberg Television, AOL, Huffington Post, Bloomberg Radio, The Wrap, Slash Film, and the Hollywood Reporter. Growing up in the Bronx, Clayton’s avid interest in the movie world began the moment he first watched "Dead Poets Society” at just five years of age. While he struggled in English class all throughout grade school, he dived head first into writing, ultimately taking those insufficiencies and transforming them into ardent writings pertaining to all things film, television, and most importantly, the Academy Awards. In addition to crafting a collection of short stories that give a voice to films that haven’t made it to the silver screen, Clayton currently serves as the Founding Editor of AwardsCircuit.com. He also holds active voting membership at various esteemed organizations, such as the Broadcast Film Critics Association, Broadcast Television Journalists Association, African-American Film Critics Association, New York Film Critics Online, Black Reel Awards, and International Press Academy. Furthermore, Clayton obtained his B.A. degree in American Studies and Communications.