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”

  • Calvin Damon

    Well, on to the 2018 Academy Awards. Is it safe to say that Dunkirk is the year in advance frontrunner? A respected filmmaker who has been ignored by the academy a few times now crafting his obligatory war film to cement his legacy.

    • Jason

      I definitely would say it’s the front runner for the best director Oscar at the moment. But that could, and more than likely will, change at some point.

    • Phill Milner

      I’d be very surprised if Dunkirk made a competitive play at the Oscars. Nolan’s greatest efforts such as Memento and The Prestige have gone ignored by the academy and he hasn’t made many quality films since then to get him recognized.

      Not saying Dunkirk will be bad (surely it can’t be as awful as Interstellar) but I don’t see the academy going for it. Not yet.

      • Calvin Damon

        I think it’s exactly because he’s been ignored so much in the past that the academy are going to want to make it up to him. Especially with a movie more suited towards their tastes like a war movie. And don’t forget that he almost got a comic book movie in with The Dark Knight and arguably was responsible for the expansion from 5 to 10 best picture nominees because of that particular snub. And Inception was nominated for picture and Screenplay and I’m sure it was inches away from finally getting him that coveted best director nomination. I think this is what finally gets Nolan into the director conversation at least. Also, I really like Interstellar. It’s not his best film and it is deeply flawed(especially in the final act), but it is undoubtedly enthralling throughout.

    • AyeAye

      I’ll bet my life on Paul Thomas Anderson taking Director and Daniel Day Lewis taking Actor. /jumping the shark lol

      • Calvin Damon

        The only think that gives me pause about that one is that it’s about the 50’s London fashion industry. But the oil drilling business shouldn’t have been interesting in the slightest either, but There Will Be Blood was amazing. PTA made the porn industry fascinating as well with Boogie Nights, so you never know.

  • JK3

    The SAG nomination snub finally clicked for me last night. It couldn’t get enough top votes to make it into the category over 5 other films. When you factor that into the preferential balloting system, you have a nightmare scenario for “La La Land” in that it won’t get enough #1 votes (if it even had an edge there to begin with since the biggest branch shunned it) to win on the first ballot and with it being as polarizing as it is, if it’s not your #1, then it’s probably not #2 or #3 either. Where as I can see Moonlight getting a lot of #1s, but also a bunch of #2s and #3s.

    I think 1995, the categories’ inception, is the only year in which a snubbed film went on to win Best Picture.
    So I guess we have a new Oscar Coda. If you can’t get enough votes to be 1 out of 5 among the actors, sweat.

    • John

      I think La La Land could have broken the trend if the Oscars had been sooner. It was hit with one of the hardest backlashes in recent memory. The Golden Globe sweep was one of the worst things that happened to it actually, as it gave instant fuel to the fire. For the whole period from nomination to the ceremony, there was article after article, person after person, saying not only was La La Land overrated but it also was backward thinking in some way.

      • Calvin Damon

        And I still don’t get the backlash at all. Everyone I know that has seen it loves it and I either disagree or at least think that people are over exaggerating with all of the points against it. To be fair, I am a music nerd and hang out with lots of other music nerds, so we may be biased and the movie may have been made specifically for us.

        • AyeAye

          I think the backlash had a lot to do with it losing. Globes did it injustice. And I’m a music nerd as well (I’m a vocal theory student) and everyone I know hated it.

    • AyeAye

      SAG snub, BAFTA and WGA screenplay losses were kick to its gut. IDK why people expected it to win after that. Then as the show went on, it missed out the categories it was leading – Film Editing and especially Sound Mixing. Final blow to it. Still people IK expected it to win, it was quite amusing to see their prediction fail.

  • Phill Milner

    Manchester got its wins, LaLa Land lost, and Moonlight winning won’t really be remembered after that humiliating collapse by the academy (which is good). It was a good night and I’ve never been happier to eat my words.

    • Lakeshow

      Won’t be remembered? It was the craziest moment in Oscar’s history! I don’t think anyone who watched will forget this.

      • Calvin Damon

        He’s trying to say that the controversy will overshadow Moonlight winning, but I don’t exactly agree with him. If anything, it will cause a backlash to Moonlight winning

      • Phill Milner

        The moment will be remembered for sure, but headlines and conversations that I’ve seen today do not include Moonlight. They include things such as “collapse” “fail” “mistake” and most annoyingly “Happy Trump.”

        I’m saying Moonlight coming away as the winner will always be overshadowed by that moment.

    • michaeldal65

      Moonlight will Never be forgotten and La La Land didn’t lose. Regardless of which trophies it claimed, it was the biggest winner of the night.

      • Phill Milner

        I think getting called to the stage as a winner, then having it taken away and given to someone else during your acceptance speech is arguably the biggest and most humiliating loss of the night. Of course, that’s not LaLa Land’s fault, but I don’t think those who worked on the movie felt like winners after that. In fact, they were pretty pissed off from what I hear.

    • Derrick

      Moonlight winning Best Picture WILL be remembered, it was the HIGHLIGHT of the night and the crowd answers that! That mix-up will face a bit of backlash but it will boil over!

    • AyeAye

      My prediction throughout the season was a Moonlight win. And when they called Blah Blah Bland’s name I was shocked for over a minute but then when they corrected it I was elated. Although I did feel bad for them because they got excited only to be roasted pitifully.

  • Derrick

    I’m still in heaven from last night over MOONLIGHT’s win for Best Picture.
    Congrats to all the winners including Arrival, MBTS (which I find BLAH but loved the town setting) and Hacksaw Ridge

  • MovieManiac14

    It would’ve been greater if the real Best Picture winner was revealed to be Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk.

  • AyeAye

    I predicted Moonlight would mirror 12 Years a Slave months ago. IMO Moonlight win was very predictable, there were many indicators against La La Land like it being a musical (last musical win was more than a decade ago) and losing Screenplay awards throughout the season including WGA and BAFTA. PGA alone is not good enough to look at the BP winner, as Screenplay is the foundation. Also as the show went on, it missed out Mixing (which like you said is an award made for Musicals) and went on to miss out both the Editing as well. And the SAG ensemble miss (which was rightly deserved as it was a movie with 2 characters but still that was an indicator as SAG voters are actor who comprises AMPAS). Also the preferential ballot had a lot to do with its loss IMO Moonlight is a beloved movie, and as you’ve said Hollywood didn’t necessarily love La La Land as a movie.

    I FULLY agree. Kemmel is one of the best host we’ve seen in some years. He was miles better incomparison to the trainwreck show last year (Rock is one of the un-funniest host ever). I agree with you on Justin as well, actually all the LLL crews. They handled it very gracefully. If I were them, I’d have wept on stage LOL

    What Zootopia proved was that Academy doesn’t care about anything other than CGI animated movies. So never expect anything other than them to win an Oscar. It makes me resent their Animated feature voting even more, it’s never fair and also makes their technical achievement award shallow and lacking in pithy.

    Suicide Squad’s win over Star Trek was horrendous to watch. I mean there was nothing special about the make-up in SS. And even Bertolazzi didn’t expect to win. How the hell did they vote for it??

    • Kyle Horton

      zootopia had strong message about the evils of racism

      • AyeAye

        How does that make it better? There are multitudes of movies which deals with racism.

  • Jesse Gallaghers

    In regards to OJ: IMDB lists the theatrical qualifying run occurred on May 20, 2016, while the world premiere was at Sundance on January 22, 2016. OJ did not premiere on television until June 11, 2016. According to Academy rules, in order to qualify for an Oscar (save for the short films and the Foreign Language category), the film must play for one week within Los Angeles County with published showtimes. The issue regarding “TV” or “Film” is a non issue that is only being presented with this particular film (due to its runtime, which is also a nonissue since many films have run longer than that – even WAR AND PEACE ran longer and took home Best Foreign Language Film), when films in the last few years have been competing for both the Emmy and Oscar (look at WHAT HAPPENED MISS SIMONE).

    Regarding Farhadi: No filmmaker wins the award for Foreign Language Film. When the category was first introduced, the producer and the country would win, but the director did not. AMPAS subsequently changed it so only the country would win an Oscar. Farhadi has thus only received one nomination in his career (Original Screenplay for A SEPARATION), while Iran has won two Oscars for his films.

  • Adventurer

    By “shocker” if you are referring to Suicide Squad win over Star Trek, I agree. FULLY! Because that made my jaw drop literally. There was NO precedence whatsoever. But if you are referring to the Moonlight win, I disagree fully. lol