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: