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Tuesday, March 7, 2017

The 2017 O scars: A shocking twist and ‘the upset of the century’

McCraney and Jenkins
McCraney and Jenkins
“The final moments of the 89th Academy Awards are likely to be pulled apart and obsessed over for generations,” said David Sims in La La Land had already racked up six prizes when Warren Beatty and Faye Dunaway announced that the wellloved musical and bettors’ favorite had been voted Best Picture. The producers took the stage, clasped their trophies, and even began giving speeches before news reached them that a mistake had occurred: Beatty had been handed the wrong envelope, and Moonlight—a low-budget drama with a virtually all-black cast—had actually won the industry’s grand prize. For Oscar producers, the messy climax rated as a major embarrassment, but it was also “the epitome of live television, the kind of epic screw-up that dreams are made of.”

The envelope snafu shouldn’t overshadow Moonlight’s landmark win, said Aisha Harris in Set in Miami, Barry Jenkins’ quiet drama, co-written by Tarell Alvin McCraney, focuses on a vulnerable boy who is black, gay, and poor, and the main action concerns the character’s decade-long quest to achieve acceptance and love. It is, in other words, “the type of movie that pretty much never gets made, and thus never gets rewarded.” Many observers will note that Moonlight’s victory comes a year after the #OscarSoWhite protests and a slight shift in the makeup of the academy’s membership. Overall, there were more black winners than on any previous Oscar night, and those victors included Moonlight’s Mahershala Ali, the first Muslim honoree. But Moonlight’s win was less a win for inclusion than for filmmaking, because the Oscar doesn’t always go to the year’s best picture, and Moonlight is “not just a great movie but a historically great movie.”

Still, “sending a message was clearly on voters’ minds,” said Kenneth Turan in the Los Angeles Times. The escapism of La La Land helped it ring up victories early in awards season, but the Oscar voting began in mid-February, after President Trump had taken office, instituted a controversial travel ban, and sparked protests across the nation. In that climate, “giving Best Picture to a film that celebrates the beauty of being who you are was something that academy members could not resist doing.” Moonlight has yet to find a large national audience, but that could change. Last week, it was a critics’ favorite; today, it’s “the film that pulled the upset of the century.”

And the winners were …

Best Picture: Moonlight
Best Actor: Casey Affleck, Manchester by the Sea
Best Actress: Emma Stone, La La Land
Best Supporting Actor: Mahershala Ali, Moonlight
Best Supporting Actress: Viola Davis, Fences
Best Director: Damien Chazelle, La La Land

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