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Monday, February 27, 2017

What a night....

Now that I've had a day to recover, I'd be remiss if I didn't do a debrief of the historic show.

First.... that moment

I'm assuming if you're reading this, you know what happened.  If not, I'd encourage you to watch the whole 6 minutes, as its absolutely fascinating.

In short, what happened was:

-PriceWaterhouseCoopers have two sets of envelopes, one on each side of the stage.
-When Warren Beatty and Faye Dunaway went out, they gave them the duplicate Best Actress envelope.
-Warren opened it, confused, because it said "Emma Stone- La La Land" He paused, and showed it to Faye, who glanced at it and read La La Land.
-At some point during the speeches, the mistake was recognized and an accountant and stage manager came out to try to clear up everything.
-The La La Land team catches wind of what happened, and La La Land producer Jordan Horowitz jumps in, grabs the correct card from Warren Beatty, and calls Moonlight up.

Many have written about this more eloquently than I can, so I'll suffice it to say that the blame lies almost entirely with PriceWaterhouseCoopers, the only ones who know how to hand out the envelopes, know the results, and are supposed to intervene immediately if a mistake is made.

While in hindsight Warren Beatty probably should have made another choice or checked with someone other than his co-presenter when he was confused, it's hard to fault him in such a high-stakes moment. What was great to see was the grace of the La La Land team in their tough moment (I mean, they did still win 6 Oscars....)

More on what this all means a bit later on...

The Winners

It ended up being a spread the wealth kind of night, with several movies winning more than one award:

-La La Land (6: Actress, Director, Song, Score, Cinematography, Production Design)
-Moonlight (3: Picture, Supporting Actor, Adapted Screenplay)
-Manchester by the Sea (2: Actor, Original Screenplay)
-Hacksaw Ridge (2: Sound Mixing, Film Editing)

In my own predictions, I ended up with 16/24, probably my worst showing in quite a while. Here are the awards I called wrong, along with who I predicted in parentheses:

Picture: Moonlight (La La Land)
Actor: Casey Affleck (Denzel Washington)
Sound Editing: Arrival (Hacksaw Ridge)
Sound Mixing : Hacksaw Ridge (La La Land)
Makeup: Suicide Squad (Star Trek: Beyond)
Costumes: Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them (Jackie)
Film Editing: Hacksaw Ridge (La La Land)
Live Action Short: Sing (Ennemis Interieurs)

What it All Means

-Regardless of the bizarre final moments, Moonlight winning is a HUGE deal.  It was made for $1.5 million dollars and grossed the least of any of the nominees, although it is still hugely successful compared to its cost. It's a movie acted entirely by Black actors. It's the first Black-themed movie to win that's not focused on slavery or civil rights, as well as the first movie to ever win centered on a GLBTQ protagonist. I could go on, but it's a stunning victory.

-Just a year after #oscarssowhite, there were far more black winners than any other year. Moonlight, Mahershala Ali, Viola Davis, screenwriters Barry Jenkins and Tarell Alvin McCraney, and director Ezra Edelman (O.J.: Made in America) all won big awards. Who knows if this broad recognition will last, but let's savor a year when truly great diverse work came out and the Academy saw fit to recognize it.

-The preferential ballot in Best Picture matters. All other categories are decided by a plurality of votes, while Best Picture is decided using ranked-choice voting.  La La Land, which obviously had enough fervent fans to give director Damien Chazelle the win, probably fell behind when second and third place votes were counted, many of which probably went to Moonlight. It's better to be liked across the board than to be a divisive film. It's probably
how Spotlight beat The Revenant last year.

-The days of sweeps may be over. La La Land came away with an impressive 6 trophies, but far below the 9-11 most were predicting.

-Oscar voters aren't tied to the Best Picture frontrunners in all categories. They're happy to give awards to middling to poorly reviewed films like Fantastic Beasts and even Suicide Squad (!!) if they respect the craft enough.

-Just a decade ago, Best Picture/Director splitting was fairly rare. Now, it's happened 4 times in the past 5 years.  The more showy directorial project wins Best Director (Life of Pi, Gravity, The Revenant, La La Land), while the more modest and grounded film wins Best Picture (Argo, 12 Years a Slave, Spotlight, Moonlight).  This does mean that, unfortunately, two great black directors (Steve McQueen and Barry Jenkins) don't have Best Director wins.

All right, that's all everyone. One to remember!

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