Watching the Oscars last night was quite a roller coaster ride.
There was a point there where I thought Mel Gibson and Hacksaw Ridge might take home the director and best film awards, and I was starting to have flashbacks to election night–like, I’m watching this train wreck, this slow car crash I can’t swerve to avoid.
But the Oscars continued apace, handing out awards to several of the best picture nominees, echoing last year when Spotlight (Who?) took home only one award before winning the big prize. Awards were spread among La La Land, Manchester by the Sea, Hacksaw, Fences, and Moonlight. Damien Chazelle took home the best director trophy. Emma Stone won best actress. And it looked like the inevitable was about to happen. La La Land would win best picture.
And it did. For a second.
But it also didn’t. It never did. There was no conspiracy.
There was a confused Warren Beatty, who was trying to figure out the right way to handle this. There was Faye Dunaway, who thought Warren was just being silly. She took the envelope from him, saw the words “La La Land,” and vocalized them. There was the fact she was holding an envelope that said the words “Best Actress” on the front. There was also the fact that the Academy Awards prints two sets of envelopes in case one gets lost.
There was no attempt to cover this up, because there was nothing to cover. By all accounts, it looks like this was either an honest mistake or a dumb, cruel prank. Heads will roll if there are heads to roll.
But this–on a night where Mahershala Ali won best supporting actor, and Viola Davis took home best supporting actress, and many of the best picture nominees featured casts of color–this was not an attempt to highjack Moonlight‘s spotlight. Nor was this an attempt to bring those privileged folks from La La Land down a peg or two.
It was a dumb mistake we’ll be talking about for decades, but there was nothing malicious about it. If you’re playing the conspiracy card, congratulations. You are not much different than our current president, who thinks everyone is out to get him and that he actually won the popular vote because George Soros paid all the illegal immigrants to vote for Hillary Clinton in California. You’re no better than the Bernie Bros who probably think those same three million illegals caused him to lose by that many votes during the primary season.
Not everything is a conspiracy. Not everyone is trying to ruin your day.
I feel for the Moonlight people in this, I do. It sucks that their moment is always going to have this WTF attached to it. It sucks that now Moonlight, which had been the little movie that could, is about to experience the hell of being a winner. Everyone wants to find fault with the winner. But at least people will always remember that Moonlight won, which is more than anyone can say for Spotlight.
I feel for the La La Land folks as well. They have to be feeling a mix of sadness and embarrassment today, especially because people are certainly using this situation to voice their acute schadenfreude in seeing a frontrunner like La La Land go down so spectacularly.
La La Land isn’t the enemy. La La Land is a movie made by people who were passionate about their project–same as Moonlight, same as Lion, same as all of them. These folks–every single one who stepped on stage last night–are artists and dreamers. Some of them are the elite. Some of them are still looking for their next job. It was a close race, and the outcome could’ve gone several different ways. This wasn’t good triumphing over evil. The choice wasn’t cut and dried. This is not the establishment Democrats messing with your good time. This wasn’t a vast conspiracy exposed.
This was a crazy mixup at the end of a highly entertaining Academy Awards broadcast. Did the best picture win? I’ll let you know in fifteen years.
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I also wrote another book, Any Boy but You, (You’ve Got Mail in the Pokemon Go era). You can buy it here.
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