Well, that happened. What a colossally disappointing evening. La La Land had its Best Picture win snatched away and Moonlight took it home instead. The film everyone expected to sweep the night instead goes home with six awards to its name. I’ve been wrong before about Best Picture winners (Boyhood should have had it), but I’ve never been this sad about a result.
This was the most invested I’ve ever been in a single film winning Best Picture. La La Land spoke to me in a way that no film ever has before. I fell in love with the inspirational, yet melancholy story, the relatable and likable characters, the beautiful, dazzling visuals, the impeccable technical execution, and perhaps most of all, the wonderful music (which I loved so much that I bought the soundtrack). Even I am stunned that La La Land managed to enchant me so. Me – a person who hates musicals. And yet, despite its record tying 14 nominations, La La Land misses out on the top spot. How did this happen?
I can only conclude that Moonlight‘s win is a symptom of the times. The proximity to last years #OscarsSoWhite controversy cannot be ignored. In the wake of the (justified) public backlash, The Academy is trying to foster goodwill. This year’s diverse pool of nominees is evidence enough, but Moonlight winning Best Picture just seals it. Of all the minority films that were highlighted on stage tonight, Moonlight is the most minority-ish of the lot. The film is literally about a man living at the intersection of two minority groups: African Americans and the LGBT community. The fact that it won as a direct result of last year’s controversy is so painfully obvious that I initially thought the onstage mix up was a publicity stunt. As though The Academy was saying, “Ha! You thought we’d give it to the movie about white people singing about Hollywood, but instead we gave it the gay, black film. Happy now?”
After the initial burst of incredulity wore off I accepted that the mistake was genuine, but I still attribute Moonlight‘s win to the recent controversy’s influence on the voting body. Moonlight is certainly good – exemplary even, but I do not think for a moment it was the best film of the year. In the same way that I felt Hidden Figures skated into the Best Picture category on the strength of its subject matter alone, so too do I feel Moonlight won because it doubled down on much of the same themes and subject matter. Admittedly, Moonlight did have better technical execution than Hidden Figures, but nothing gripping or exceptionally memorable. Its win is a gesture to placate the masses and upset the aficionados who comfortably predicted that Hollywood would honor another film about itself.
However, the simple fact is that La La Land was the better made film. Its 14 nominations and six wins should be proof enough of that. Unlike Moonlight, La La Land was the whole package – an imaginative revival of a dead genre with emotional performances, sublime technical execution, and an inspirational story which celebrates and affirms the value of art itself. It was the best film of the year, the best film I have seen since I started following the awards circuit, and one of my all time favorite films. It should have won.
Oh. And the rest of my predictions were way off too. My worst year actually, which is a real shame since this is the first year that I’ve chronicled and published my process on this blog. Only 53% accuracy, down from last year’s 75%. Also, I’m very upset that Manchester by the Sea won anything at all. That film was terrible.
Best Picture: Moonlight
Best Actor: Casey Affleck for Manchester by the Sea
Best Actress: Emma Stone for La La Land
Best Supporting Actor: Mahershala Ali for Moonlight
Best Supporting Actress: Viola Davis for Fences
Best Animated Feature: Zootopia
Best Cinematography: La La Land
Best Costume Design: Fantastic Beasts and Where To Find Them
Best Director: Damien Chazelle for La La Land
Best Editing: Hacksaw Ridge
Best Makeup and Hair: Suicide Squad
Best Original Score: La La Land
Best Original Song: City of Stars from La La Land
Best Production Design: La La Land
Best Sound Editing: Arrival
Best Sound Mixing: Hacksaw Ridge
Best Visual Effects: The Jungle Book
Best Adapted Screenplay: Moonlight
Best Original Screenplay: Manchester by the Sea