I always feel left out when watching The Oscars. They are like my Super Bowl. I watch the pre-show and get involved in the hype. But there are no big Oscar watch parties nationwide. It’s almost an afterthought the next day for most viewers. It’s everything to me. Film is my favorite form of art. It has taught me more about myself and about the world than any school class could even attempt to.
The Academy Awards for the most part are more spot-on with their choices compared to contemporaries like the Grammys that typically give away awards based on album sales and popularity.
About halfway through the 3.5 hour ceremony when Jimmy Kimmell was (for some reason) showing off a bunch of random tourists off to the star-studded audience and “La La Land” was starting to scoop up awards, I knew the course it was about to take. I was thankful that Mahershala Ali won for Best Supporting Actor for his role in “Moonlight” and that Casey Affleck won for his incredible role in “Manchester by the Sea,” so I was ready for the inevitable disappointment when the Hollywood lovefest “La La Land” won Best Picture.
No one was expecting any film besides “La La Land” to win Best Picture. The Academy has a long history of loving films that involve escapism through film or that are about the medium of film and how great it is — with 3 of the past 5 winners dealing with the film business in some aspect.
I actually enjoyed “La La Land,” but the overwhelming outpouring of excessive love for a pseudo-musical that took a little too much influence from the classic musicals of director Jacques Demy started to irk the film nerd in me after the first month. That, along with the encompassing undertow vibe of “If you don’t love ‘La La Land,’ you don’t love yourself” coming from the film community made my eyes roll out of my skull at every turn.
The thought of “Moonlight” winning Best Picture actually made me emotional. That sounds silly, but you have to look at it from my nerdy film perspective. It’s one of the greatest films I’ve ever seen. The statement it will make if it wins will be incredible. The Academy would be applauded for its choice after last year’s #OscarsSoWhite fiasco by awarding a film with an all black cast. I didn’t think “Moonlight” would be snatching up anything besides the Best Supporting Actor and Best Adapted Screenplay so I wasn’t going to get my hopes up.
I gripped my remote to turn my TV off when Warren Beatty and Faye Dunaway walked on stage of the Dolby Theater to announce — to nobody’s shock — that “La La Land” won Best Picture.
Congratulations, Academy. You disappointed me yet again.
I slapped my laptop shut and got ready to go to bed early for once.
I checked my phone once more before I expected to lay down. A flood of Tweets that screamed “WHAT IS HAPPENING” (so much that it was trending on Twitter) was all my timeline consisted of.
The producers and cast of “La La Land” all went on stage. Producers Jordan Horowitz and Marc Platt delivered their heartwarming speeches while a man with a headset ran around behind them. Platt begrudgingly looked to push another producer, Fred Berger, to the mic while everyone on stage conversed with Martha Ruiz, one of only two people who knows the results at the Academy.
Berger thanked his family and director Damien Chazelle, then turned around and looked back to the audience.
“We lost by the way, but you know,” Berger nervously chuckled.
Horowitz aggressively came to the mic to announce “Guys, guys, I’m sorry. No. There’s been a mistake. ‘Moonlight,’ you guys won Best Picture.”
In unbelievable fashion, Beatty and Dunaway got the duplicate envelope for Best Actress in a Supporting Role and misspoke.
Horowitz showed the audience the correct envelope showing that “Moonlight” did in fact win Best Picture.
The cast of Moonlight cautiously approached the stage. Director Barry Jenkins was awestruck, covering his mouth. Actor Trevante Rhodes gripped his chest. Actor Jharrel Jerome picked up fellow actor Alex R. Hibbert and hugged him on stage. The impossible is now shown to be possible. A $1.5 million budget film that challenges masculinity and sexuality in the black community won Best Picture. The Academy gracefully rewarded empathy rather than escapism.
For a film like “La La Land” that bombards you with the words “dream” and “dreamers” until they almost have no meaning, the cast and crew of “Moonlight” showed what real dreams look like.
Barry Jenkins approached the mic with a bewildered face. A black man from Miami accepting the award for Best Picture five years to the day after a young black boy from Miami, Trayvon Martin, was murdered.
“Very clearly, even in my dreams, this could not be true. But to hell with dreams! Because I’m done with it because this is true. Oh my goodness,” Jenkins remarks.
“Hopefully this is inspiring to people, little black boys and brown girls and other folks watching at home that feel marginalized,” Producer Adele Romanski says.
The Academy went for inclusivity. They went for diversity. Above all, they wanted to support the most acclaimed film of the past three years. Hopefully we continue to talk about the themes and performances encapsulated in “Moonlight” instead of the unfortunate snafu that occurred. It’s arguably one of the most important Best Picture wins in the Academy’s history. “Moonlight” is what “Crash” wished it accomplished back in 2004.
It discusses race, sexuality, poverty and masculinity without exploitation or sensationalization. Above all, it puts the problems of the marginalized individuals that feel left out or pushed away. It showcases that their voice matters. It puts their struggles in the limelight with genuine care and compassion for the characters and an inherent struggle that is all too real for them.
Films like “Moonlight” make me not feel so left out. It make me feel that someone understands me—that’s even more prevalent when you know that I’m a heterosexual white male and I’m not represented in the film at all. The overall theme of having trouble finding your place in the world is relatable.
Take the scene in “Moonlight” when Juan (Mahershala Ali) and Little a.k.a. Chiron (Alex R. Hibbert) go out into the Atlantic Ocean to teach Little how to swim. Juan cradles him in the water. Little is too immature to realize, but Juan won’t be around forever to be his surrogate father, but while he is, Little will be at peace.
“Give me your head. Let your head rest in my hand. I got you. I promise. Right there. You in the middle of the world, man.”