So, what kind of year was 2017? How to even answer this question takes a lot of consideration and research. On the surface, it seemed like yet another up and down year. The theater I believe is slowly dying, but online film and the hunger for film has been stronger than ever. I know for myself, the theater down the street from me closed, and now I’m forced to pick other theaters to see new releases, and sometimes I chose instead to wait for them to come to VOD and Blu-ray. But enough of my personal thoughts and feelings, and on to the year that was.
The year started with Rogue One and Hidden Figures dominating the box office, and many of us anticipating the Oscar nominations in the early hours of January 24th. Most of us knew that La La Land was going to do well, but I don’t think many was predicting it would land with a record-tying 14 nominations, tying All About Eve (1950) and Titanic (1997).
After the nominations, there was a backlash that had really started on January 8th with the Golden Globes. La La Land won a record-breaking 7 Globes that night, and everyone started questioning whether it was good enough to deserve all those wins. That night it won, Motion Picture Musical or Comedy, Actor, Actress, Director, Screenplay, Original Song, and Score. The other big winner that night was Moonlight, which won Motion Picture-Drama. We knew for sure then that the Oscar for Best Picture was gonna come down to either of those two, La La Land or Moonlight.
But first there was a little bump in the road. When the Screen Actors Guild announced their nominees for Best Cast Ensemble, La La Land was absent, but Moonlight was securely there. The thought was that Moonlight was gonna win then easily. But when the envelope was opened on January 29th, the card said Hidden Figures. “WHAT?!” I was stunned, and I’m sure many others were too.
Taraji P. Henson gave a wonderful thank you speech and it was for sure the crowning award of the night. The other interesting award given that night was for Best Leading Actor, which went to Denzel Washington and not the presumed favorite, Casey Affleck. Now the Oscar writers had a decision on their hands. Do they predict Casey Affleck who to that point had been winning most pre-cursors, or do they switch now to Denzel Washington? What to do, what to do?!
On Sunday, February 26th, everyone was prepared for the Academy Awards, with deep anticipation and nervous energy. I myself was not immune to this feeling. I was rooting for La La Land to win Best Picture and a ton of other categories. The night went fairly normal and most of the predicted winners won. Including Mahershala Ali for Best Supporting Actor for Moonlight, Viola Davis for Best Supporting Actress for Fences and Emma Stone for Best Actress for La La Land. There was some feeling that Natalie Portman might win for Jackie, but it was not meant to be. Stone was the star of La La Land, and she had a great Oscar race.
Then it’s time to find out who wins Best Actor, is it Affleck or Washington?? The winner is indeed Casey Affleck and many of us were disappointed by this. Denzel Washington had had a great career up to that point, and most thought that since the SAG voters picked him, surely the Oscar voters would as well. Casey Affleck won and by this point he was in the thick of a controversy where he had supposedly done some nefarious things to women while on the set shooting I’m Still Here starring Joaquin Phoenix. It’s sadly apt that his lewd behavior towards women would be a harbinger of much worse to come. Ugh.
Now it’s time to award Best Director and Damien Chazelle wins for La La Land. Surely there was no chance that anything other than La La Land was going to win Best Picture. The award handed out right before the Best Picture award was Emma Stone’s win for Best Actress, and then Warren Beatty and Faye Dunaway came out to present the final and biggest award of the night.
Warren opened the card, paused, and then handed it to Faye, who read La La Land as the winner. I personally yelled out in happiness, and was relieved. Until I saw there was a commotion on stage and it was announced that there was a mistake with the card that was opened. That Warren and Faye had been handed the wrong card. And that the right card for the winner of Best Picture said Moonlight on it.
Everyone was in complete shock. Even the Moonlight crew was in shock, given the looks on their faces and their reactions as they took the stage. They knew none of it made any sense as to why La La Land was not the correct winner. It was of course only after the ceremony that we found out it was due to the negligence of the two people in charge of keeping track of the right envelopes handed out to the presenters. The guy in question had been taking selfies and tweeting throughout the ceremony and had lost track of which envelope to give Warren and Faye.
The result of what happened to them was not as impactful as what it meant for Moonlight to win Best Picture. It meant that the Oscar voters finally came together to award a film that is not only gay themed but starring an all-black cast. This was a major step forward for the Academy and for actors who are gay and/or of color.
We can already see how the effect is more positive, since this latest Oscar race has a gay themed film as a strong contender for Best Picture, Screenplay and Actor. This was far and away the most memorable Oscars ceremony of maybe all-time to this point, and probably for some time to come. Whew!