I’m a dedicated awards show watcher. Everything from the art being celebrated to the red carpet fashion and the political commentary fascinates me. It all makes for excellent water cooler fodder the next morning and for even better tweets. And wow, did this year’s Oscars give us a lot to talk about.
During such a fraught political climate, we knew there would be some big statements. The Golden Globes and SAG Awards set a precedent with eloquent mic drops from Meryl Streep, the Hidden Figures cast and Mahershala Ali. Luckily for us, we were in for even bigger moments this past Sunday night.
How could we start with anything other than the Best Picture fiasco. By now you’ve likely heard that Warren Beatty and Faye Dunaway accidentally announced La La Land as the winner of Best Picture instead of Moonlight due to an envelope mix up. Today, it’s emerged that one of the accountants who was in charge of handing out the envelopes accidentally gave Beatty a duplicate of the Best Actress envelope instead of the one for Best Picture.
The mix-up was mortifying for the La La Land team and The Academy (not to mention the aforementioned accountant) and dulled the shine of Moonlight’s historic win. Perceived as the underdog next to front-runner La La Land, which garnered a record-tying 14 nominations this year, Moonlight had the lowest budget of any movie to ever win the coveted Best Picture statue. Following the story of a black gay boy growing up in Miami’s housing projects, Moonlight winning over La La Land, a film deemed problematic by many for its representation of jazz, was encouraging, even after the confusion. Especially after the #OscarsSoWhite movement, started by writer and activist April Reign two years ago when all nominees in the acting categories were white. Though Reign isn’t letting The Academy off the hook after just “one night out of 90” that rightfully awarded minority talent.
The moment may have almost been taken away from director Barry Jenkins and crew, but even amidst the confusion, producer Adele Romanski was able to make an eloquent point about inspiring marginalized folks to create art.
“It’s very humbling to be up here. And I think, I hope even more than that, that it’s inspiring to people, little black boys and brown girls and other folks watching at home who feel marginalized and who take some inspiration from seeing this beautiful group of artists helmed by this amazing talent, my friend Barry Jenkins, standing up here on this stage accepting this top honour.”
Since then, Jenkins has revealed what his acceptance speech would have been, had he been allowed his full moment.
A few inspiring moments also came early in the night. Mahershala Ali, who plays the captivating character Juan in Moonlight, won Best Supporting Actor. He became the first Muslim actor to win an Oscar, just four days after having a daughter. Talk about an incredible week.
Viola Davis took home Best Supporting Actress for her role in Fences, remarking on art’s capability to exhume the dead and celebrate lives ranging from ordinary to spectacular. Davis isn’t a stranger to delivering epic speeches. Her 2015 Emmys win discussed opportunities for women of colour and was one for the books.
And onto more she-roes. The intelligent and beautiful stars of Hidden Figures—Janelle Monáe, Taraji P. Henson and Octavia Spencer—introduced the real life hero of their critically acclaimed box office smash, NASA physicist and mathematician Katherine Johnson. The moment may have paled in comparison to her helping the first American astronaut make it into space, but it was incredible to see Johnson be celebrated on stage for her work in a field that is still male-dominated, even 60 years later.
Oh, how we love to see almost-EGOT and Hamilton creator, Lin-Manuel Miranda on stage, even for a brief moment. He was on hand to introduce a performance of his Oscar-nominated song “How Far I’ll Go” from the film Moana. Native Hawaiian Auli’i Cravalho, who voices the title character in the film, shared in the international spotlight, instead of a more famous singer taking on the song, as the Oscars often decide. What makes us like her even more, besides those stellar vocals? Her adorable duet with 4-year-old singer Claire Ryann Crosby on The Ellen DeGeneres Show this week.
In addition to host Jimmy Kimmel’s many jokes about the current U.S. administration, there were several critiques from winners and presenters alike. Actor Gael Garcia Bernal took his opportunity on stage to present Best Animated Film to say:
“As a Mexican, as a migrant worker, as a human being, I’m against any form of wall that separates us.”
Best Makeup and Hair Styling award-winner Alessandro Bertolazzi dedicated his win “to all the immigrants.”
And in presenting the Best Supporting Actress award to Viola Davis, Mark Rylance’s opposing views were slightly more subliminal:
“Opposition is really good in society. Sometimes, the most supportive thing is to oppose. Something women seem to be better at than men, is opposing without hatred.”
Taking a moment for the ongoing conflict in Syria, as was suitable considering the content of his winning documentary short The White Helmets, director Orlando von Einsiedel read a statement from Raed Saleh, the leader of the Nobel Peace Prize-nominated Syrian rescue group.
“Our organization is guided by a verse from the Koran: ‘to save one life is to save all of humanity.’ We have saved more than 82,000 civilian lives. I invite anyone here who hears me to work on the side of life, to stop the bloodshed in Syria and around the world.”
Following the statement, von Einsiedel asked everyone in the theatre to show solidarity with innocent Syrian lives by standing. Saleh and cinematographer Khaled Khateeb were not in attendance, allegedly due to the recent Muslim travel ban ordered by the current president.
In protest of the same ban, Iranian master director Asghar Farhadi was not in attendance to accept his award for Best Foreign Film The Salesman. Instead, in a move similar to Marlon Brando and Sacheen Littlefeather’s protest against the treatment of Native Americans in the film industry at the 1973 Oscars, Iranian-American space engineer Anousheh Ansari read a statement on Farhadi’s behalf:
“My absence is out of respect for the people in my country and those of other six nations whom have been disrespected by the inhumane law that bans entry of immigrants to the U.S. Dividing the world into the ‘us’ and ‘our enemies’ categories creates fear, a deceitful justification for aggression and war. These wars prevent democracy and human rights in countries which have themselves been victims of aggression.”
A few much-needed moments of levity came thanks to Kimmel who, despite his need to make fun of foreign sounding names, otherwise did a great job keeping audiences entertained over the nearly four-hour broadcast. With the Oscars edition of Mean Tweets, the tourists bit and his constant slamming of Matt Damon (for his films We Bought a Zoo and the universally derided The Great Wall), we were hooked. We’re just sorry he didn’t blame the Best Picture mix-up on Damon.
What were your favourite (or least favourite) moments at this year’s Oscars? Tell us in the comments!
// Fatima Reyes