On Sunday, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences recognized and awarded the films of 2016. Despite the shrinking of screens and the decline of movie theater attendance, film will always hold a place as perhaps the most universal and wide-reaching of art forms. From young kids who see their limitless imagination come to life to old timers reflecting on their lives via stories from their past, everyone is impacted by cinema. And while the Academy, as well as the industry as a whole, can be elitist and problematic, it’s hard to not have a little bit of fun celebrating movies.
Did they get it right?
The first surprise of the night went to “Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them,” upsetting “La La Land” in Best Costume Design and showing the potential for other films to capsize the perceived overwhelming love for “La La Land.” This turned out to be a fitting start to what ended up with multiple films winning.
Six-time nominee “Hacksaw Ridge” won two, Best Sound Mixing and Best Film Editing, showing that Mel Gibson has been redeemed in the eyes of the industry for his problematic antics not long ago. Eight-time nominee “Arrival” won Best Sound Editing. “Manchester By the Sea” rightfully won Best Original Screenplay. Then, the two heavyweights, “Moonlight” (three wins) and “La La Land” (six wins) won many of the top awards, but we’ll get to that later.
In one of the most conflicting moments, Casey Affleck took home the Best Lead Actor Oscar. He looked to be the frontrunner for much of 2016, but when Denzel Washington won the SAG, the race seemed to even out. But the huge question of whether or not to celebrate a man who’s had sexual assault allegations made against him in the past was apparently ignored by the industry voters — who apparently valued the art of “Manchester by the Sea” more as Affleck took home the award.
Speeches and politics
The night was inevitably going to get political. The industry has showed incredible disdain for the new president and his administration throughout the many awards shows prior to the Oscars.
Immigration was one of the main topics of winners’ speeches. During the speech for Best Documentary Short, “The White Helmet,” the filmmakers asked the audience to stand in support of the end of the Syrian war. And one of the most quietly moving moments of the night came when “The Salesman” won Best Foreign Language Film. Iranian director Asghar Farhadi was affected by the travel ban, and thus chose not to attend the awards. Speaking in his place, engineer Anousheh Ansari read from a statement from Farhadi, which spoke on the state of the world and international relations and how we can find empathy in art.
When “Moonlight” writers Barry Jenkins and Tarell Alvin McCraney won for Best Adapted Screenplay, the original playwright McCraney gave a positive speech about acceptance and love to Black and brown lives and gender-nonconforming people.
Finally, and most emotionally, Viola Davis electrified with her profound words after winning Best Supporting Actress. As perhaps the most elegant and impactful voice in Hollywood right now, Davis spoke about the power of art and artists and about the stories of ordinary people to a completely silenced crowd.
Jimmy Kimmel as host
After many years of subpar hosts — Ellen DeGeneres was inconsistent, Neil Patrick Harris was boring and Chris Rock took a few missteps in what could’ve been a great show — Jimmy Kimmel was, interestingly enough, not bad, but not great. He took advantage of the events of the past year and half, both in society and in film, in a relatively decent fashion. Even with his distasteful jokes, Kimmel was self-aware. But regardless, Kimmel’s performance was refreshing, especially with his always on-point Matt Damon digs.
“La La Land” report
“La La Land” notoriously tied the record for most Oscar nominations, with 14 total, with “All About Eve” and “Titanic” back in January. Ever since then, many speculated on whether or not it could break or tie the wins record of 11 held by “Ben-Hur,” “Titanic” and “Lord of the Rings: Return of the King.” Frankly, it was never going to win 11 or more, with strong competition in multiple categories. As the night went along, it just wasn’t meant to be, as the Academy tried to spread the love across the many great films from 2016. Yet, when “La La Land” won Best Director (the youngest to ever win) and Best Actress, it appeared that Best Picture was all but finished. But then…
In a historic moment in Oscar history, there was a mistake made in the announcement of an award — the big one, Best Picture. Presenter Warren Beatty stated that he received the wrong envelope, the one for Best Actress, which went to Emma Stone of “La La Land.” His hesitation showed confusion at the lack of producer names, and under the lights and pressure, his presenting partner Faye Dunaway looked at the card and immediately said, “La La Land.” Producers of the Oscars show rushed on stage to correct the mistake, and the “La La Land” producers, mainly Jordan Horowitz, handed over the award to the true winner, “Moonlight,” in incredibly graceful fashion. This is a terrible occurrence that both puts the entire team of “La La Land” in a stomach-sickening situation of disappointment, but also takes away from a proper celebration of “Moonlight,” a very deserving Best Picture winner that has lasting social importance and haunting artistic beauty. This was an agonizingly unfortunate finish to an otherwise solid broadcast.