Well that was some Oscars. I mean it wasn’t much, until it was everything.
The fiasco over the envelopes was brilliant television and it must have been gutting for La La Land’s producers, so respect to producer Jordan Horowitz who gathered himself, snatched the card out of Warren Beatty’s hand with a brisk mix of annoyance and adrenalin, and then handed over the prize so graciously to Moonlight. (I mean, at least he got to do his winner’s speech first…)
Imagine if the cock-up had been for an acting prize, you know, say in 1999, if Gwyneth Paltrow had been fully into her sobbing and then Brian the accountant had come on stage to say, oops, it should have gone to Cate Blanchett? That would have been way more harsh.
Look, you know I loved La La Land but I also woke up on Sunday morning with a big, sudden surge of love for Moonlight, which is the better film. La La got unlucky, peaked too early by about a week – the same thing happened to Brokeback Mountain, which, like the musical, premiered at Venice in 2005, and was the frontrunner until Jack Nicholson opened the envelope at the 2006 Oscars and said: “Crash”.
As I was saying on telly all day yesterday, it would have been a big shock provoking audible gasps in the Dolby Theatre anyway, if Warren Beatty or Faye Dunaway had just read out Moonlight. But to have the big upset revealed in such a way, was all the more memorable. I don’t agree with those who feel Moonlight’s thunder was stolen and they didn’t get to do their big acceptance speeches – its win, its existence and success at the highest level is enough of political decision and event that we didn’t need any grandstanding on the podium. Barry and Tarell had been gracious accepting the screenplay award before, and the magnificent Mahershala Ali was dignity and class personified in receiving his Supporting Actor award.
In the end, in the long run of awards season, Moonlight’s more subtle campaign might have swung it, or maybe it’s just the more significant film, especially in the current political climate. I adore Moonlight. I’ve seen it four times now, and am beginning to know it off by heart, like a poem, like a song. “Who is you?”.
I can’t think of a more experimental Best Picture winner – I have to go back to 1969 and John Schlesinger’s Midnight Cowboy for anything like it. It’s the lowest budget film ever to win Best Picture, and the only all-black cast to do so. I can see its smiles and feel its sensuality still, like drops of potent liquid falling from the screen. I’m thrilled for it, and for movies in general if this is the way they’re heading.
In a way, it was lovely and beautiful to see both La La Land and Moonlight up there together at the end, an intermingling sea of gracious acceptance, one white cast ceding to a black cast and hugging it out.
Out of the Oscar’s biggest error came probably its most beautiful and symbolically significant moment ever. Yay Moonlight. And hell yes, yay La La Land.
Here’s my review of Moonlight again.
And in honour of its fabulous, groundbreaking win, above is my Tune of the Week from it again. This is the song playing on the jukebox when Chiron first comes into Kevin’s diner – it’s Aretha Franklin’s One Step Ahead, from 1965.