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Oscars 2017: In wacky finale, “Moonlight” wins Best Picture
(l-r) Alex Hibbert and Mahershala Ali in Barry Jenkins's MOONLIGHT, which won three Oscars last night, including Best Picture. Photo: David Bornfriend, A24.

Oscars 2017: In wacky finale, “Moonlight” wins Best Picture

In a bizarre twist of events at the Academy Awards last night, “Moonlight” was awarded the Oscar for Best Picture after “La La Land” had been wrongly announced as the winner.

What was expected to be a convivial reunion of two cinematic giants (presenters Warren Beatty and Faye Dunaway) turned into an absurdly protracted stage spectacle that was awkward for the would-be awardees and upstaged the victors (writer-director Barry Jenkins and the immaculate ensemble, including Supporting Actor Oscar-winner Mahershala Ali.)

Beatty and Dunaway, who played the infamous robber couple of “Bonnie and Clyde” (1967), reunited after 50 years to present the Best Picture award. After comically protracted pauses and joshing jeers from Beatty, which involved curious double-takes at the opened envelope, Dunaway named “La La Land” as the winner.

Jordan Horowitz, one of the hit musical’s producers, quickly delivered his speech. Sometime during Horowitz’s speech, backstage hands belted out, “Oh… oh my f—ing God, he got the wrong envelope.”

Because PricewaterhouseCoopers, the accounting firm that tabulates the Oscar votes, always prints two copies of the winning envelopes, Beatty was mistakenly given the second Actress in a Leading Role envelope, which had printed “Emma Stone – LA LA LAND.” (Stone kept the first after she was awarded her golden guy.) Once Dunaway had announced “La La Land,” she and Beatty made their way backstage into the melee they had accidentally caused.

As a man with a headset tumbled on stage, exchanging panicked words with members of the LLL production team, the speeches continued. Horowitz, suddenly realizing the error, let the final producer, Fred Berger, finish his sentence. Horowitz then informed him. Berger said, “We lost, by the way.”

Horowitz, looking in the direction of the “Moonlight” team, said, “Guys, guys, I’m sorry. No. There’s a mistake. ‘Moonlight,’ you guys won best picture. This is not a joke.” He then raised the card as proof: “Look. ‘Moonlight.’ Best Picture.”

We must congratulate all the nominees and awardees from last night’s ceremony. The awardees — who wins, who lost, who got nominated — do not hold any resonance outside any given year. Will 2011’s “The Artist,” 2012’s “Argo,”  or 2014’s “Birdman Or” matter a few years from now more than Linklater’s “Bernie,” Russell’s “Silver Linings Playbook,” Anderson’s “Inherent Vice,” or Lord and Miller’s “The LEGO Movie”? When we think of “Moonlight,” “La La Land” or “Elle,” we’ll remember them as masterful films first, Oscar-nominated later.

The only things that matter with the Oscars are the sartorial splendors (Ruth Negga’s dress!!), the committed political statements (Asghar Farhadi’s acceptance speech for his “Salesman” winning Best Foreign Language Film, which he refused to accept in person “out of respect for the people of [his] country and those of other six nations whom have been disrespected by the inhumane law that bans entry of immigrants to the U.S.”), and funked-up moments like this. Awards shows are great pleasures to watch; sometimes, on nights like this, the script flips, and it pays off.

Contact Carlos Valladares at cvall96 ‘at’ stanford.edu.

About Carlos Valladares

Carlos Valladares is a junior double-majoring in Film and American Studies. He lives and breathes the Beatles and Motown. His favorite movies include "A Hard Day's Night," "The Umbrellas of Cherbourg," "Nashville," "Imitation of Life," and anything touched by Studio Ghibli's hands. You can follow his film writings at http://letterboxd.com/cvall96/. He was born and raised in South Central Los Angeles.