×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Oscars: With Historic ‘Moonlight’ Win, the Academy Embraces Empathy Over Escapism

You can always expect surprises at the Oscars, but knowing where to expect them is the trick. This year, they came early and often.

The critically loathed “Suicide Squad” became an Academy Award winner, for best makeup and hairstyling. “Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them” shot out of nowhere with a costume design victory that nearly left winner Colleen Atwood speechless. The sound categories shot off in wildly different directions, BAFTA winner “Arrival” taking editing, war film “Hacksaw Ridge” upsetting the big musical in mixing (and finally allowing 21-time nominee Kevin O’Connell his first trip to the stage). And “Hacksaw” also doubled up before any other movie, taking film editing to boot.

It looked like it was going to be an incredibly unpredictable evening straight on through. Then things settled into a more expected groove for a stretch.

After dropping a number of early awards, “La La Land” went on a slight tear, scooping up three-straight honors for cinematography, score and song. Pauses came for “Moonlight” and “Manchester by the Sea” to win screenplay honors, and for Casey Affleck (“Manchester”) to claim best actor. That left director Damien Chazelle, star Emma Stone and, seemingly, “La La Land” itself to finish the night strong.

But Warren Beatty, Faye Dunaway and a mishandled envelope had one last twist left to offer. In one of the most bizarre instances in Academy Awards history, the producers of “La La Land” discovered on stage, while accepting, that they had not in fact won best picture. “Moonlight” had.

Ever since both films leaped onto the stage in the early fall festival circuit, it really seemed like Chazelle’s musical was the one to beat. Challengers came and went. Backlash inevitably struck. But when the dust settled, it wasn’t escapism’s embrace that lured voters at the end of a torturous year like 2016, but rather, a story of empathy, of compassion. It was a bit of a statement, really.

And there was history besides. Chazelle became the youngest best director winner in the Oscars’ 89-year history. Barry Jenkins and Tarell Alvin McCraney became just the third and fourth black writers to win a screenplay prize. “Moonlight” itself became the first film from a black writer-director to win best picture. And indeed, this merely being the first Oscar telecast to feature more than three black winners was good enough for its own landmark, obviously an indictment in its own right.

There will be more to say after the night is properly processed, but that was the 89th Academy Awards, in all its odd, strange glory.

More Film

  • Joker

    Korea Box Office: 'Joker' Remains on Top, 'Gemini Man' Lands in Fourth

    Warner Bros.’ “Joker” remained on top of the South Korean box office in its second weekend. The American psychological thriller earned $5.71 million from 768,000 admissions between Friday and Sunday, for a total of $28.3 million from 3.85 million admissions after two weekends. It accounted for 46% of total weekend box office in the country. [...]

  • dolittle-DRD_Tsr1Sht_1011_RGB_4_rgb-1

    Robert Downey Jr. Embarks on Perilous Journey in First 'Dolittle' Trailer (Watch)

    Robert Downey Jr. is setting sail with some furry friends in the first trailer for “Dolittle,” Universal Pictures’ reimagining of the classic story about a man who could speak to animals. “We have no choice but to embark on this perilous journey,” he says. Set to a rendition of Louis Armstrong’s “What a Wonderful World,” [...]

  • Parasite

    Bong Joon Ho's 'Parasite' Posts Powerful Opening in North America

    Bong Joon-Ho’s dark comedy “Parasite,” which won the Palme d’Or at the Cannes Film Festival, has launched with a spectacular $376,264 at three U.S. theaters.  Neon opened “Parasite” at The Landmark and Arclight Hollywood in Los Angeles and at the IFC Center in New York, where it broke the opening record set by 2014’s “Boyhood.” Its per-screen average of [...]

  • Joker Movie

    'Joker' Dominates International Box Office With $124 Million

    “Joker” is showing impressive traction internationally with a second weekend of $123.7 million on 24,149 screens in 79 markets — a holdover decline of just 29%. Joaquin Phoenix’s psychological thriller has totaled $351.2 million outside North America after only 12 days in release. And with $192 million in domestic grosses, “Joker” has now topped $543 [...]

  • Joker

    'Joker' Remains Box Office Ruler With $55 Million

    Joaquin Phoenix is king of the North American box office once again as “Joker” scores an easy victory in its second weekend with $55 million at 4,374 sites. “Joker” dominated a trio of new entries with animated comedy “The Addams Family” leading the rest of pack with $30.3 million at 4,007 venues, topping forecasts. Will [...]

  • French director Bertrand Tavernier attends the

    Bertrand Tavernier on Coppola, Scorsese, Cayatte, Cinema’s Bright Future

    Veteran French director Bertrand Tavernier (“Round Midnight”) – president and director of the Institut Lumière and Lumière Festival, which he co-manages with Cannes’ Thierry Frémaux – has played a pivotal role in restoring classic French films and defending the importance of French directors, such as Claude Autant Lara, Henri Decoin and André Cayatte, who were [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content