Sunday, February 26th marked the presentation of the 89th annual Academy Awards, an illustrious night of glamour, applause, and stardom. Also known as the Oscars, this event has been called “Hollywood’s biggest night” by many. It is a time where the elite of Hollywood and movie-lovers everywhere congregate for a night of celebrating the past year through the eyes of film making.
Most people regard the award of “Best Picture” as the most coveted of the 24 categories, ranging from “Best Visual Effects” to “Best Costume Design” and everything in between. This year, nine out of a possible ten films were nominated to win “Best Picture”: Arrival, an alien-invasion drama, Fences, a film adaptation of a play by the same name about a working-class, African-American man trying to support his family in the 1950’s, Hacksaw Ridge, a war drama based on the true story of a soldier who saved 75 people during a battle in World War II without firing a single bullet. There is also Hell or High Water, a neo-Western thriller about a family that robs banks to keep their farm running, Hidden Figures, the true story of the African-American women that played crucial roles in winning the space race during the Cold War, La La Land, a colorful musical about two people that fall in love while chasing their dreams in Los Angeles. And the last three are Moonlight, a drama showing the journey of an African-American man’s life in South Florida, dealing with themes such as drug addiction and sexuality, Lion, a feel-good drama about an orphan who utilizes Google Earth to find his way back home, and Manchester by the Sea, a drama about an uptight man who takes in his teenage nephew when the boy’s father dies. Seeing all these options listed can seem overwhelming to say the least, but it shows much promise after last year’s #OscarsSoWhite controversy, when all 20 actors that were nominated were white. Many of this year’s nominations were the first of their kind: four out of the nine films nominated for “Best Picture” feature non-white actors, Joi McMillon became the first black woman to be nominated for editing, and Dev Patel became the first Indian man to be nominated for “Best Actor” in thirteen years, just to name a few.
However, not everyone was pleased with these choices. Despite critical acclaim, Jackie, a biopic about Jackie Kennedy’s life in the days immediately following President Kennedy’s assassination, Loving, a drama about the interracial couple that fought to invalidate the state laws that forbid interracial marriage, Sully, a biopic about the captain who managed to safely land a failing plane on the Hudson River, saving all 155 people on board, and Silence, a historical drama about two Catholic missionaries that leave Portugal to find their mentor in Japan, at a time where Catholicism, and therefore their presence, is forbidden, were left out of this year’s “Best Picture” nominations, even though there was one more available slot. Amy Adams also was praised by critics for her work in Arrival, but failed to earn a “Best Actress” nomination. Adams has been nominated for “Best Actress” five times in years past but has yet to win.
The highlights of the evening included host Jimmy Kimmel tweeting at a suspiciously silent Donald Trump, parachutes of candy falling from the sky, 16-year-old Auli’i Cravalho’s, star of Moana, performance of the nominated song “How Far I’ll Go”, and an especially inspiring speech by Viola Davis, the Best Supporting Actress winner for Fences. However, the night was not without its mistakes. Perhaps the most talked about mishap was La La Land being announced as the Best Picture winner instead of Moonlight, the actual winner. Warren Beatty, one of the presenters of the award, explained that he was presented with two of the same envelope for Best Actress, which was given to Emma Stone for La La Land. When he opened the second envelope, he saw Emma Stone’s name again, and assumed that the winner was La La Land. The reason for this mistake was that for every award presented, there is a back-up envelope in case of emergency. Instead of being presented with the Best Actress and the Best Picture envelopes, he was presented with both of the Best Actress envelopes. As the cast and crew of La La Land were celebrating, producer Jordan Horowitz announced to the puzzled crowd, “What? You guys, I’m sorry, no. There’s a mistake. “Moonlight,” you guys won best picture.” The stunned cast and crew of Moonlight then ascended the stage to receive their Oscar not from the presenters of the award, but from Horowitz himself.
The Academy Awards honor storytelling, an art which has persevered throughout time. On a night like the Oscars, careers can be made, as well as shattered. The night itself can be almost as dramatic as the movies it celebrates. Depending on the individual, The Oscars may be long, controversial, and self-congratulatory, but they will never be boring.