I was very reluctant to watch Sunday’s 89th annual Academy Awards ceremony. I didn’t watch the last two years because of the #oscarssowhite situation and I told myself not to get sucked in if they happened to nominate some black creatives this year. I didn’t follow through because 1. I knew Moonlight and Viola Davis were going to win some deserving awards and 2. I actually enjoy award shows in general, especially film, so I tuned in. As we all know by now, the Oscars mistakenly presented La La Land with the Best Picture nod instead of Moonlight. It completely embarrassed the La La Land cast and crew and stole the shine from Moonlight.
Initially when they called La La Land, I switched the channel because I was disappointed. I felt the same way I felt when Kendrick Lamar lost to Taylor Swift and Beyonce lost to Adele at the Grammys; I thought the industry yet again overlooked a great and important representation of black art. Then, I started to scroll through Instagram where I saw a photo of Mahershala Ali’s character Juan holding the Oscar followed by a picture proclaiming Moonlight won Best Picture. I turned back to the channel and the news anchor stated there was a mistake and Moonlight actually won Best Picture. My jaw hit the floor. I was excited but mostly infuriated that they had made such a huge mistake for a historic moment. As I imagined, entertainment news the past couple of days have been about nothing but the blunder.
I really would like Moonlight to be remember for its great writing, acting, and cinematography. This project represented so much. It gave depth to black characters that are usually 2 dimensional, it represented the struggle of people who are largely ignored by white and black creatives alike, and it represented how our stories can be presented in a masterful and thought provoking way. This night will never be forgotten hopefully it brings more intrigue to the wonderful film that is Moonlight.
Highlights of the night
Mahershala Ali won for Best Supporting Actor. He thanked his teachers from the past, cast and crew, and his wife, Amatus Sami-Karim, who just gave birth to their baby daughter. Along with Best Actor in a Supporting Role and Best Picture, Moonlight also won Best Adapted Screenplay. Director, Barry Jenkins had a powerful message, stating, “All you people who feel like there’s no mirror for you, the academy has your back, the ACLU has your back, we have your back, and for the next four years, we will not forget you”. Writer, Tarell Alvin Mccraney followed with, “This goes out to all those black and brown boys and girls and non-gender conforming who don’t see themselves, we’re trying to show you you, and us.” Viola Davis, who won for Best Actress in a Supporting Role, gave a moving speech about bringing the narratives about everyday people to life. She showed much gratitude to her fellow cast mates, Denzel Washington, and her family.
Many actors had choice words for the climate following the presidents racist and xenophobic policies. Asghar Farhadi, Iranian director of, “The Salesman” and winner of Best Foreign Picture, opted to not attend the awards as a protest against the presidents travel ban while actor Gael Garcia Bernal spoke against the construction of a “wall” on the borders of America, stating that as a Mexican, “I am against any kind of wall that wants to separate us”. Winners of the Best Animated Picture, Zootopia, spoke about how the film encouraged tolerance over, “fear of the other”.