My head is still spinning. As I cleaned up after the Oscar party, I imagined an Oliver Stone like JFK treatment of the 89th Academy Awards finale. We need evidence and diagrams, I thought to myself while filling up the recycling bag with empty bottles. People might argue and theorize about this forever and make themseleves conspiracy theorists in the process. What was it, exactly, that happened?
First there was Warren Beatty's excruciating pause when he opened the envelope, a look of disbelief or was it confusion or 'how about that?' smirking. Inscrutable really. At first I'd assumed he was just trying to create suspense where none existed or maybe he was actually having his own Crash moment like his friend Jack Nicholson's surprise on that awful Black Sunday 11 years ago when Brokeback Mountain unexpectedly lost its rightful Oscar and Jack didn't disguise his surprise.
As I wiped the kitchen counter I though of Beatty handing the envelope over to his Bonnie, Faye Dunaway... for help or just to give her the honor? She seemed less confused and said "La La Land". Cue the usual anti-climax to the Oscar party each year when the expected happens and the show is running way over time, anyway. My guests were already tuning out the producer's speech.
But then the unthinkable. My head is still spinning.
There'd been a mistake and La La Land hadn't won after all. The winner was Moonlight, and for a brief moment the stage was a jumble of people and more confusion with two teams as one key Oscar changed hands and suddenly the Moonlight team was there, bewildered but then happy -- a direct reversal of the trajectory of La La Land emotions. One team robbed of their triumph, the other unable to celebrate theirs in the traditional way. So much confusion. Warren Beatty tried to explain -- something about having the Best Actress envelope.
My party guests and I argued back and forth. How did they get the Best Actress envelope? Didn't Leo have it? Was there a duplicate? Nothing made any sense except that Moonlight will look great in the history books as an Oscar winner. One of my guests, a black gay man, said he needed a moment. He couldn't believe he was seeing a movie like that on the screen and definitely didn't expect to ever see it win Best Picture at the Oscars. When he left I thought about my own heart breaking when Brokeback lost and now a gay picture actually did win the big prize.
As I put the mixers back in the fridge I thought back to the commotion behind the La La Land team during their speeches. I didn't think much of while it was happening other than a passing thought "why are people moving around so much -- was that someone running across the stage?" More thank yous followed. And then suddenly the chaos, and holding the envelope up to the camera. Moonlight was the winner.
My head is still spinning but it's all too fresh to watch the recording again to verify. Tomorrow. As I took out the garbage my mood changed. Empathy for both teams experiencing their wins and loss in such a strange way. But didn't this make a kind of poetic sense? Moonlight's arc is a slow road of self-actualization, and always, always a struggle, melancholy even in its happiest moment. La La Land's enormous success, on the other hand comes with significant loss. In the musical's last act we leave the current moment for a rewind and a 'dream ballet' like segment wherein we envision a different reality that might have been. The 89th Academy Awards finale was messy and chaotic rather than elegant and inspired but in its own way it was a dream ballet; a sliding door, an alternate reality, which suddenly closes off. This new reality is fine but the 'what if' may never quite subside.
THE WINNERS OF THE 89TH OSCARS FOR 2016
DIRECTOR Damien Chazelle, La La Land
ACTRESS Emma Stone, La La Land
ACTOR Casey Affleck, Manchester by the Sea
SUPPORTING ACTRESS Viola Davis, Fences
SUPPORTING ACTOR Mahershala Ali, Moonlight
ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY Manchester by the Sea
ADAPTED SCREENPLAY Moonlight
PRODUCTION DESIGN La La Land
CINEMATOGRAPHY La La Land
COSTUME DESIGN Fantastic Beast and How To Find Them
FILM EDITING Hacksaw Ridge
SOUND MIXING Hacksaw Ridge
SOUND EDITING Arrival
MAKEUP Suicide Squad
ORIGINAL SCORE La La Land
ORIGINAL SONG "City of Stars," La La Land
VISUAL EFFECTS The Jungle Book
ANIMATED FEATURE Zootopia
FOREIGN FILM The Salesman
DOCUMENTARY FEATURE O.J. Made in America
LIVE ACTION SHORT Sing
ANIMATED SHORT Piper
DOCUMENTARY SHORT The White Helmets