Wednesday, March 01, 2017

A Few Surprises From The Academy Awards

Once the Oscars wrapped up on Sunday night, all anyone could talk about was the shock ending in which the wrong Best Picture winner was announced. Due to some sort of mix-up with the envelope, Warren Beatty and Faye Dunaway accidentally announced that La La Land had won the night’s top award. It wasn’t until the La La Land folks reached the stage that they realized it was in fact Moonlight that had won Best Picture.

This sort of drama had never occurred before at the Oscars, and it’s only natural that the mistake and ensuing chaos has dominated coverage. It’s also somewhat unfortunate, because the final moments have come to overshadow a tremendous show that recognized a lot of very deserving winners. In order to recognize some of these achievements, here’s a quick recap of some of the interesting results you might not have expected.

Jimmy Kimmel Was Terrific

Before we get into the awards, it should be noted that Jimmy Kimmel was just about the perfect host. He made everyone laugh without trying to steal the show, worked in political jabs without getting sidetracked, and had a few running gags that consistently worked. It was one of the most subtle and successful hosting jobs we’ve seen in years, and the whole evening was better for it.

Hacksaw Ridge Won Film Editing

It’s nothing against the stirring war epic to say that Hacksaw Ridge was a bit of an Oscars underdog. Despite a handful of nominations, the film was somewhat hidden in the shadow of director Mel Gibson, who doesn’t quite seem to have made it back into the light among Hollywood types after a run of personal controversies. But the movie and editor John Gilbert still took home the Film Editing Oscar over the likes of Arrival, La La Land, Moonlight and Hell Or High Water. One almost got the feeling it was the highest honor that could be awarded without directly recognizing Gibson.

Manchester By The Sea Won Best Screenplay

This was actually by no means a shock. Kenneth Lonergan was identified before the show as the biggest threat to Damien Chazelle in this category, and was given the second best odds to win. Still, at this point in the night La La Land appeared to be on a juggernaut run, with multiple wins in smaller, more technical categories. It was at least a little bit surprising (though more than justified) to see Lonergan take the award for his more subtle, emotional project.

Viola Davis Won Best Supporting Actress

This was actually arguably the least surprising result of the night. But it should still be noted because it’s a surprise that Davis was even considered in this category to begin with. She was wonderful in Fences, but her time on screen was far more appropriately suited to the Best Actress category.

Casey Affleck Won Best Actor

This was perhaps the biggest toss-up of the night. However, after Denzel Washington won the SAG award for his performance in Fences, he seemed to be gaining momentum. Multiple trusted predictors tabbed him as the favorite heading into Oscars night, and he seemed poised to win his third Academy Award. Throw in the fact that the Academy appeared to be answering calls to celebrate a more racially diverse group of winners, and Affleck’s triumph for Manchester By The Sea felt even more surprising by the time it happened.

Moonlight Won Best Picture

Finally, there’s the Moonlight win, which in a way has been overshadowed by itself. We mentioned that we're all focused on the shocking way the final prize was awarded, but the sheer improbability of this win should not be forgotten. This is a roughly $1 million coming of age story going up against a bona fide Oscars juggernaut. La La Land was created by one of the best up-and-coming directors in the game, featured two young Hollywood stars, and tied the record for Academy Award nominations. Many viewed Moonlight as a contender, but for it to actually win was a true David vs. Goliath triumph.

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