That was the reaction worldwide to last night’s 89th Academy Awards ceremony on ABC. The biggest surprise was the very last award given, when presenters and Hollywood icons Warren Beatty and his “Bonnie & Clyde ” leading lady Faye Dunaway appeared onstage to present the award for Best Picture. The duo were given the wrong envelope and after Beatty opened the envelope, he was rather surprised to find it was announcing actress Emma Stone’s win in the Best Actress category for the film “La La Land” and not the winner of Best Picture. Dunaway failed to notice the discrepancy and announced that “La La Land” had won best picture and the triumphant crew and cast descended on stage to accept the award. But chaos ensued backstage/behind the scenes as Academy officials and Oscar producers realized the wrong film had been announced as the winner of Best Picture: the indie darling “Moonlight” was the actual winner. Midway through the acceptance speeches from the “La La Land” team that error was rectified and a stunned “Moonlight” team descended onstage to accept their award.
The press, social media and the world exploded for the next few hours as this historic blunder in Oscar history was relayed around the globe with much sympathy for the “La La Land” team for being embarrassed on international TV (but they also won the most awards of the evening so could take consolation in that) while cheering on the success of underdog “Moonlight” the very highly praised film that centered on black queer characters. That film also won Oscars for Best Adapted Screenplay which awarded the film’s co-writers: director Barry Jenkins and out gay playwright Tarell Alvin McCraney; the film’s script was based on McCraney’s play, “In Moonlight, Black Boys Look Blue”. LGBTQ audiences were moved by McCraney’s acceptance speech where he stated:
“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. So thank you, thank you, this is for you.” – Tarell Alvin McCraney
“Moonlight” actor Mahershala Ali also became the first Muslim actor to win an Oscar for his supporting role in the film.
There was also some annoyance that transgender/queer actor ALEXIS ARQUETTE wasn’t recognized in the “In Memoriam” segment of the show which honors film professionals who died during the previous year. The actor and activist died last year from complications of living with HIV/AIDS and had appeared in many films including a memorable role in “Pulp Fiction”. Arquette’s sister, Academy Award winning actor Patricia Arquette was disappointed her sister wasn’t included. Patricia was thrilled to see “Moonlight receive recognition but also commented on the omission. Via Vanity Fair:
The Oscar winner tells Vanity Fair that the film’s victory is heartening to see, especially in light of the bigotry that still exists in the world: “This beautiful story about a gay kid in America in a world that doesn’t accept gay people.” But Arquette also wondered why, when recognizing this stunning achievement of queer cinema—scratch that, of filmmaking, period—the Oscars chose to leave her sister out of the ceremony’s In Memoriam segment.
”Her career was cut short, not by her passing, but by her decision to live her truth and her life as a transgender woman. Despite the fact that there are few parts for trans actors, she refused to play roles that were demeaning or stereotypical. She was a vanguard in the fight for understanding and acceptance for all trans people.”
“We’re living in a time right now where trans kids can’t even go to the bathroom in schools and they’re diminished in society. It’s really unfortunate that the Oscars decided they couldn’t show a trans person who was such an important person in this community. Because—trans kids—it could have meant a lot to them.”
There was other issues with the “In Memoriam” segment this year as well when an incorrect photo was used to represent one of the deceased being honored. Jan Chapman, the Oscar nominated producer of the film, “The Piano” was stunned to see a photo of her very much alive self used during the segment but captioned with the name of her colleague, Janet Patterson, the costume designer on “The Piano” who actually did die in 2016. Ms Chapman issued a statement via Variety, where she pointed out the mistake and made it clear she’s still alive and kicking.