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10 Surprising Moments from the 89th Academy Awards

Michael Lehman, Editor-in-Chief

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Each year the Academy Awards ceremony proves to be something entirely different from the one before it, and I’ll be blunt—this year’s had a lot surprises in store for us. Aside from the world exploding after Best Picture was accidentally awarded to the wrong film, the night also proved to be one that promoted diversity, inspiration, and the impressive spectrum of works that embody the American film industry today. Here are the 10 of its most notable moments (for me, anyway, even though they aren’t all technically “moments”). See the bottom of the article for a full list of the night’s winners.

1. La La Land won Best Picture…and then didn’t

It was possibly the most embarrassing moment in Oscar history. When former Academy Award winner Warren Beatty opened the envelop to announce the winner of Best Picture, the biggest prize of the night, there appeared to be a problem. Seeing his hesitation, his fellow announcer, Academy Award-winning actress Faye Dunaway, took the envelop and read the winner: La La Land! The crowd burst into cheers as the movie’s theme filled the theater, and the emcee gave the typical “this is the film’s seventh win and one of its 14 nominations” spiel. The producers took to the microphone and expressed their joy and thankfulness for the victory.

Slight problem, though: they didn’t actually win. As the third producer gave a brief acceptance speech, the audience could hear the tense disappointment in his voice. “We lost, by the way,” he said before his fellow producer, Jordan Horowitz, told everyone that he’d like to give the award to his “friends,” the cast and crew of Moonlight, which had actually won Best Picture. Its producers proceeded to give what might have been the most bashful acceptance speeches ever.

That being said, the flub wasn’t really that big of a deal. All humans are prone to make mistakes, even at big televised events, and, what’s more, the La La Land producers, cast, and crew handled the situation like mature adults. The moment definitely made the title of the film a bit more cruel to think about, but it gave Moonlight credit where credit was due (although I was personally rooting for La La Land and Hidden Figures—jaw-droppingly beautiful films). Speaking of Moonlight and Hidden Figures….

2. Diversity was embraced with open arms

A large portion of Moonlight‘s cast and crew was African-American, and after two years of the “#OscarsSoWhite” outrage, tons of other black actresses, actors, and films also received the recognition they deserved. Two of the other nine nominees for Best Picture also follow black story-lines: Fences and Hidden Figures, the latter of which I recommend seeing as soon as humanly possible. What’s more, Viola Davis and Mahershala Ali walked away with Oscars for their supporting roles in Fences and Moonlight, respectively.

Now, I’ve never been a fan of diversity just for the sake of diversity—that is, winners and nominees should reflect talent rather than skin color. That wasn’t what this was, though. Every award and nomination was well-deserved, which gives film lovers of all colors, including myself, something to be proud of.

Viola Davis actually brings me to my next point….

3. Suicide Squad became an Academy Award-winning film

I bring this up simply because I find it hilarious. Viola Davis played the villain, Amanda Waller, of this film, and when it came out, it received all the hate in the world. Its shoddy and disoriented story-telling is chiefly to blame. That being said, a lot of people love the film, and I can understand why. It was a lot of fun.

While it wasn’t exactly my cup of tea, it definitely deserved to win the Oscar for the only category in which it was nominated: Best Makeup and Hairstyling. Take one look at Harley Quinn, Killer Croc, or Enchantress in the film, and you’ll understand why. But yes. I love that this film managed to win an Oscar just to spite everyone who spent so much time last year complaining about it. Karma.

Another movie’s success also surprised me….

4. Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them became the first Harry Potter film to win an Oscar

Nine movies and 14 nominations later, a Harry Potter film has finally claimed an Oscar, and Potter himself didn’t even have to appear in one second of the film. Die-hard HP fans like myself consider this a huge success. I remember seeing Fantastic Beasts in theaters multiple times and lamenting that it wouldn’t be recognized for its ingenious story-telling and pure thrill overall. But it did, winning Best Costume Design over big names like La La Land and Jackie. Even Colleen Atwood was surprised and didn’t have a speech prepared when she accepted the award because she thought she would lose. I guess all that fancy 1920s get-up payed off in the end.

Fantastic Beasts‘s win highlights another big thing about how the ceremony went….

5. Overall award distribution was fairly balanced

Only three films managed to win more than one Academy Award. La La Land swept the night with six wins of its 14 nominations while Moonlight won in three of eight categories and Hacksaw Ridge and Manchester by the Sea won two. This is much different from some other years when films like The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King won literally almost everything. Deserving films like Zootopia, The Jungle Book, Arrival, and Fences all were recognized in some shape or form, although other great films like Hidden Figures, Lion, Jackie, Silence, and Moana were shut out, and that last film brings me to my next point….

6. The performances were phenomenal

As usual, the nominated pieces for Best Original Song were all performed live, and they were awesome. Justin Timberlake kicked off the Oscars in a new and unconventional manner by running into the theatre while performing “Can’t Stop the Feeling!” from Trolls. It was a great way to start the night, which also featured Sting performing “The Empty Chair” from Jim: The James Foley Story, Auli’i Cravalho performing “How Far I’ll Go” from Moana (in which she played the title character), and John Legend playing a cool mash-up of “City of Stars” and “Audition (The Fools Who Dream)” from La La Land.

While “City of Stars” got the Oscar (as it should have), Auli’i Cravalho’s performance of “How Far I’ll Go” was by far the most impressive. Not only did she sing in front of the whole world at the age of 16; she did so almost flawlessly. At first I questioned if she was actually lip-syncing the song itself, but one slightly flat note convinced me otherwise. How she managed to belt each powerful note is beyond me—especially when one of the background dancers accidentally hit her in the back of the head with the sheet he or she was carrying. Miss Cravalho definitely did not get the recognition she deserved for that one.

Speaking of being underrated….

7. Host Jimmy Kimmel tweeted President Trump on live TV; repeatedly called Meryl Streep “unimpressive” and “overrated”

It was all in good fun, of course. While Hollywood events like the Oscars tend to bash conservatives like President Trump, very little political content infiltrated this year’s Oscars, which was kind of nice. Jimmy Kimmel still got in a few jabs at the president, though, at one point tweeting, “Hey @realDonaldTrump u up?” It received an astounding 259,000 retweets and 566,000 likes.

He wasn’t done, though, and quickly followed this up with “@realDonaldTrump #Merylsayshi,” which got 195,000 retweets and 3368,000 likes. He was, of course, referencing Meryl Streep, someone Kimmel continuously ridiculed throughout the night since President Trump had called her “overrated” via Twitter after she had criticized him in a speech at the Golden Globes (which is strange because Meryl Streep has been nominated for a record 20 Academy Awards and is far from overrated). Fortunately the president opted not to respond to Kimmel.

As host, he actually did something much nicer later in the night….

8. Kimmel brought guests off the street into the room

Having a talk show host host the Oscars was a great decision, it seems. Kimmel’s humor fit quite nicely with the environment. Not only did he shower the audience of Hollywood’s elite with candy from ceiling every now and again; he also surprised a group of ordinary American citizens by having them walk into the room in the middle of the actual ceremony. The guests, including a couple who were thrilled to meet Denzel Washington, snapped selfies with some of their favorite actors and actresses and even cried, which was heart-warming to watch.

The night in general was extremely heart-warming, in fact….

9. Inspiration was in the air

Apparently each Academy Awards ceremony has a set theme. I didn’t know this until Jimmy Kimmel said so at one point in the night when he revealed that “inspiration” was the running theme, and it definitely was. Actors and actresses talked in televised segments about others in Hollywood who inspired them with their work, and a few students in the film-making industry were privileged enough to announce the winners of some of the awards. Even some of the nominated films seemed to especially excel at inspiring us, most notably La La Land, Fences, Hidden Figures, Hacksaw Ridge, etc.

One moment in particular, though, was especially remarkable….

10. Katherine Johnson became the coolest person at the Oscars

For those of you who don’t know, Hidden Figures is an inspiring film about, well, hidden figures in our nation’s history. It follows the true story of three African-American women who worked behind the scenes at NASA despite racial barriers to help us launch the first American into space. The three actresses who portrayed these women (Taraji P. Henson as Katherine Johnson, Octavia Spencer as Dorothy Vaughn, and Janelle Monáe as Mary Jackson) actually announced a documentary award alongside the real-life Katherine Johnson herself, the only surviving member of the trio from the movie. Both wheelchair-bound and 98-years-old, Katherine thanked everyone watching and looked thrilled just to be there.

You know, I would be too. This Academy Awards ceremony was definitely something special, and if these ten points don’t prove it, then I don’t know what will. While La La Land‘s inspiring storyline about the pursuit of dreams would have been the bow on the whole package had the movie won Best Picture, the ceremony was still something special and encouraging to watch on TV.

Here’s a full list of what won:

Best Picture: Moonlight

Best Director: Damien Chazelle (youngest ever) for La La Land

Best Actor: Casey Affleck for Manchester by the Sea

Best Actress: Emma Stone for La La Land
(Acting as an actress is much more complicated than it sounds.)

Best Supporting Actress: Viola Davis for Fences
(If you want to know the true definition of passion, look up the video of her acceptance speech.)

Best Supporting Actor: Mahershala Ali for Moonlight

Best Original Screenplay: Manchester by the Sea

Best Adapted Screenplay: Moonlight
(from the play In Moonlight Black Boys Look Blue)

Best Animated Feature Film: Zootopia

Best Foreign Language Film: The Salesman (from Iran)

Best Documentary (Feature): O.J.: Made in America
(Yes, we’re still talking about him in 2017.)

Best Documentary (Short Subject): The White Helmets
(I heard this one was phenomenal.)

Best Live Action Short Film: Sing
(No, not the one with the singing animals.)

Best Animated Short Film: Piper
(The short film before Finding Dory about the baby bird that’s afraid of the ocean.)

Best Original Score (the music): La La Land
(1000% deserved.)

Best Original Song: “City of Stars” from La La Land
(I strongly recommend a Google search on this one.)

Best Sound Editing: Arrival

Best Sound Mixing: Hacksaw Ridge

Best Production Design: La La Land

Best Cinematography: La La Land

Best Makeup and Hairstyling: Suicide Squad
(Still hilarious.)

Best Costume Design: Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them
(Still awesome.)

Best Film Editing: Hacksaw Ridge

Best Visual Effects: The Jungle Book

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