The Oscars voted for inclusivity this year, naming “Moonlight” 2016’s greatest film.
In one of the craziest Oscar moments in history, presenters Warren Beatty and Faye Dunaway mistakenly announced “La La Land” as the winner. He had been handed the Best Actress envelope, with “La La Land” star Emma Stone’s name printed in it. Producer Jordan Horowitz was in the middle of his acceptance speech when he was informed that “Moonlight” was the rightful winner. Beatty took the podium again to correct the error, at which point the “Moonlight” cast began marching to the stage.
Barry Jenkins’ drama about a black latchkey kid grappling with his sexuality in the Miami projects beat expected front-runner “La La Land” for Best Picture on Sunday. That means the Academy picked a small independent movie that tackles homophobia, class structures and patriarchal norms over a musical-romance fantasy about voters’ favorite topic: Hollywood. This is a leap forward for big-screen storytelling that humanizes marginalized voices.
Heading into the night, the Best Picture race had come down to three movies: “La La Land,” “Moonlight” and “Hidden Figures,” which split the key precursor prizes. In the media, a complicated narrative about the significance of this year’s award coalesced around these films. Because “La La Land” romanticizes a dreamy Hollywood that is unfamiliar to most Americans, some critics and commentators felt that it was less worthy than the vital social stories told in “Moonlight” and “Hidden Figures.” With popular culture inching toward better representation for minorities and women, and Donald Trump’s administration inching away from it, many saw a “Moonlight” or “Hidden Figures” victory as a referendum against the current political regime.
However the win is interpreted, it’s a remarkable moment for a remarkable movie. This was one of the most diverse Oscar rosters in history, a marked departure after two consecutive years without any acting nominees of color. “Moonlight” scoring the most prestigious award, especially given the politicized fodder surrounding its contest with “La La Land,” feels like a new frontier for Hollywood.