With a record-breaking number of nominations, Damien Chazelle’s La La Land started out as one of the strongest contenders in the Oscars this evening. It was nominated in 14 different categories, tying it with films like 1997’s Titanic and 1950’s All About Eve. And while indie darling Moonlight had only eight nominations, the film was La La Land’s strongest challenger this Oscars season, especially in the high-profile categories of Best Picture and Best Director. So, at the end of the night, which film actually “won?”
It was an uphill battle for Moonlight from the very start. While the film, a poetic chronicle of a young black boy who struggles with his sexuality as he grows up in Miami, received raves from critics and dominated independent films awards, it was going against La La Land, a movie that, for the most part, unapologetically celebrates the movie industry and the dogged pursuit of one’s dreams, a subject matter which the Academy Awards has always been partisan towards.
The two films faced off against each other in the categories of Best Picture, Best Director, Best Cinematography, Best Original Music Score, and Best Film Editing. In the end, La La Land snagged the awards for Best Director, Best Cinematography, and Best Original Score from Moonlight, while the visceral Hacksaw Ridge triumphed against both films in film editing. Moonlight, however, surprised everyone by being awarded the arguably highest honor of the night, the award for Best Picture. The announcement of the correct winner came after an initial mix-up that had La La Land erroneously announced as Best Picture winner.
Damien Chazelle’s win as Best Director has made him the youngest recipient to ever receive this honor. Had Barry Jenkins, the director of Moonlight, won, he would have been the first African-American to be awarded Best Director in the history of the Academy Awards.
— Guardian US (@GuardianUS) February 27, 2017
Perhaps unsurprisingly, La La Land, a film that serves as a blend of the past and the present, the realistic and the surreal, also won for Best Production Design. The musical pic won in music-related categories such as Best Original Score and Best Original Song for “City of Stars.” It didn’t, however, quite sweep the Academy Awards as predicted, and the nostalgia-tinted picture lost in the categories of actor in a leading role, original screenplay, sound editing, sound mixing, and costume design. Despite the fact that the Academy Awards has a history of picking musicals for the category of Best Sound Mixing, according to Oscars predictions by The Hollywood Reporter, the honor went to Hacksaw Ridge. That marks the second category that the Mel Gibson war epic has upset award favorite La La Land.
The 2017 Oscars started with a win for Moonlight, with Mahershala Ali winning Best Supporting Actor for his role as Juan, a caring and sensitive drug dealer, in Moonlight. This was Ali’s first Oscars nomination and first win. It was also the first time a Muslim actor has won an Academy Award in the history of the show.
— New York Daily News (@NYDailyNews) February 27, 2017
In his speech, as reported by The Hollywood Reporter, Mahershala Ali gave credit to his fellow cast members and their equally strong performances in Moonlight.
“[I want to thank] the rest of the cast, who did wonderful work. Any one of them could be here right now, holding this trophy. Such a gift getting to work with you and being inspired by you and the performances you all offered up.”
Apart from Ali’s win as Best Supporting Actor and the film’s win for Best Picture, Moonlight also held its own in the category of Best Adapted Screenplay. In the end, including Emma Stone’s win for Best Actress, La La Land took home six of the Oscars it was nominated for, while Moonlight took away three, including the top honor for Best Picture.
[Featured Image by A24 and Plan B Entertainment]