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.