[Editor's Note: the following opinions are entirely my own.]
Last night, viewers watching the Oscars witnessed something unprecedented in the history of the awards: a misplaced cue card, and the relinquishing of an award.
At this point, we're all very familiar with the story: Warren Beatty and Faye Dunaway went onstage to announce Best Picture. The general public (a.k.a. Twitter) was vying for Moonlight, but everyone expected La La Land to take home the night's top prize. Emma Stone had won Best Actress moment's before. Beatty took a bit too long to read the actual card; Dunaway said he was "too much," chuckling. Hollywood held it's breath, and then La La Land was crowned the winner, to nobody's surprise.
That's where it gets murky: Jordan Horowitz, who produced La La Land, went onstage and gave his speech. Alongside the film's cast and crew were stagehands with headsets looking for another envelope. Then the historic announcement, the admittance of a mess-up, the exciting upset that nobody was expecting: Moonlight won Best Picture. Silence, then rapturous applause, the exchange of Oscars between La La Land and Moonlight, the extremely meek apology from Beatty.
Despite later reports going into detail about the mix-up with cue cards, as well as an apology from the accounting firm in charge of counting votes for the Oscars, it was hard to not look at the moment as racist when it happened. At that moment, I know my mind was on fire with speculation: how does one confuse two movie titles that are so different? Why would Moonlight specifically, the polar opposite of La La Land in nearly every aspect, be the film whose moment in the sun was eclipsed by a mistake?
Since the dust has cleared on this controversy, I can't help but feel upset. Ever since I was young, watching the Oscars meant waiting hours to see what film would be crowned Best Picture. It was a lead-up to that glorious moment, to the burst of joy that's created on that stage when a crew film becomes Oscar-Winning. We're getting remnants of that joy now; of course, moments after the confusion cleared, the world rejoiced for Moonlight, but these feelings came in the aftermath. That moment of clearness and unadulterated pure joy was destroyed by a mistake. The saddest part is that even that didn't surprise me, with the Oscars past record of disregarding black artists, it almost seemed like a set-up to spoil a victory of this caliber, even if it lasted only a moment. That moment is why people watch the Oscars, and the possibility that Moonlight's win will go down in history as the product of a blunder leaves a sour taste in my mouth.
Acclaimed film critic Gene Seymour wrote a wonderful op-ed for CNN today that sums up my fears: the headline reads "The Oscars blunder will forever overshadow Moonlight's historic night." Take note of the word historic. Take note of the fact that Moonlight was the first LGBTQ+ film to win Best Picture. Take note of the real victory that happened last night, and don't give your attention to a blunder that, in the end, will reflect badly on The Academy as a bout of unprofessionalism.
To quote the opening line of Seymour's article: "Moonlight" won. Let's be very clear about that before we talk about anything else."