The 89th Oscars, hosted by Jimmy Kimmel on Feb. 26, were full of many firsts, surprises and of course, politically charged statements.
Viola Davis won her first Oscar for best supporting actress for her role in “Fences,” making her the first black woman to win an Oscar, Emmy and Tony. “I became an artist and thank God I did,” Davis said during her acceptance speech. “Because we are the only profession that celebrates what it means to live a life.”
The film “Fences” was directed by Denzel Washington, who also played a leading role, and is based on August Wilson’s Pulitzer Prize-winning screenplay. Set in the 1950s, a working-class African-American father struggles to raise his family while coming to terms with his own life.
The past few years, the Oscars have been under scrunity for the nominations and winners’ lack of diversity. Last year they received the “nickname” #Oscarssowhite. On Sunday, Mahershala Ali was the first Muslim to win an Oscar for best actor in a supporting role for his role in “Moonlight.”
“Moonlight,” directed by Barry Jenkins who also wrote the film with Tarell Alvin McCraney, is based on the play by McCraney “In Moonlight Black Boys Look Blue.” It is the story of a young, gay, black man who struggles to find his place in the world while growing up in a rough neighborhood of Miami. The film was nominated for eight Academy Awards, taking the win for best film, best adapted screenplay and best supporting actor.
Not to one’s surprise, the night was filled with political remarks, mostly aimed at the newly elected President Donald Trump. Probably the most profound statement of the night was made by an absent man.
Asghar Farhadi, an Iranian director of the foreign film “The Salesman,” won the Oscar for best foreign language film. Iranian-American Anousheh Ansari, the first Muslim woman in space, accepted the award on his behalf.
She stated on Farhadi’s behalf that he could not attend, for he was in his home country supporting his fellow citizens and others like them who are being affected by the president’s travel ban. “Dividing the world into the ‘us’ and ‘our enemies’ categories creates fear,” she read from his words. “A deceitful justification for aggression and war. These wars prevent democracy and human rights in countries which have themselves been victims of aggression.”
Damien Chazelle became the youngest, at 32 years old, to win best director for his film “La La Land.”
Written and directed by Chazelle, it is a love story for the ages between a young, aspiring actress and a jazz musician. The film was up for 14 nominations, winning six categories by the end of the night. One of the winners included Emma Stone, who won best female actress in a leading role, making this her first Oscar.
Kimmel jokingly referred to Meryl Streep as overrated throughout the night, into the president’s tweet about Meryl Streep being “one of the most over-rated actresses” after her Golden Globe speech. He even made it a point to tweet at the president from his personal Twitter account during the awards.
To end the night with a bang, the winner for best picture was incorrectly awarded to “La La Land.” The actual winner of the award was the film “Moonlight.” No, you are not reading this wrong, and no, this is not some joke. Unfortunately, the wrong card was handed off to the presenters Faye Dunaway and Warren Beatty.
While what appeared at first to be a joke by Beatty, who peered into the envelope twice and stared back at the audience for a while, was actually a case of confusion. The card for best female actress in a leading role, which had just been awarded to Emma Stone for “La La Land,” was mistakenly handed to the presenters. Among the confusion, Dunaway read the name “La La Land” and mistakenly took it for best picture.
All is fair in love and war, and fortunately there were no hard feelings (at least not on camera). Jimmy Kimmel lightened the mood, as he usually does, with a joke. “I’m going to be really proud to hand this to my friends from ‘Moonlight,’” said Jordan Horowitz, the producer of “La La Land.”
Oh, and in case you forgot, this isn’t the first time a mistake like this has been made at a major award show. At the 2015 Miss Universe pageant, host Steve Harvey mistook first runner up, Miss Colombia Ariadna Gutierrez, as the winner and she had to hand over her crown to Miss Philippines, Pia Alonzo Wurtzbach. So apparently Harvey can sleep better at night now knowing that he isn’t the only person to live with such a drastic mistake.
The Oscars are always full of excitement, maybe this year more so than others. But the night was also full of recognition and reflection. Sara Bareilles performed during the “In Memoriam” tribute video, reflecting on the many artists who lost their lives throughout 2016 including Gene Wilder, Debbie Reynolds, Carrie Fisher and others who have left their mark on the world. The night itself was dedicated to recognition, not of just actors and actresses, directors, songwriters, costume designers, producers, etc., but of the current events and issues that are circulating our society.
“[Filmmakers] create empathy between ‘us’ and ‘others,’” said Ansari while reading Farhadi’s acceptance speech. “An empathy which we need today more than ever.”