89th Annual Academy Awards Best Picture Upset Clouds Other Historic Oscar Firsts


Rebecca Boyajian

Following the night of the Oscars, most viewers were left with one image in mind: how presenter Warren Beatty stood befuddled amongst the equally enchanted crew of “Moonlight” as he attempted damage control in what will likely go down in history as the most epic blunder to take place on an Oscars stage. “I want to tell you what happened. I opened the envelope, and it said ‘Emma Stone, La La Land.’ That’s why I took such a long look at Faye and at you. I wasn’t trying to be funny. This is ‘Moonlight,’ the best picture.”

Nearly as soon as the statuettes were transferred onstage from the “La La Land” cast into the hands of the “Moonlight” crew, tweets, memes and whatever else people could think up were flooding social media. In the days that followed the ceremony, the best picture mishap was at the forefront of any and all Oscars buzz.

While the mistake was an iconic moment undeniable in it’s entertainment value, it heavily clouded other record-breaking firsts that took place during the 2017 Oscar ceremony.

Most notably, this year featured six black nominees, the highest number of black actors or actresses to have ever been nominated in a single year by the Academy. While the number sounds discouragingly small it is a stride in the right direction especially after last year’s #OscarsSoWhite fiasco.

While the discussion may have felt repetitive, it was delightful to hear the cringey mishap commandeering Oscar conversation rather than it being about Hollywood’s blatant racism.

The lack of diversity amongst the Academy’s nominees was understandably the center of last year’s Oscars discussion; however, with ample diversity amongst this year’s nominees viewers were able to celebrate and enjoy the show rather than feeling upset due to unfairness.

“Moonlight,” a powerful story that follows strong Chiron on his journey coming to terms with his sexuality, scored three Oscars. Forty-three year old Mahershala Ali scored big for his striking role as Juan in “Moonlight,” taking home the award for Best Supporting Actor and breaking barriers in the process, becoming the first Muslim to have ever won an Oscar.

After receiving his award, Ali proceeded to sweetly thank his wife in his acceptance speech, making his moment on stage not only a historic one but a favorite amongst viewers. “I just want to thank my wife, who was in her third trimester during awards season. We just had a daughter four days ago. I just want to thank her for being such a soldier through this process… and really carrying me through it all. Thank you.”

Viola Davis won best supporting actress for her role as Rose Maxson in “Fences,” earning her own place in history as she became the first black woman to win a Tony, Oscar and Golden Globe for acting.  She joined the list of 23 other actors and actresses who accomplished the same feat like Helen Mirren, Maggie Smith, Christopher Plummer, Jessica Lange and Al Pacino.

After stepping on stage, Davis thanked those who helped her with the film, then proceeded to grace viewers with the most heartfelt memorable speech of the night. “Thank you to the Academy. You know, there’s one place that all the people with the greatest potential are gathered. One place and that’s the graveyard. People ask me all the time, what kind of stories do you want to tell, Viola? And I say, exhume those bodies. Exhume those stories. The stories of the people who dreamed big and never saw those dreams to fruition. People who fell in love and lost. I became an artist—and thank God I did—because we are the only profession that celebrates what it means to live a life.”

People are usually attempting to figure life out at age 32, but for “La La Land” director Damien Chazelle, it will be remembered as the age he acquired his first Oscar and earned the title of youngest to win Best Director. Chazelle, age 32 and one month, took the record this year from its previous holder Norman Taurog, director of “Skippy” (1931), who was age 32 years and 260 days.

Amongst first time winners was Kevin O’Connell, who finally earned an Oscar after 21 nominations. He took home the Sound Mixing award for “Hacksaw Ridge,” breaking the longest losing streak in Oscars history.

The monstrous Harry Potter franchise winning an Oscar only now seems a little hard to believe, but sure enough, “Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them” earning best costume design was the first. All of the Potter films, excluding “Chamber of Secrets,” and “Rise of the Phoenix,” had been previously nominated by the Academy, but evidently came up empty handed.
Colleen Atwood, the brilliant wizard behind “Fantastic Beast’s” elaborate wardrobe, has already acquired four Oscar wins and 12 nominations in her career. Her other wins go on to include “Alice in Wonderland,” “Memoirs of a Geisha,” and “Chicago.”