Yes, the entire world knows “Moonlight” was the huge upset shocker of last night’s 89th Annual Academy Awards ceremony. Though there’s obviously a huge argument to be made that the biggest surprise of the night was the painful mix up itself. Still, as we continue our comprehensive post-mortem on the Oscars, we analyze the winners and losers, what films were snubbed and what surprises the evening had in store. And while there arguably may have been less surprises last night, bar the big fiasco, if you look at each category, there were lots of little unexpected winners and losers along the way.
In a pretty sour quote, Sony Pictures Classics head Tom Bernard made clear that he thought that any Foreign Language Film win for “The Salesman” was “fake news.” But while he expressed it in a pretty shitty way (Asghar Farhadi is one of the greatest filmmakers we have, and a win for him is a win for everyone, especially in these times), one can perhaps understand why Bernard might have been aggrieved, given that on the day that nominations were announced, his company’s film “Toni Erdmann” was widely seen as the frontrunner. Maren Ade’s epic comedy debuted at Cannes to near-rapturous responses (much more so than the rather muted response to Farhadi’s film when it debuted late in the festival), and has been a critical favorite ever since. You would think that the film, an accessible, often uproarious comedy, would have been a much easier sell to the Academy, but whether it was its extensive length, the usual undervaluing of comedy, or that it felt less of a vital political vote (it would, at least, have provided a rare female winner), ‘Erdmann’ lost out. Maybe people are waiting for the remake? Either way, it would have provided a box office boost to a movie that, surprisingly, has been outgrossed by “The Salesman,” perhaps explaining Bernard’s sour grapes.
READ MORE: You’ll Be Thankful For The Weirdos In Your Life After Watching ‘Toni Erdmann’ [Review]
On the one hand, “Arrival” got one more Oscar than we were expecting — its shock victory in Sound Editing meant that it got off the scoreboard. On the other, it’s still a little surprising in some ways that “Arrival” didn’t do better. In recent history, some kind of blockbuster-y, effects-driven film has always done well at least below the line, with “The Dark Knight,” “Avatar,” “Hugo,” “Life Of Pi,” “Mad Max: Fury Road” and “Gravity” all picking up multiple awards, to name but a few. On paper, “Arrival” would have seemed to have filled that slot, and along with “Moonlight,” had the second most nominations this year, which is usually a good sign. But ultimately, the film doesn’t have all that much spectacle to it in some respects — it’s a more thoughtful kind of sci-fi, and while a win for cinematography, production design or editing would have been thoroughly deserved, it ultimately struggled against “La La Land.”
READ MORE: The Producers Behind ‘Arrival’ Are Already Planning Their Next Ambitious Sci-Fi Movie
“Hidden Figures,” “Lion” and “Hell Or High Water”
A Best Picture nomination isn’t always a great sign that you’ll pick up other awards, but it’s normally a fairly strong indication that you will — four years ago, for instance, eight of the nine Best Picture nominees won at least one Oscar, in 2014 all eight won something, and last year only “Brooklyn” and “The Martian” went home empty handed. So it had to be a little bit of a bummer this year that three of the Best Picture nominees picked up zero nods. “Hell Or High Water” was probably the longest shot — short of a surprise win for Jeff Bridges or the screenplay, it, more than the others, felt like the movie where the nominations ended up being the win. The same was to some degree true for “Hidden Figures,” though some had touted it as a potential spoiler in Best Picture race after its huge surprise box office success. And The Weinstein Company have to be bummed that, after 6 nods, “Lion” came away with nothing, although Dev Patel was seen as a potential after winning with BAFTA, as were score and cinematography — even now, it’s a relatively rare year where Harvey doesn’t add at least one to his trophy cabinet.
The rather less-than-gracious look on Denzel Washington’s face when Casey Affleck shouted him out in his speech said it all — even though Affleck was decidedly the favorite, Washington had been gaining ground in recent weeks, and many had predicted him to upset the “Manchester By The Sea” actor, particularly given the sexual harassment allegations that emerged against the latter over the season. “Fences” was a passion project for the director/star, reprising a role that won him a Tony, and he could have become only the fourth man to have three acting Oscars (Daniel Day-Lewis, Jack Nicholson and Walter Brennan being the others) if he’d triumphed. Sadly, however, it didn’t come to pass this time, though he should have another shot soon with Dan Gilroy’s “Inner City.”
READ MORE: High Fidelity Doesn’t Help Denzel Washington’s Padlocked ‘Fences’ [Review]
Duh, Moonlight Wins Best Picture
Yes, Captain Obvious, we’re aware. But it bears to be repeated: envelope fail or not, “Moonlight” winning was a huge surprise and major upset akin to Trump and Hillary last fall. Throughout the Oscar season it looked like there was absolutely no stopping the “La La Land” train. The movie was the toast of Venice, Telluride and Toronto, pretty much every fall film festival, the Golden Globes and more. Sure, “Moonlight” topped a lot of the prestigious critics polls and even mostly swept the Indie Spirit Awards the night before. But those groups and ceremony usually have very little impact on the Oscars—obviously that’s changing with “Moonlight.” So yes, you could have had a smooth transition of awards to acceptance speech and “Moonlight” would have still been a huge shocker. “La La Land” was essentially a lock and even our awards pundit said so all season long. It’s interesting to see the Academy spread the wealth around a little bit more in recent years, and it seems this trend is continuing.
Sound Mixing and Sound Editing
A fast moving musical with music aplenty, “La La Land” seemed like a pretty safe bet for the night, especially considering how musicals like this in the past usually took both sound awards. It was not to be, but there were pleasant surprises, “Arrival” took Best Sound Editing (listen to that one with the picture off and it’s an incredible symphony of score and buzzing alien-like noise) and “Hacksaw Ridge” took Best Sound Mixing—perhaps not all that much a “surprise” given noisy, action-filled dramas like Mel Gibson’s always have a solid shot at sound awards.
Best Editing Goes To “Hacksaw Ridge”
Speaking of Mel Gibson and his faith-based, brutally violent action film “Hacksaw Ridge” (how those two qualities coexist is still beyond us), the film somehow snuck in to win Best Editing. Now Best Editing traditionally used to be the best augur for what will win Best Picture. If there was any doubt how the ceremony was going, when a movie won Best Editing, 9 out of 10 times, it won Best Picture. But as we’ve noted several times this weekend and today, the voting body of the Academy Awards is changing and old trends are falling away. Much like when “Whiplash” took Best Editing, but wasn’t even much of a Best Picture contender (though it was nominated), “Hacksaw Ridge” snuck up the middle and grabbed the prize. “La La Land” was the expected, should-be sure-fire winner. Failing that, “Moonlight” appeared to be the runner up for editing. But this Editing-to-Best-Picture phenomenon appears to be finally over. Gibson’s film won two Oscars last night—the same number as the critically lauded “Manchester By The Sea” if you can believe it.
Best Costume Goes To “Fantastic Beasts And Where To Find Them”
It’s not unusual for the Best Costume award to go to fantasy and fantastical films, but there were two clear frontrunners last night: Madeline Fontaine for Pablo Larrain’s “Jackie” and its sumptuously authentic dresses, gowns and to-die-for outfits (which really should have won, btw) and “La La Land” with its eye-popping, candy colored dresses and dapper suits by Mary Zophres. Instead, “Fantastic Beasts And Where To Find Them” came out of nowhere to win the prize. The lesson learned: do not bet against costumer Colleen Atwood who has been nominated twelve times for an Oscar and has now won four trophies in the category.
“Suicide Squad” Wins An Oscar
Where were you the day “Suicide Squad” won an Oscar award? The category of Best Makeup and Hairstyling was an incredibly weird one in 2017. Only three nominees, (not that strange), and three odd ones: “Star Trek Beyond” and a foreign film no one had heard of called “Man From Ove” and of course, the cartoonish “Suicide Squad,” largely regarded as one of the worst films of the year. Was it the Jared Leto’s Joker’s bleached skin and neon-bright green hair seemingly taken from a toy? Was it Harley Quinn’s (Margot Robbie’s) pigtails and smeared make-up? Or was it Will Smith’s perfect shaved head? We’ll never really know, but yes, no one expected this award—not even the Hair and Make up team of “Suicide Squad.”
Best Original Screenplay
This was a tricky one. Kenneth Lonergan’s masterful screenplay for “Manchester By The Sea” was a major frontrunner out the gate and was a fairly sure bet for the Oscar bauble. However, Damien Chazelle’s script for Best Screenplay was picking up plaudits the entire season, even though it was unclear how it was written around musical numbers that he did not write or even have a hand in writing both lyrically and musically (he’s not credited on any song which is strange). In fact, Emma Stone once said an early version of the script had moments where it read “Mia bursts into song and dazzles the audition casting agents”— she had to take a huge leap of faith. But the screenplay was nominated everywhere, including the Oscars and won the Golden Globe. OK, maybe it was an outside shot, but if the awards would have been a sweep for “La La Land,” there’s an argument to be made it could have taken the screenwriting prize too.