The end of the 89th Academy Awards was one for the ages — and that’s an understatement.
“Moonlight’s” stunning upset victory over early frontrunner “La La Land” was made even more shocking by the fact that presenters Warren Beatty and Faye Dunaway initially awarded the Best Picture trophy to the wrong film. Thinking they’d won, “La La Land’s” producers delivered their entire acceptance speeches — only to hand the award off when they realized what had happened.
In many ways, this moment was exactly what Twitter was built for.
The mix-up unleashed a tidal wave of snark, followed by chaos, followed by jubilation — all playing out in real time.
Initially, supporters of “Moonlight” — who were stung that a groundbreaking black queer coming-of-age story would likely be shut out by a conventional Hollywood romance — prepared themselves for disappointment.
Starting with a win for Best Production Design, it seemed like “La La Land” was poised for a clean sweep of the night’s biggest awards.
Tweeters of color in particular — including some of the most prominent voices on black Twitter — were less than pleased, especially when “La La Land” appeared to have claimed the night’s top prize.
Black people are gonna fly away to another planet à la Sun Ra
& we’re taking all our good art with us.
see how you like it then.
— wikipedia brown (@eveewing) February 27, 2017
Thankfully I began the emotional preparation for this bullshit a month ago
— roxane gay (@rgay) February 27, 2017
Then it happened. “La La Land” producer Jordan Horowitz stepped up to the mic and announced the mistake. “Moonlight” had actually won.
At first, it seemed like it might be a terrible prank.
But pretty quickly, it became clear Horowitz wasn’t kidding. All hell broke loose.
News organizations had to adjust their breaking news alerts.
Shock and disbelief reverberated across social media.
When the confusion died down, it became clear the seemingly impossible had happened.
“Moonlight” had won Best Picture. For real.
And the celebration began.
The shocking upset victory was hailed as a long-overdue win for marginalized groups of artists…
Black queer people have created popular culture since the beginning of time, and no one has credited us for anything.
— Kima Jones (@kima_jones) February 27, 2017
…and for moviegoers who have waited just as long to see themselves on screen.
This is a win for so many.
I’m amazed and elated.
Let’s celebrate this for a long time, y’all.
— Raquel Willis (@RaquelWillis_) February 27, 2017
Many saw a deeper symbolism in the chaos and confusion.
and this is nerdy to say but still saying it, what if now Moonlight also becomes a verb meaning getting your due despite white shenanigans 🌝
— Ayesha A. Siddiqi (@AyeshaASiddiqi) February 27, 2017
Others praised the “La La Land” team for reacting to an enormously difficult moment with grace.
The LA LA LAND people were so classy. Amazing. Two great movies.
HOW MANY TIMES IS MOONLIGHT GONNA MAKE ME CRY
— Kumail Nanjiani (@kumailn) February 27, 2017
Most, however, were simply thrilled.
This victory for “Moonlight” may or may not represent a sea change in the way the Oscars does business.
Time will tell whether the Academy is truly committed to rewarding greater diversity in film. And “La La Land” deserves all the awards it won and critical recognition it’s received.
But last night, a small, gorgeous, unsparing, nuanced movie about the life of a gay black kid in Miami, written and directed by artists of color, took home the top prize. What’s more? It deserved it.
Now, more than ever, that matters.