#BlackExcellence At Its Finest: “Moonlight” Beats “La La Land” for Best Picture

Last night Hollywood figures gathered in their fancy clothes to sit uncomfortably in a theatre that was probably too drafty to celebrate the 89th annual Academy Awards. As can be expected, the award show was longer than it should’ve been and contained awkward moments like when “City of Stars” from La La Land won best song over “How Far I’ll Go” from Moana. Also Jimmy Kimmel lifted a small brown child in the air a la Simba from The Lion King because apparently common sense isn’t something white men are born with.

There were also some amazing moments. Viola Davis was finally given an Oscar for her fantastic performance in the film adaptation of August Wilson’s Fences. Mahershala Ali became the first Muslim to win an award when he won Best Supporting Actor for his performance as Juan in Moonlight. Our own Queen Trans, Mey Rude, celebrated Zootopia’s win for “Best Animated Feature Film”.

But the very best moment, the moment I didn’t know I needed but will fuel me for the next five years, was the moment when Faye Dunaway took Warren Beaty’s confusion as a mistake and announced that La La Land won best picture.

Apparently, Beaty had the card for Best Featured Actress, which Emma Stone had just won. Because the card had La La Land on it, Dunaway assumed that the film had won Best Picture. When the cast and crew came on stage to accept the award, men in headsets swarmed the stage, and alerted them that “There’s a mistake.” Moonlight had won. (Read a transcription of what went down from the New York Times)

Y’all, I got my whole life watching this thing go down. Moonlight is amazing. I openly wept in the theatre while watching it. It has changed the way we look at poor Black folks, Black men and boys, and Black gender-nonconforming people. Black queer folks are seeing themselves in this film in ways that have never happened before!

And like, besides the fact that Moonlight is 200% the movie La La Land could ever be, on a petty note, seeing something undeserved snatched out of white hands felt SO. GOOD. It was the vindication I will never get in my real life. It was #blackexcellence at its finest. I am thrilled for the cast, crew, and creators on their win (plus, imagine the memes we’re gonna get out of this!!).


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Alaina is a 20-something working on a PhD in Performance as Public Practice. They are a mom to three cats, they listen to a lot of NPR and musicals, and they spend a lot of time on Pinterest lusting over studio apartments. They are actively trying to build A Brand on twitter @alainamonts. One day, they will be First Lady of the United States.

Al(aina) has written 198 articles for us.

91 Comments

  1. IT WAS AMAZING

    also I think the link to the transcript got mistyped? part of it repeats so it doesn’t open right, but taking the “https://mobile-nytimes-com.cdn.ampproject.org/v/s/” part out seemed to make it work

    • At first I thought the same thing but then I watched it again. He was stalling looking around to the wings for someone to come out and then she hit him like “stop fucking around” and he showed her the card like “look it’s wrong” and she jumped to say La La Land because then his reaction to her saying the name was like “wha…” and to his credit she high tailed it out of there but he stuck around and tried to defuse the situation even taking some of the blame (which wasn’t even his fault).

  2. I really wanted kubo and the two strings to win 😡
    Also hosting an oscar party where you take two shots every time your pick loses is an amazing idea and something that i am going to do again.
    Considering this started at like 5:30 in the morning, I have never been more glad about the fact that I am in my final year and all I need to submit is my final project, I can bunk my classes with impunity.

  3. Viola Davis won an Oscar…finally.

    With the win, she became the first black woman to have won an Emmy, Tony and Oscar for acting. She is an audiobook away from capturing the coveted EGOT.

    And when she won, she strode to the stage in a regal red dress (SLAY!) and gave the most amazing speech, as she is wont to do.

    It was amazing…

    There is an OSCAR WINNING ACTRESS that portrays a queer character on primetime television.

    What a time to be alive.

  4. One thousand snaps to everything you said, YES. Yes. **still snapping**

    However, I am FURIOUS that because of Faye and Warren’s mistake (and whoever backstage can’t keep their envelopes straight) we STILL have to think about La La Land today. Every headline is about the gaffe instead of about the fact that MOONLIGHT IS THE BEST PICTURE OF THE YEAR. Yours is honestly the only headline I’ve seen that gets it right.

  5. Overall, the Oscars were great this year. Viola won. Mahershala won. Moonlight won. The only thing I’m disappointed about is that He Who Shall Not Be Named won Best Actor and is also dating everybody’s new favorite fake tv lesbian. But I’m not supposed to talk about THAT tea or the fact that everybody was trying to run Nate Parker out of Hollywood months before even though both men are cut from the same cloth of terrible human being. I would have been happy with any of the other 4 taking that win from him.

  6. I was watching the ceremony but because it started about 2:30 am I think after Viola Davis’ won I fell asleep, well.

    There wasn’t any big surprises, I think? I’m disappointed La La Land didn’t get an award for costumes but besides that everything satisfied me. The whole situation in the end was funny and iconic (yas, memes!) like it’s just a mistake but the feeling of accepting the award, with the speech and all and finding that hey, you didn’t really win must have been, at least, not nice. I’m glad Moonlight won though, I’ve it seen just two days ago and I absolutely loved it.

    Emma Stone looked gorgeous, it was really a winner’s dress. AND TARAJI P. HENSON AND AMY ADAMS KILLED IT. Especially Taraji. I’ll never get over their lack of nominations.

  7. I’m so so so glad Moonlight won, especially over La La Land 😀

    I saw it in the theatre Thursday and I was blown awayyyyy what a movie. Immediately after leaving the theatre i wanted to see it again.

  8. Oh goodness this is some good news – thank you! Yesterday I was re-watching Moonlight with no sound over a stranger’s shoulder on the plane. Seeing only the visuals was like ‘every tiny detail of this is excellent by itself’ and I don’t know anything about film. Like how the water rocks the camera kind of, and it makes you Little while he’s learning to swim, and how Janelle Monae keeps tucking her hair out of her face while she’s getting filmed from the back seat because you’re right there in the car with her.

  9. I loved Mahershala Ali so much in House of Cards and Viola Davis so much in HTGAWM, that last night my first thought was”Yes! Finally! The Oscar they deserved!”
    Making a friend date for Moonlight as soon as it comes out in Germany, which, I think, is on the ninth of March. I did mean to see it anyway, but Best Movie means wider release and more opportunities to see it.
    P.S. I sincerely believe that the criticism surrounding the Oscars so white and Carol last year made it possible for Moonlight to triumph over La La Land this year.
    I was SO sure that a movie celebrating Hollywood, all white, would get the award again, because the Academy really enjoys celebrating itself.
    But now, make that “enjoyed”.
    Very happy about this outcome.
    Change can happen within a year!
    Let’s remember that,

  10. I did not know what Moonlight was about until I did a little research on it the past couple of days and what I thought it was about was the complete opposite.

    I haven’t seen La La Land either so I couldn’t say whether or not they deserved the win but once the error was brought to their attention they didn’t hesitate and called up the rightful winners of Moonlight.

    I don’t understand the “suck it losers” attitude toward La La Land that this article seemed to boast, what did La La Land do to you? I would say the 3 main films to win were La La Land, Moonlight and Hidden Figures (though I think they lost some of their momentum in the last few weeks). If Hidden Figures had been called out as the winner and then have it taken away for Moonlight would you still be happy it was taken away?

    • la la land is mediocre. and white mediocrity is always rewarded and i’m tired, effie i’m tired, to quote lorelle from dream girls.

      seeing such a symbolic snatch is/was beautiful. white folks are always getting shit they don’t deserve because they’re white and whiteness is valued far more than the hard work of people of color. the end.

      • Also did you hear Stephen Colbert’s comments from last night ? 😂.

        It went something like :

        “I feel so bad for moonlight. It was supposed to be a great moment for african-americans, but of course, they couldn’t get an oscar unless white people touched it first. And then, once they got on stage, Ryan Gosling explained Jazz to them”

        And the he turns to the shows musician, Jon Batiste and tells him: “did you see La La Land? Do you understand Jazz now?”

        And Jon Batiste : “yes I finally do”

        😂

        • Yes. One of the producers of Moonlight was white. But lets not ignore that the director was black. The screenwriter was black. The majority of the people involved were black. It is very rare that The Academy, over its 80 something years actually awards a film like this. A film about the black experience and black queer experience in which nobody died or has Aids or is a slave film. That’s what people are celebrating. It’s also just damn good movie.

          As for La La Land, it’s not that the film is bad IMO. It’s very predictable to me. There are better musicals to be honest(I didn’t enjoy the music). Hell, there are even better films starring Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone as love interests! It’s a movie about Hollywood basically so of course Hollywood is going to eat that shit up and shower it with awards. It’s also a movie that claims to be about Jazz but features very little if any actual Jazz music and as Marley said, doesn’t give near enough credit to Jazz’s origins. And this is the second film that the director has made centered around Jazz music that is like that.

          • I’m not trying to discount the hard work, everyone involved with Moonlight put into the film my comment was a reaction to Alaina’s comment which was “seeing such a symbolic snatch is/was beautiful. white folks are always getting shit they don’t deserve because they’re white and whiteness is valued far more than the hard work of people of color. the end.”
            She’s happy that the award got snatched out of the hands of “white folks” but the award was then put into the hands of “white folks” as all 3 producers of Moonlight that take home that trophy are white. The director doesn’t take the trophy, nor does the cast, it’s the producers win and they were white.

          • hey cyclone my pronouns are visible on this very page so it would be great if when you discredited my opinion about two movies that you haven’t seen that I have seen you at least used my correct pronouns.

          • also if you haven’t seen them, why are you so pressed about how i feel about them???????

            and you’re absolutely discounting their hard work, no matter what you’re trying to do.

    • A lot of people are disliking La La Land because it’s a story of two people who succeed over time because they’re white. They don’t really have character development, they don’t have to struggle and learn, they are just mediocre singers who succeed because time passes. Also, the movie doesn’t give nearly enough credit to the black musicians who created Jazz. <- This is what I hear. I haven't seen the movie myself.

      The Oscars and Hollywood and all of movie production have a history of not giving enough credit to black people, not hiring enough black people, and not recognizing black people for the work they do.

      Moonlight was an exceptional movie. (I hear. I haven't seen it yet!)

      The way I understand it, this article isn't tearing down the particular white people involved with La La Land. They were very gracious when they realized the mistake. But it's not about them – it's about the larger pattern of white privilege and black oppression and the Hollywood machine. In that light, white people literally handing over their awards to the black people who actually won is poetic. It's karmic justice.

      (Says a white person. This is what I got from this article.)

      • Well I have seen La La Land, so I feel inclined to challenge a few thing. (Not Moonlight yet, but I want to.)

        I respect the opinions of the article and your take one it, but let’s not confuse opinion with facts. What is mediocrity is opinion and so if the idea that mediocrity is only rewarded when made by white people, even if in this part of the world it usual is.
        While certainly didn’t think La La Land was the years best picture, I did see talent and character growth from the leads even if it was minimal.Neither got exactly what they were hoping for, even if hard work and sacrifice did work out for them in the end. Still I’ll admit that regardless of race, that kind of story has been done many times before and better.
        As for the invention of Jazz, well that’s really more most film or articles can afford to get into. All just say there are a great volume of books that can illustrate why Jazz (as well as Blues music) is such an amalgamating of cultural influences that no one can really be claimed for credit as “inventors.” Still I do recognize the level of frustration with the unjust elucidation throughout history of so many pioneering black “innovators.” It seemed beyond the focus of the story. (I haven’t seen Whiplash, so I can’t say if it makes more of a difference).

        Pretty much agree with your interpretation of the article though.

        • It’s an American music genre from the turn of century of course it’s amalgamation, but it originated in the black community of New Orleans.
          That’s a fact jack, an indisputable fact that African-Americans of New Orleans are the credited inventors of jazz.

    • @Cyclone:

      Generally, I’m inclined to cut La La Land some slack…not because I wanted them to win (more on that in a second) but because no one should have to lose that way. As Mahershala Ali said, “it’s very hard to feel joy in a moment like that.”

      That said, I’m bothered by them getting so much credit for doing the absolute least.

      Everyone will remember Jordan Horowitz returning to the microphone to reveal the mistake and proclaiming Moonlight as the actual winner because America likes to cast whiteness as the gracious hero. But what happened right before that is ignored: Peter Berger walked up to the mic, Oscar in hand, knowing that La La Land had lost, and GAVE HIS SPEECH ANYWAY.

      Watch the fiasco again if you don’t want to take my word for it: he lost, he knew he lost and he gave his speech anyway. You know that he knew he lost because, at the end of his speech, he says, “we lost, by the way, but, you know…”

      What Berger did was as classless as Horowitz was classy but no one talks about it because it upsets the narrative.

      To the broader point of disdain for La La Land, though (and, obviously, I can only speak for myself):

      Hollywood’s response to La La Land is perfectly summed up by the headline of Times movie review: “‘La La Land’ Makes Musicals Matter Again.” Folks were effusive about how La La Land represented a return to the magic of “old Hollywood,” once embodied by Gene Kelly musicals of the 1950s. They might as well have just slapped a “Make America Great Again” sticker on the movie poster.

      But what bothered me the most about the “make musicals matter again” nonsense: how can you possibly say that La La Land made musicals matter again in a world where Hamilton exists? The implicit diminishment of a work created and performed by people of color by an industry that is overwhelmingly white for a film that is overwhelmingly white…it’s just infuriating.

      (This, of course, ignores other critiques of the movie and my ongoing issue with Emma Stone since her appearance in Aloha.)

      • That is also a great point that has been annoying me as well about La La Land’s “We brought back the musical” narrative. No the fuck you didn’t. Not in a time where Hamilton is extremely popular to the point where you can’t get a ticket to see it. Not in a time when tv networks are recreating musicals for a live audience with very successful results. I would watch Grease Live again before I would ever want to watch La La Land again. Just saying. So I call bullshit on that “Make Musicals Great Again” nonsense.

        Like I said earlier, La La Land is a movie that celebrates old Hollywood so of course they are getting all kinds of praise for it. But I’ve seen better musicals and I’ve better movies starring Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone. Speaking of, Emma Stone won Best Actress of the Year, THE WHOLE YEAR, for essentially playing a version herself. What? I mean I like Emma Stone but that was not the best performance of the year IMO.

  11. I couldn’t believe my eyes when Moonlight was finally nominated! In my opinion, La La Land was just overrated, even though the acting was good. Faith in humanity: restored.

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