In 2017, even the Oscars are fake news

Moonlight won Best Picture at Oscars 2017 after an on-stage blunder
Moonlight won Best Picture at Oscars 2017 after an on-stage blunder (Photo: ABC/Eddy Chen)

It’s fair to say that those of us who stayed up to watch last night’s Oscars 2017 ceremony were certainly treated to something no one has ever seen before. Long-time favourite La La Land was announced as the winner of Best Picture, in line with everyone’s expectations, and the team behind the critically adored musical flocked to the stage to deliver their acceptance speeches. However, their joy was short-lived as chaos unfolded behind them, with the decision subsequently reversed as it was revealed that Moonlight was the true Best Picture winner. In 2017, even the Oscars can’t escape from the spectre of fake news.

Although full details will almost certainly become clear in the next 24 hours, it appears that presenters Warren Beatty and Faye Dunaway were handed the wrong envelope and were in fact revealing Emma Stone‘s Best Actress win all over again. Beatty clearly knew something was amiss when he first opened the envelope and consulted Dunaway, who told the assembled crowds that La La Land had won. In the midst of the confusion, Moonlight director Barry Jenkins rushed to the microphone to declare: “To hell with dreams. This is true!”

It was a bonkers way to end what had otherwise been quite a straightforward, uneventful Oscars ceremony. Despite missing out on the big one, La La Land was still the night’s big winner with six prizes, including Best Director and Best Actress. Moonlight secured three awards, nabbing prizes for its writing and Mahershala Ali‘s supporting performance, as well as Best Picture. Grief drama Manchester by the Sea and grim World War Two thriller Hacksaw Ridge both scooped two awards.

Trevante Rhodes is one of three leading actors in Moonlight
Trevante Rhodes is one of three leading actors in Moonlight

All of that, though, was overshadowed by the messy finale, which will likely go down as one of the most memorable moments in Oscars history. In many ways, it’s the absolute epitome of 2017 – a year which has been dominated by “fake news” in the wake of Donald Trump’s presidency. I’m sure Trump himself will have plenty to say about this particular farce when he gets his chubby fingers on his smartphone tomorrow. At least the “overrated” Meryl Streep didn’t win.

Away from the havoc, however, Moonlight is a very deserving winner. Jenkins’ film, depicting a young black man in Miami at three stages of his life as he struggles with defining himself and his sexuality, is a truly significant movie. It’s a quietly powerful work of cinema that tells a subtle tale of identity, featuring characters who are too often deprived of a voice in cinema and in society. La La Land is a fun film, but it lacks the resonance and importance that will ensure that Moonlight is a film which endures.

Elsewhere, this was a very routine Oscars night. First-time host Jimmy Kimmel did a solid, but unremarkable, job of holding things together as host. It was a fun ceremony, but at around four hours, it was far too long and seemed to trot along slowly right up until its dramatic finale. The big awards went mostly as expected, with some of the technical categories going in surprising directions. Two of the acting awards were won by people of colour which, along with Moonlight‘s victories for Best Picture and Best Adapted Screenplay, made the Oscars 2017 a strong rebuke to the notion of #OscarsSoWhite.

It’s almost a shame that the Academy Awards that rewarded diversity more than any other show to date will be remembered not for the remarkable achievement of Barry Jenkins and his team, but for one of the most monumental cock-ups in the history of live television. #OscarsSoWhite may now be at an end, but maybe it’s time for a new hashtag – #OscarsSoFake.

To read about the events as they unfolded, take a look back at my live coverage and you can find a list of all of the winners here.


Did you watch the Oscars 2017? What did you think of the remarkable ending? Were the right films and people awarded? Let me know in the comments section.

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