For once, the most important Oscars story was about the awards, not about the political statements made by awardees.
That’s not to say the 2017 Oscars were devoid of such banter. On the contrary, the first Academy Awards of the Trump administration were full of jokes at the president’s expense and denouncements of some of his more controversial policies.
But all of that took a backseat to what is sure to go down as the strangest moment in major awards show history: Warren Beatty pulling a “Steve Harvey” by announcing “La La Land” as winner of Best Picture, when, in fact, the night’s biggest honor actually went to “Moonlight.”
The “La La Land” crew had to stop mid-acceptance speech to announce that “Moonlight” was the real winner, while host Jimmy Kimmel did his best to maintain order in an auditorium that was in a state of confused disbelief over the mixup.
Beatty said he was accidentally handed an envelope for Best Actress winner Emma Stone, but the “La La Land” star said after the ceremony she was holding her Best Actress card when Beatty claimed to have had that in his possession.
Before Hollywood descended into conspiracy theories about cue cards, the night was marked by Kimmel’s softball attempts at political humor, a few celebrities making subtle statements, and some of the night’s winners using the Oscars stage to discuss heavy topics.
Kimmel’s monologue had a few zingers, like when he thanked Trump for making last year’s Oscars look less problematic. “Remember last year, when it seemed like the Oscars were racist?” Kimmel asked to applause.
He also did a bit with Meryl Streep where he repeatedly called her overrated, a homage to Trump’s description after Streep’s impassioned Golden Globes speech condemning the soon-to-be-president.
Meryl Streep, one of the most over-rated actresses in Hollywood, doesn't know me but attacked last night at the Golden Globes. She is a…..
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) January 9, 2017
Asghar Farhadi won Best Foreign Film for “The Salesman,” but he boycotted the Oscars in order to protest Trump’s travel ban. In a statement delivered by those accepting the award on his behalf, Farhadi called the executive order “inhumane.”
“Dividing the world into the ‘us’ and ‘our enemies’ categories creates fear — a deceitful justification for aggression and war,” his statement read. “These wars prevent democracy and human rights in countries which have themselves been victims of aggression.”
— Variety (@Variety) February 27, 2017
A similar situation occurred with Khaled Khateeb, maker of Best Documentary Short Subject winner “The White Helmets,” who sent a proxy to read a statement from him about stopping “the bloodshed in Syria.”
“This war has been going on for six years,” the statement, which also included a Quran verse, read. “If everyone could just stand up and remind them we all care that this war end as quickly as possible.”
Some celebrities were less overt with their political statements. Emma Stone and presenter Dakota Johnson sported Planned Parenthood pins, while Best Song nominee Lin-Manuel Miranda and Best Actress nominee Ruth Negga wore ACLU ribbons.
When “La La Land” won Best Original Song, co-winner Justin Paul took a shot at Trump’s education secretary, Betsy DeVos, a noted charter school proponent.
“I was educated in public schools, where arts and culture were valued and recognized and resourced,” he said, also subtly jabbing Trump for his alleged proposal to scrap the National Endowment of the Arts and National Endowment of the Humanities.
Best Adapted Screenplay winner Barry Jenkins also used his time in the spotlight to tell “all you people out there who feel like there’s no mirror for you, that your life is not reflected — the academy has your back, the ACLU has your back, we have your back. And, for the next four years, we will not leave you alone, we will not forget you.”
— Hollywood Reporter (@THR) February 27, 2017
In a blatant attempt to get the president’s attention, Kimmel took out his phone and tweeted at Trump during the telecast.
Hey @realDonaldTrump u up?
— Jimmy Kimmel (@jimmykimmel) February 27, 2017
But nothing Kimmel or anyone else with a platform could do came close to topping the watercooler buzz generated by the Beatty gaffe. It was such a shock to America’s system that it even caused political commentator and former Obama speechwriter Jon Favreau to question the nature of his reality:
Also Hillary just won Wisconsin Michigan and Pennsylvania?
— Jon Favreau (@jonfavs) February 27, 2017
No such luck there, but between the 2016 election, Super Bowl and now the Oscars, it appears we have an entered a golden age of pulse-pounding conclusions.