So…I wasn’t gawn say nuffin. But I feel compelled. I usually talk primarily about music, but this is an art moment that really, really matters.
I’m a start off by saying that I haven’t seen La La Land. I intend to, because I love movies and I heard from a few friends that it looks gorgeous. But, that is the best of what I heard about it. It’s tied with All About Eve and Titanic for most nominations ever in an Oscars (14). I think it did so because it made white folks feel good.
“Why just white folks, huh? That’s discriminatory.”
First off, shut up, it’s not discriminatory. Literally no one I know who is not white heard about this movie until awards season rolled around. Shoot, even some white folks didn’t hear about it. With all this fuss, all these record-breaking nominations, all these awards…most people who aren’t white didn’t know what it was. This makes so much sense for so many reasons, but I’m only gonna mention 3 of those reasons:
Hidden Figures, Fences & Moonlight. All multiple Oscar nominees. All great flicks. All Black leads. All captured everyone’s attention in 2016, black or white or otherwise.
This past year was one of the best in recent memory for black films and music. No movies were more critically acclaimed than these three films. EVERYONE was talking about these movies leading up to, during and after their releases.
Moonlight STILL set itself apart. It told a story that had never been told on the big screen and did so with great passion and precision. It reflected identities and experiences we have rarely if ever seen in a Hollywood movie. It was absolutely gorgeous to look at and listen to. It created space for needed conversations. It was cathartic, infuriating, reminiscent, rich and black. as. fuck. Even if you don’t share any identities with anyone that appeared on-screen, you felt that shit because every single performance was stellar.
It was and is entirely litty. One of the best films I have ever seen, personally, if not the very best. It accomplished all of this with a fully black cast, a black writer and a black director, and that proves something that black folk have long believed and exercised: if we’re given the opportunity, we will do something excellent. You can bet on us.
Yet, Moonlight still had to contend with something that made white people feel good. Even though only white people knew about it.
It doesn’t help that La La Land is a musical love story that leans in heavy to the relationship between white folk and jazz. For those of you who don’t realize this, jazz is also black as fuck. Improvisation is a hallmark of blackness, be it jazz, soul food, freestyle battle raps, b-boyin’/girlin’, makin’ a dolla outta fit-teen cent, et cetera. Over the same span of existence that we have improvised in order to live well, we have seen white folks rewarded and lauded and PAID for appreciating and often times appropriating this improvisational quality. I suppose I could write a different post about that later, though.
PriceWaterhouseCoopers (the company responsible for the Oscars ballot count) employs Brian Cullinan and Martha Ruiz to count every vote for every category at the Oscars. These are the only two people who know who the winners are before the show announces them live. There are over 6,000 voting members of the Academy of Motion Picture & Sciences (AMPAS) and every vote is counted by hand, several time by ONLY these two people. There are always two copies of the results on either side of the stage, two separate routes taken to the theatre and two separate briefcases that even make an appearance on the red carpet. This system has been in place for 83 years with PwC and there has NEVER been a mistake like this.
Yet, in the moment that for the first time an all black erythang movie wins Best Picture….oops!
No. NO. Get the fuck outta here.
That is why this Oscars “mistake” is so irky. Do you realize that this historic, black ass win for Moonlight will forever be associated with La La Land because of this bullshit? We are gonna have to be wayyyyyy too intentional to dissociate La La Land from Moonlight’s Best Picture win now, when we didn’t even know what La La Land was 60 days ago, and that’s a generous number.
Among my friends and foes, I am known to be a conspiracy theorist. I stand by it, too, because I rarely theorize over absurd and outlandish stuff (I think). I usually theorize around racial stuff. I do this because white folk have been tryna ruin black folk for ages and have gone to great lengths to do so. Surely, fucking up a moment like this is not beyond them, especially after purposefully running disease experiments on black serviceman. I digress.
My point is, this is not a likely mistake. Yes, mistakes happen, but there is a certain level of performance and production where you just don’t come by many mistakes, especially not the type of mistakes that permanently taint historic moments. As gracious as Jordan Horowitz was, he should have never had the opportunity to be so gracious. My first thought as I watched last night’s fuckery unfold was, “Breh…BREH…they did this shit on purpose. This is the fuckin Oscars, ain’t no room for these kind of errors!”
Maybe that’s where I went wrong though. Maybe I was giving to much credit to an academy that year in and year out awards mediocrity and ignores sheer brilliance. Shout out to Viola, but she shoulda won an Oscar in 2008 for her role in Doubt. I have never seen her not be incredible. I’m not even gon touch on the Denzel snub. Sike! Denzel’s role in Fences was probably his best performance ever, yet he lost to a white New Englander playing a white New Englander. The Oscars Rihanna’d the fuck outta Hidden Figures, too (see the fact that “Work” lost the Best Pop Duo Grammy to a song I can’t think of the name of).
It’s cool though. Black folks will be forever winning. Black culture influences anything and anyone it comes into contact with. It is rich and colorful and flavorful and it belongs to us.
At the end of it all, La La Lost and late in the Moonlight hour, Gawd turned it around.