Oscar’s Transpartisan Moment
by A. Lawrence Chickering and James S. Turner
And the Academy Award [Beatty hesitates] for Best Picture ‘. . . La La Land . . .’ The marvelous Faye Dunaway delivered, likely, the most memorable words, ‘La La Land’, of her nearly sixty years of memorable performances.
Her escort for the moment, the hesitating Warren Beatty, stared transfixed like a deer in headlights or a passenger on a bus watching two cars careen in slow motion toward an inevitable crash.
For about a minute and a half La La Land producers Jordan Horowitz, Marc Platt, and Fred Berger, delivered uplifting thanks for the recognition of their achievement by the Academy.
Then Horowitz said ‘What? You guys, I’m sorry, no. There’s a mistake. Moonlight, you guys won Best Picture.’ He said, ‘I’m going to be really proud to hand this to my friends from Moonlight.’ You can read the transcript.
Adele Romanski, a Moonlight producer said, ‘It is so humbling to be standing up here with, hopefully, still the La La crew? No, O.K., they’re gone, but it’s very humbling to be up here.’
Host Jimmy Kimmel said, ‘Why can’t we just give out a whole bunch of them?’
New York Times film Critic A. O. Scott captured the moment’s essence. ‘The envelope mix-up was painful, but it brought to the stage two directors in their 30s with five features between them and reminded the audience that Damien Chazelle (La La Land director) and Barry Jenkins (Moonlight director) are not enemies.
The grace with which the La La Land producers (Jordan Horowitz, in particular) handled the handoff — and the poise with which Mr. Jenkins and his producer, Adele Romanski, received the belated honor for Moonlight — should quell the facile polarization that followed the two movies throughout the awards season.
Quell facile polarization. That states the transpartisan promise. Leading up to the Oscar mix-up-moment, partisans of each picture struggled, argued, fought for and against the movies’ two quite different pictures of America.
After the moment, recrimination and retaliation took up a lot of the time, energy and human resources spent reacting to the event. At its core the Oscar mix-up reminds us that more than controversy exists between even fierce partisans.
Oscar’s transpartisan moment points toward broadening our political discourse to include the aspirations of the 50 to 70% of Americans alienated (somewhat too strongly) from our politics. Each event contains the possibility of more than conflict.