I knew I was going to have to wake up in the middle of the night, miss the red carpet interviews and settle for a blown-out image through FaceTime if I wanted to watch the Oscars.
The night of the Academy Awards is like Christmas for me — a night I look forward to all year because of the speeches, the jabbing jokes and the video montages of the year’s best movies that make my heart swell. I was determined to watch it live with my family, despite the six-hour time difference between the U.S. and Luxembourg. It was tradition.
It wasn’t perfect, but I still got to laugh at Jimmy Kimmel’s surprised tour group, hear Viola Davis give yet another powerful speech and share a play-by-play of the night with my mom and sister in our group text.
My favorite to win everything was “La La Land.” The film follows Mia (Emma Stone), a struggling writer and actress, and Sebastian (Ryan Gosling), a passionate pianist desperately trying to save jazz, as they navigate the difficult paths to their dreams in present day Los Angeles.
I immediately fell in love with the music, the colorful sets and costumes, Stone and Gosling’s chemistry, something I can only describe as “my kind of ending” and the old-Hollywood feel of it all. The bittersweet message and those few music notes leave me inspired, hopeful and satisfied, yet longing for something at the same time.
The night — and “La La Land’s” six wins — built up to the final minutes when the 2017 Best Picture was announced. I held my breath, waiting to hear Warren Beatty and Faye Dunaway announce “La La Land,” the film I knew deserved Best Picture.
“And the Academy Award goes to … ‘La La Land.’”
My face lit up in my dark room and I cheered silently, grabbing my phone to share my giddiness in a text to my family back home.
Then suddenly, as if I had blinked for a second too long, I didn’t know what was happening. Fred Berger awkwardly stopped in the middle of his speech and Jordan Horowitz was saying something I didn’t understand.
“‘Moonlight,’ you guys won Best Picture. This is not a joke,” Horowitz said, motioning for the other cast and crew to replace them on stage.
It had to be a joke. But who would make that kind of joke at the Oscars? Suddenly I realized no one in the Dolby Theatre knew what was happening either.
Horowitz repeated the words into the microphone, holding up the Best Picture envelope so the cameras could zoom in on the words.
I didn’t move. Maybe, even though I was almost 6,000 miles and nine time zones away, I didn’t want to disrupt what was happening anymore than it already had been.
But it was real. And then it was over.
There was no grand exit — just figures shuffling around on the TV screen on my computer screen and words I couldn’t fully process. It was as if someone had suddenly turned on the lights, brought me back to reality and said, “Okay, bye now.”
I was both confused and pissed when I went back to sleep at 6:30 a.m.
I will admit, I haven’t seen “Moonlight” (though I want and still plan to), but “La La Land” has easily become my favorite movie. So I was disappointed when it didn’t get the all-time win I thought it deserved, and even more riled that the “La La Land” crew had been handed the award and then literally had to give it away.
My anger continued into the next day, fueled by the never-ending discussion of the shocking ending and my Twitter feed full of article links about reactions, what went wrong and who was at fault.
Shouldn’t I have been happy people were actually talking about the entertainment industry? That, finally, I’m not one of the few who cares? Maybe I knew they weren’t really interested — sensationalism and viral videos abound. Or maybe it was because I was still upset about what happened.
I simply didn’t understand how those in the Academy — the same people who have been through the struggles and rejections and breakthrough moments — could not see the importance of a film about those very things.
But a few days later, one of the articles I decided to read — Variety’s “The Morning-After Interview” with Damien Chazelle and Barry Jenkins (writer/directors of “La La Land” and “Moonlight,” respectively) — changed how I looked at the whole situation.
While other articles kept replaying and questioning what had happened, this article was the first I’d read that had more substance. It was about the people who were actually involved and affected in the now infamous Best Picture incident. It didn’t just focus on the ending of the Oscars; it moved on to focus on the future.
In it, Chazelle and Jenkins discuss their separate but entwined paths to the Oscars, similarities in their careers and thoughts on what’s important moving forward.
“In an odd way, the most embarrassing snafu in the history of the Academy Awards offered a rare glimpse into expressions of grace, humanity and camaraderie among fierce rivals contending for Hollywood’s biggest movie prize in a high-stakes race to the finish,” wrote Variety’s awards analyst Kristopher Tapley.
The article, and the directors’ positive outlooks, reminded me of the real relationships that exist between Hollywood stars. They are proud or happy when a co-star or co-nominee wins, and are genuinely interested in and love each other’s work. It finally made me feel okay about the mixup that had interrupted an otherwise normal Oscars night.
And, more importantly, it spoke to the dreamer in me — the dreamer that had been pulling for “La La Land,” a movie about dreamers. Everything Chazelle and Jenkins were talking about — production time and film debuts at festivals and record achievements and still being struck by it all — was something that I wanted to be a part of too.
It left me feeling hopeful and reminded me why I want to join the entertainment industry one day.
I think I will always be upset that “La La Land” didn’t get the win I think it deserved. But I did have a thought after reading the article that I just couldn’t get out of my head — the upsets and their aftermaths are the things that should inspire us to keep going.
They should remind us why we started in the first place, why we want to keep going, why we should keep going and why we should work hard and strive for our dreams.
Because we were rooting for the underdog the whole time, because we are the underdog with no chance. Because we want to make a difference. Because the unexpected happens all the time, and good can still come from it. Because dreams can be taken away, but they can also come true at the same time.
Chazelle created a beautiful film about dreams and the messy road it takes to get to them. Emma Stone’s “Audition” song says it all — an ode to seemingly foolish dreamers and all they do. And Jenkins now knows that road all too well.
“It’s messy, but it’s kind of gorgeous,” he told Variety about the moment his dreams did come true.
And isn’t that the point? To enjoy the journey and find beauty in the struggle of attempting to reach our dreams.