On Sunday, Feb. 26, 2017, the biggest event of the year for movie buffs occurred: the 89th Annual Academy Awards, also known as the Oscars.

I have been watching the Oscars religiously since I was 9 years old. While most people obsess over the Super Bowl, I obsess over the Oscars. Each year, there are always memorable moments from the hosts to the winners and an occasional event that has the audience asking, “What the heck just happened?” This year did not disappoint.

This year’s host was talk show host Jimmy Kimmel. The host can make or break the Oscars. I was pleasantly surprised with Kimmel’s style. While I never really found Kimmel that entertaining, I thought that, as an Oscars host, he did a superb job. Some highlights included bringing in a group of unexpected Hollywood tourists and trolling President Trump’s Twitter page. I would love to see Kimmel come back in the future.

After the past two Oscars being overwhelmingly Caucasian, I was happy to see the diversity that was represented by this year’s winners. Mahershala Ali became the first Muslim actor to win an Oscar for his performance in “Moonlight.” Viola Davis, a beloved actress from the African American community, finally won her first Oscar for her performance in “Fences.” She was previously nominated in 2009 for her performance in “Doubt” and in 2012 for her performance in “The Help.”

This year’s winners also got political. Iranian filmmaker Asghar Farhadi, whose film “The Salesman” won Best Foreign Language Film, was absent from the awards. Farhadi sent the Academy a written statement, thanking them for the award and explaining that his absence was in response to Trump’s travel ban.

“I’m sorry I’m not with you tonight. My absence is out of respect for the people of my country, and those of other six nations, whom have been disrespected by the inhumane law that bans entry of immigrants to the U.S.,” Farhadi said.

I greatly respect Mr. Farhadi for making this bold move. Winning as Oscar is a huge accomplishment, especially for foreign filmmakers. Usually, when people find out they have been nominated, they work hard to adjust their schedule so they can attend the event. Not attending took guts. It is also important that an Iranian film won. With all the conflicts in the world that are dividing us, it important that we let the wonderful world of film unite us.

Now I will address the elephant in the room: the best picture mix up. When “Bonnie and Clyde” stars Warren Beatty and Faye Dunaway presented the award for Best Picture, there was an awkward pause before announcing that “La La Land” was the winner. After the producers of “La La Land” gave their acceptance speech, the evening took a surprising turn. It turned out that “Moonlight” was the winner, not “La La Land.” I will never forget where I was during that. I was in the Village I common area, right about to turn off the TV. It’s a good thing I did not.

What had happened was that Beatty and Dunaway were handed the wrong envelope. You see, there are two envelopes for each category. Beatty and Dunaway were given the backup envelope for Best Leading Actress, which went to Emma Stone for her performance in “La La Land.” Beatty could tell that something was wrong, which was why he paused. Instead of addressing the mistake, he just handed the envelope to Dunaway. The first word she saw was “La La Land” and she immediately announced it as the winner.

The real MVP of the evening was “La La Land” producer Jordan Horowitz. After the humiliating experience of giving an acceptance speech for an award he didn’t win, Horowitz humbly and graciously handed the award over to “Moonlight.” While most people would have angrily stomped off stage, Horowitz did the right thing. When he found out that there was a mistake, he immediately announced that “Moonlight” was the real winner, even holding up the correct envelope, which the camera zoomed in on. His tone did not express frustration, but humility. He was not resenting his loss, but fixing an error. When the cast and crew of “Moonlight” came on stage, Horowitz gave the award to “Moonlight” director Barry Jenkins, held him in a warm embrace and walked off stage with the dignity of a winner.

Michael Willson

(Photo: Val Miller | Marlin Chronicle)