It could have been such a beautiful moment. At last year’s edition of the Academy Awards, an embarrassing gaffe saw the musical La La Land score Best Picture honors only to have the celebration halted when it was revealed Moonlight was the true winner. Even with the La La Land team being gracious about the live TV f*ck up, the story quickly became more about the mistake than Moonlight earning the Academy’s top annual prize.
In a fantastic new roundtable discussion held by The Hollywood Reporter, Moonlight filmmaker Barry Jenkins addressed the discomfort of that moment. In a chat that also featured acclaimed black filmmakers Jordan Peele, Lee Daniels and John Singleton engaging in conversation, Jenkns acknowledged that his Oscars experience wasn’t entirely one of joy even with the gold statuette.
For me, I didn’t make Moonlight for the awards conversation, and when it ended up there, I was shocked the whole way. I kept waiting for the other shoe to drop. And then with how things ultimately went in the end [with the mistaken announcement that La La Land had won best picture], because of how loud it was and all of that other stuff, I’ve never been as distraught as I was at the Vanity Fair party after the Oscars…
It’s not the kind of thing where you go running off with pompoms. Something had changed. I wasn’t sure what that thing was. I wasn’t sure that thing was mine or who it belonged to because of how everything happened. And it made 2017 a very long year.
In 2018, Jenkins says this go-around he enters with a feeling of accomplishment. Accomplishment that would happen no matter what name was in the winner’s envelope.
“I have mixed emotions,” explained Jenkins. “It’s cool to be here now a year later because all the things I felt like I wanted to do heading into the ceremony, I did. We went and made Beale Street [based on the James Baldwin novel], and we’re making Underground Railroad at Amazon. Those were things that were going to happen whether we lost or won. And for two minutes, we lost. And in those two minutes, I was still self-satisfied because I knew I’m going to go off and do these things, you know? Winning or losing is not gonna take any of those things off the table.”
Still, he isn’t able to truly cherish his moment of Oscars triumph because of the circumstances surrounding the Academy’s mistake.
“But it’s bittersweet because when that switch happened, I didn’t enjoy it,” he said. “And I look back on that whole process, the process that you (looks to Jordan) have handled very well, my friend, and all that sh*t comes together at the end and because of how things went down, I didn’t enjoy it. And I’m never going to get the opportunity to enjoy that — because even if it happens again, it won’t be the same. Moonlight was a very special film for me. It was super-personal, as this film is for you, so, bro, I’m gonna have to say what he said: Smile, yeah, but enjoy that sh*t, man, ’cause you earned it.”
The entire roundtable is more than worth your time. The 90th Annual Academy Awards will take place on March 4 in Hollywood. Expect to hear endless envelope mix-up jokes and here’s hoping Barry Jenkins gets lauded as a returning cinematic hero at the ceremony.