Last night, after discovering that his film had, in fact, not won the Oscar for Best Picture, La La Land producer Jordan Horowitz took the mic, reverse-Kanye’d, and immediately overtook Denzel Washington crying and Nicole Kidman clapping as the meme of the evening. In honor of Moonlight‘s win for studio A24, and to thank the movie gods that Moonlight won after La La Land was announced and not the other way around, I created 24 memes to celebrate the occasion.
There you have it: 24 memes. Let’s take a moment, though, to ruminate on Moonlight‘s win. The storyline here isn’t The Academy finally choosing the best picture of the year to win Best Picture; I loved both La La Land and Moonlight, and I believe the former to be a near-perfect film, memorable and thought-provoking in its own right. The storyline isn’t The Academy choosing a movie about and made by African-Americans – 12 Years A Slave won just three years ago.
The storyline is that The Academy selected a Best Picture that will actually have the most cultural significance and lasting impact decades from now. This has always been a problem for them: choices like Dances With Wolves over Goodfellas, The English Patient over Fargo, Shakespeare in Love over Saving Private Ryan appear just plain silly now that the second place finishers have been re-watched, quoted, and referenced while the winners have been forgotten. Even the most recent two winners, Birdman and Spotlight – both great, original movies – are already looking like dubious selections when crowdpleasers like Whiplash and Mad Max: Fury Road, respectively, were on the table.
Last night, The Academy reversed a trend that has been causing them to gradually lose legitimacy in recent years. La La Land feels like it was made in and takes place in another era. The nostalgia that it evokes is part of what makes it so delightful, but how will a 1960s-style musical from the 2010s hold up in the 2040s? Hard to say. Moonlight, though, will age gracefully. It is an intimate film, such that a story about one specific poor, gay, black man becomes relatable to anyone. It is a film of 2016, grappling with the issues of race, sexuality, and identity that are so prevalent in our society today. My favorite movie of the year was La La Land, but I’m glad that Moonlight won.