Mister Tee wrote
We did certainly note, right on Oscar night, that, over and above the monumental envelope screw-up, the Moonlight win was an upset of extremely rare vintage. Sabin wondered that very night if it was the biggest best picture upset of our lifetimes. I said that I thought the Fosse win over Coppola in ’72 was more astonishing, but that to a degree reflected my old-timer’s view that film and director are intrinsically connected prizes (a supposition that may no longer apply). In terms of simply the best film category: there have been other upsets, but very few times when a name was read out that simply hadn’t seemed possible going into the evening. Which is to say, Crash’s win may have been horrifying, but it’s not as if no one had suggested it might win; Shakespeare in Love and Driving Miss Daisy had similarly been seen as possible upsets, though not favorites; and Spotlight last year – along with The Big Short – was viewed by many as just as likely to triumph as The Revenant.
Wasn't Driving Miss Daisy more than a possible upset? It had the most nominations, the highest gross, and despite its lack of a directing nomination it was up for Best Film Editing. I remember reading an old Entertainment Weekly that predicted its victory. I always thought that Born on the Fourth of July was the favorite but it didn't quite catch on fire and there was reticence against honoring Oliver Stone (and condemning Vietnam) again.
The more I look back on other ceremonies, the more it seems like gazing into a different era where the nature of the race was different. It's almost like comparing how political parties picked their nominees before the modern primary system. A similar upset would require a movie to win a similar number of awards as La La Land, and most of them didn't exist in the 1950s. I keep going back farther and farther to find something similar...The Greatest Show on Earth over High Noon? If High Noon couldn't win the DGA over The Quiet Man, it couldn't have been that much of a favorite. An American in Paris over A Place in the Sun? A Place in the Sun wasn't the nomination leader. Was it Casablanca over The Song of Bernadette? Let's put it another way. When was the last time as heavily-favored a front-runner as La La Land underperformed? La La Land was predicted in some corners to tie the record number of wins. It didn't win a single thing for the first two hours of the ceremony, losing Sound Mixing, Film Editing, and Costume Design to Hacksaw Ridge and Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them. I think elsewhere Italiano mentioned Reds as a contender, but that still doesn't track for me. Giant?
But I digress...
Here's my secret hope for how Moonlight won Best Picture...the new membership. We're looking at a new bloc of voters. We have no idea what their taste is. And we lost an old bloc of voters and we can speculate what their taste is. I don't want to get my hopes up but perhaps we're moving into an era where Oscar night is once again a night of surprises, where we can only speculate A Place in the Sun or High Noon.
"If you are marching with white nationalists, you are by definition not a very nice person. If Malala Yousafzai had taken part in that rally, you'd have to say 'Okay, I guess Malala sucks now.'" ~ John Oliver