In a surprise on par with M. Night Shyamalan's twist endings, Warren Beatty and Faye Dunaway accidentally mixed up the Best Picture winner at Sunday night's Academy Awards. They announced that La La Land had won when, in actuality, Moonlight had taken home the show's top prize — leading to what's likely the most awkward moment in Oscars history. But the teams behind both films handled the snafu with poise, and Moonlight director Barry Jenkins' reaction to the Best Picture mix-up is about as graceful as the come.
In an interview with Entertainment Tonight, he called the win "bittersweet," and said that, while he was thrilled to be honored, he felt compassion for the La La Land crew. As he told the publication post-ceremony,
“We spent so much time with the La La Land crew [over this awards season]... it was bittersweet, you know? I’ve gone through this so much: They call a name, they don’t call a name. It is what it is. You get over it. I had gotten through, like everyone else, I was applauding. I was celebrating the win... And [then] I could see it in Jordan’s face, that he was speaking the truth. In that moment I just felt… I wanted to feel compassion for him. I’m pretty sure the first thing I do when I get up on stage is give him a hug, because it couldn't have been easy. But these things happen, you know. They happen."
That Jenkins took time from his big moment to pay respect to La La Land is commendable, because, make no mistake, Moonlight's win is huge. La La Land, Damien Chazelle's musical darling about an aspiring actress and struggling musician falling in love in Los Angeles, had been the presumptive winner since before awards season even started. Moonlight, on the other hand, wove a striking coming of age tale about a young, gay black man growing up in a rough Miami neighborhood, and, as powerful and important as that story is, the Oscars has a history of overlooking stories from people of color.
The fact that it squashed tradition and recognized the power of Moonlight on Sunday is both stunning and meaningful. It's hard not to feel for La La Land — the cast and crew were already on stage accepting the award by the time everyone realized what had happened — but no one would knock Jenkins for ignoring them entirely to rightfully celebrate his work. That he took the time to empathize with them anyway was very sweet.