This year’s Oscar winner for Best Documentary Feature was O.J.: Made in America, Ezra Edelman’s epic examination of O.J. Simpson’s life, career, and the murder trial that captivated the American imagination. It was a truly remarkable achievement in non-fiction filmmaking; not just the best doc of 2016 but the best film of any kind of 2016 (at least according to the schlub who runs this website). Its Academy Award was richly deserved.
The big headline from last night was Warren Beatty’s colossal goof during the Best Picture announcement, in which he erroneously named La La Land the winner of the coveted prize, only to be corrected not a minute later with the news that the award would actually go to Moonlight. It was a classic mix-up, a reminder of the high-wire instability of live television, and an instant entry for the Oscar history books. But there was a second, less glaring gaffe in the telecast, so subtle that it went by without most viewers noticing. But the Australian producer who watched herself declared dead in the In Memoriam segment certainly did.
An “October surprise” refers to a major revelation deliberately timed to influence the outcome of a Presidential election. The Oscars, then, regularly offer a January surprise, in which a contender comes out of nowhere to elbow their way into the awards conversation. This year’s big shock is permanently smirking superhero send-up Deadpool, which has already upended plenty of predictions by racking up nominations among various industry guild groups. Superhero movies have never been able to crack the Best Picture race, but perhaps the self-reflexive meta streak in Deadpool could give it the edge it needs to sneak into the category. The nominations will be announced one week from today, and who’ll end up at the big dance is anyone’s guess.