La La Lessons

by Jamie Neben

Like many of you, I’ve watched the Academy Awards every year since I was a child, and the 2006 telecast was certainly no exception. The nominated films, all released the prior year, included Brokeback Mountain, the odds-on favorite to win Best Picture. After all, it had already collected numerous awards throughout the season, and when its director, Ang Lee, received a statue at the Oscar ceremony, the grand prize seemed to be within easy reach.

Jack Nicholson was on hand to present the final award, which I assumed was a formality at that point. However, to my great shock, the title Jack announced to the audience was actually Crash. I could not believe my ears and instantly concluded there must have been some kind of mistake, perhaps even an inappropriate joke. Alas, there was no funny business, but that night put a thought in my head which has remained all these years. I wondered what would happen if the wrong winner was announced, whether it be an accident or on purpose.

We all found out on February 26, 2017.

We need not investigate the chain of events which led to the producers of La La Land delivering speeches instead of the Moonlight producers. Many details are now widely available, and more importantly, the real story began as the winning ensemble suddenly realized they had lost.

In the most awkward of circumstances, human error put the human condition on full display.

The word “gracious” is the word most often used to describe the reactions of the La La Land team once the truth became known. Producer Jordan Horowitz, in particular, was forthright in wanting to transfer the award to its rightful owners upon receiving the unfortunate news. He didn’t waste time demanding an explanation, which thereby prevented a tense situation from escalating further.

I don’t know anybody who likes to lose, but to taste victory before having it plucked away must be an especially cruel experience. Honestly, I would be hard-pressed to blame anybody on that stage if they had failed to demonstrate such poise, and that goes for the Moonlight executives as well.   Their collective behavior is a refreshing example of goodwill toward others at a time when positive personal interaction is increasingly difficult to find (and in a town not exactly known for its virtue).

It’s also a great reminder that celebrating is quite possible to do without winning, just as recognizing an achievement can be satisfying even if somebody else accomplished it. We’re capable of elevating ourselves above the adversity that arises from competition. When we succeed, we can hope others will do the same.  No matter where we are in relation to the finish line, we can show respect to the people around us.

While those closing minutes at the Oscars might have fallen under a cloud of confusion, the lesson I took away was crystal clear, and that was the best picture of all.