Everyone knows about the unprecedented snafu at the 2017 Oscars. Shortly after Faye Dunaway announced that La La Land won Best Picture, it was revealed that the award was announced incorrectly. Instead of the movie musical earning the accolade — as many people expected it would — it was Moonlight, a coming-of-age story about a gay Black man, that scored the industry's highest honor. The win was historic: not only did a Black film win just one year after the #OscarsSoWhite controversy, but it was the very first LGBTQ movie to receive the honor. Moonlight's historic win is one of the many reasons why Variety's post-Oscars cover — featuring Moonlight director Barry Jenkins and La La Land's Damien Chazelle — feels so tone deaf.
On one level, I understand why Variety would place both directors on the cover. They did share a stage — if only accidentally — at the Oscars. They both made history with their films, albeit for different reasons: La La Land's Chazelle is the youngest director to score the Best Director Oscar (he's 32) and the film itself tied with Titanic and All About Eve for the most Oscar nominations (it scored 14).
Perhaps Chazelle should have covered Variety solo, as is tradition for the Best Director winner. (The past three post-Oscars covers have featured either that year's Best Director or Best Cinematographer.) Jenkins himself took to Twitter to write "I'm the guest here," in regards to the Variety story. But it's not about who gets the cover as much as it's about the narrative that the trade has put into place.
Take the text next to the image of Chazelle and Jenkins with their respective Oscars in hand: it reads "Amazing Grace." Now, consider whom that text is referring to. Is it Jenkins, who scored the Oscar, or is it Chazelle, whose film did not win the Oscar, yet is being applauded for being "gracious" about the loss?
Claudia Eller, Variety's co-Editor-in-Chief, seemed to suggest that the cover was about celebrating the humility of La La Land's producers in an essay about why Jenkins and Chazelle were sharing a cover:
"One thing that struck me as I sat in the Dolby Theatre watching the surreal climax of the show, and later at the after-party for La La Land was the humility and humanity displayed by the film’s producers and studio backer, Lionsgate, when the Oscar was suddenly swept away by the actual winner, Moonlight."
She also adds that Chazelle was the one who suggested sharing the cover with Jenkins, and that Chazelle had been their first choice for the cover as he was the favorite to win Best Director.
For the record, I admire Chazelle, and I genuinely adored his film. But should La La Land's legacy really be that it was kind enough to step off the stage when Moonlight, a film that deserved the Oscar, was properly announced as the winner? And should the discussion about Moonlight really end with how surprised the director was to win, considering the mixup? That's not the story that I want for Moonlight, a film that kicked down the door for more LGBTQ films to be considered for Best Picture.
Variety didn't have to put Moonlight's director on the cover, but let's be honest: since when does Hollywood honor humility over talent? Perhaps it's only when it's faced with something that challenges the status quo.