This was one Academy Awards that held attentions from start to finish. It might have been Jimmy Kimmel’s comedic timing, an unusually packed slate of hit films or even the jaw-dropping reversal in the event’s last moments. But in part, the spark came from the night’s theme: inspiration.
Of course, the Oscars is always themed. But by celebrating inspiration, the Oscars complemented what’s often the highlight of the multi-hour trade event: moments of humility. Whether scripted or surprising, these moments bring the stars down to earth and remind us that behind Hollywood glitz and glamour is humanity, hard work and struggle. That journey is both universal and comforting and an important reminder that if you pursue the impossible, at least you’ll have good company.
Here are just a few of those moments from this year's Oscars:
1. Recognizing a real hero
The movie Hidden Figures is its own inspirational story, tracking the unsung work of NASA employees Katherine Johnson, Dorothy Vaughn and Mary Jackson, who made it possible for John Glenn to be the first American in orbit. The real-life Katherine Johnson took to the stage this year with three actresses who helped bring her life to the screen. The appearance got a standing ovation.
2. Making history
Actress Viola Davis won a Tony in Fences and reprised this role to win a Best Supporting Actress Oscar this year, becoming one of just 22 other creatives who’ve won a competitive Emmy, Tony and Oscar and the only African-American actress to do so. In her speech, she honored the playwright who crafted the role, bringing to light the true power of a well-written script: to render the human experience. "I became an artist, and thank God I did, because it’s the only profession that celebrates what it means to live a life,” she said. "Here's to August Wilson, who exhumed and exalted ordinary people."
3. Never stopping
During a charming performance of the Oscar-nominated song "How far I’ll go," 16-year-old Auili'i Cravalho got hit in the head by a flag by one of the many dancers swirling behind her. She didn’t miss a proverbial beat and kept performing.
4. Hope’s hard road
John Legend performed a medley of songs from La La Land, a musical about two young people trying to make it in Hollywood. The lyrics to "Audition" remind us that dreams are as wonderful as they are complicated.
So bring on the rebels
The ripples from pebbles
The painters, and poets, and plays
And here's to the fools who dream
Crazy as they may seem
Here's to the hearts that break
Here's to the mess we make
5. A chat with a mom
Lin-Manuel Miranda is the creative vision behind the hit musical Hamilton and the recipient of a Pulitzer, Emmy, Grammy and Tony. His tune for Disney's Moana failed to win the Best Original Song Oscar but he helped bring the rest of us one sweet and special moment. In the auditorium, host Jimmy Kimmel caught up with Miranda and his mother. Kimmel told her, “Your son is an American treasure.” She mouthed back, “I know.”
6. A last-minute reversal
When presenter Warren Beatty accidentally called the wrong film for Best Picture, jaws dropped throughout the auditorium. For winner Moonlight, it was one more incredible moment for a film that almost didn’t get made and a reminder to anyone that nearly anything is possible.
“There were times when I thought this movie was impossible," said director Barry Jenkins on receiving his statuette. "But everyone on this stage said that wasn’t good enough. I thank you for that.”