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Oscars 2017: Moonlight named best picture after La La Land mix-up


Story by Jack Foley

BARRY Jenkins’ gay coming-of-age drama Moonlight sprung an Oscars surprise by winning the coveted Best Picture prize – but only after a mix-up by presenter Faye Dunaway in which she initially declared La La Land to be the winner.

According to her co-presenter Warren Beatty, the envelope said that “Emma Stone, La La Land” had claimed the night’s top prize, which meant that the team from La La Land were in the middle of their acceptance speeches when the mistake was discovered.

Indeed, it took an announcement from La La Land‘s producer Jordan Horowitz to announce that there had been a mistake at all.

He said: “This is not a joke. Moonlight is best picture,” before then showing the camera the card that revealed the winner.

When the film’s director did finally make it to the stage to claim the statuette, Jenkins said: “Very clearly even in my dreams this can’t be true. But to hell with it because this is true. It’s true, its not fake.”

He also paid tribute to the team behind La La Land for the way they handled the mistake, adding: “We have been on the road with these guys and it was so gracious and so generous of them.”

Based on Tarell Alvin McCraney’s play, Moonlight follows the life of a young black man growing up in a tough Miami neighbourhood as he grapples with his sexuality. The story unfolds through three chapters of his life, each of which features different actors as the central character at different ages.

But it’s a story to which writer-director Jenkins relates because, like a character played by Oscar nominee Naomie Harris in the film, his mother was previously addicted to crack cocaine.

The film, which had been nominated in eight categories, also won best supporting actor for Mahershala Ali and best adapted screenplay.

In his speech, Ali thanked his wife, telling the audience that she gave birth to their daughter four days ago.

Awards front-runner La La Land, which had gone into the ceremony with a record-equalling 14 nominations, won six Oscars, including best director and best actress for Emma Stone. It meant that the film’s writer-director Chazelle became the youngest filmmaker to win a best director Oscar at the age of 32.

Upon claiming his prize, Chazelle said: “This was a movie about love, and I was lucky enough to fall in love while making it [in reference to his girlfriend, Olivia Hamilton].”

The film also won also won best cinematography, best score, best original song for City of Stars and best production design.

First-time winner Emma Stone, who took home the award for best actress ahead of the likes of Natalie Portman (for Jackie) and Isabelle Huppert (for Elle), said: “To the women in this category, you are all extraordinary, and I admire you. It has been the greatest honour to stand by you.”

She went on to describe “a moment like this” as “a huge confluence of luck and opportunity”, before thanking director Chazelle for giving her a “once-in-a-lifetime opportunity”.

Stone also gave co-star Ryan Gosling a shout-out at the podium, adding: “Thank you for making me laugh and for always raising the bar.”

In the night’s other main award categories, Casey Affleck won best actor for Manchester By The Sea, which also saw its writer-director, Kenneth Lonergan, claim a second prize for best original screenplay.

Affleck told the audience that he was “really proud to be part of this community,” before thanking his Manchester cast, and adding: “I’m just so proud to be included.”

He also thanked fellow nominee Denzel Washington, whom he says “taught me how to act”.

Best supporting actress went to Viola Davis for Fences, a family drama directed by and starring Denzel Washington. The film is an adaptation of August Wilson’s play of the same name.


In an impassioned and emotional acceptance speech, Davis said: “There’s one place that all the people with the greatest potential are gathered – and that’s the graveyard,” she said as she collected her award. “We are the only artists who celebrate what it means to live a life. Here’s to August Wilson who exhumed and exalted the ordinary people.”

Davis, who had been nominated twice previously for Doubt and The Help, also thanked her “captain”, Washington.

Although Washington himself missed out on a personal prize in the directing and acting categories, he did claim some of the night’s biggest headlines [outside of the mix-up] for pretending to marry a tourist couple in a mock ceremony.

The bizarre turn of events began to unfold after a group of tourists had been brought into the event, having been told they were going to see a costume exhibition. One woman said she and her partner were getting married in August and that Washington was her favourite actor, prompting Oscars host Jimmy Kimmel to ask Washington to perform a quick ceremony in the front row of the auditorium.

The actor duly obliged, telling them: “I now pronounce you man and wife. You may kiss the bride.”

In other awards, Disney’s Zootropolis (aka Zootopia in the US) took the prize for best animated movie, while Pixar short Piper triumphed in the best animated short category.

The best foreign language film went to Iran’s The Salesman ahead of Germany’s strongly tipped [and awards laden] Toni Erdmann.

The win, which seemed to come as a direct response to US President Donald Trump’s travel ban [which, in turn, meant that the film’s director did not attend the ceremony in person], prompted an impassioned response from said filmmaker, Asghar Farhadi, in a statement read out by Anousheh Ansari.

The statement read: “I’m sorry I’m not with you tonight. My absence is out of respect for the people of my country and those of other six nations who have been disrespected by the inhumane law that bans entry of immigrants to the US.

“Dividing the world into the ‘us and our enemies’ categories creates fear. A deceitful justification for aggression and war. These wars prevent democracy and human rights in countries which have themselves been victims of aggression.

“Filmmakers can turn their cameras to create and capture human qualities and break stereotypes of various nationalities and religions. They create empathy between us and others. An empathy that we need today more than ever.”

Mel Gibson’s World War II drama Hacksaw Ridge claimed two technical prizes, for best sound mixing and best film editing, while Disney’s live-action remake of The Jungle Book took the award for best visual effects.

OJ: Made in America continued its awards domination in that category by claiming the best documentary prize.

The 89th Academy Awards were held on Sunday, February 26, 2017, with Jimmy Kimmel proving to be a popular host.

View the winners in full