'Moonlight' wins best picture Oscar after 'La La Land' mix-up
JEAN-BAPTISTE LACROIX (AFP)
"Moonlight," a poignant coming-of-age story set in the tough projects of southern Florida, on Sunday won the best picture Oscar -- but not before the prize was first given in error to musical "La La Land."
The mistake -- only corrected after the producers of "La La Land" had come on stage to accept the award -- was a stunning end to the film industry's biggest night.
PriceWaterhouseCoopers, the accounting firm responsible for tabulating Oscar ballots, apologized for an "error" in the presentation of the best picture award Sunday, saying presenters Warren Beatty and Faye Dunaway were handed the wrong envelope.
"We sincerely apologize to 'Moonlight,' 'La La Land,' Warren Beatty, Faye Dunaway, and Oscar viewers for the error that was made during the award announcement for Best Picture," the company said in a statement.
"The presenters had mistakenly been given the wrong category envelope and, when discovered, was immediately corrected," it added. "We are currently investigating how this could have happened, and deeply regret that this occurred," it said, hailing the "grace" with which all concerned handled the situation.
Barry Jenkins's "Moonlight" tells the life story of a young African-American struggling to find his place as he grows up in a rough neighborhood of Miami.
The film has won plaudits as a vital portrait of contemporary African-American life and is praised in equal measure as a groundbreaking and personal meditation on identity, family, friendship and love.
"The last 20 minutes of my life have been insane," Jenkins said backstage.
"All you people who feel like there's no mirror for you, the Academy has your back," he said earlier after winning for best adapted screenplay.
Earlier in the night, "Moonlight" star Mahershala Ali, a first-time Oscar nominee, became the first Muslim actor to win the accolade when he took home the award for best supporting actor for his role in the film.
"I want to thank my teachers, my professors," Ali said. "One thing that they consistently told me... 'It's not about you. It's about these characters. You are a servant. You're in service to these stories and these characters'."
He thanked his fellow cast members -- and his wife, who gave birth to their first child, a baby girl, just days earlier.
In a brief but acclaimed performance, Ali's drug dealer Juan imparts life lessons to the protagonist Chiron that help him survive in prison and in the outside world.
Ali, a Muslim convert since 1999 with a Christian minister for a mother, joined the minority Ahmadiyya Community, a movement seen as heretical by other Islamic sects, in 2001.
Muslims have won Oscars in various categories over the years -- including Pakistani documentary filmmaker Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy and feature director Asghar Farhadi -- but none has taken a statuette for acting.
'La La Land' gaffe
Hollywood legends Warren Beatty and Faye Dunaway were entrusted with the task of announcing the best picture award.
After scrutinizing the card for some time, they handed the award to "La La Land."
Scenes of confusion and embarrassment followed after the "La La Land" crew -- already on stage and delivering speeches -- suddenly realized the mistake and announced that "Moonlight" had actually won, prompting Beatty to mumble apologies.
Host Jimmy Kimmel came forward to inform the cast that "Moonlight" had actually one, and the "Moonlight" came to accept their statuettes.
"I knew I would screw this up," first-time host Kimmel said of the gaffe. "I promise to never come back."
Despite the stunning finish, the overall winner of the night was still "La La Land" which ended the night with six awards to three for "Moonlight."
Emma Stone won the Oscar for best actress on Sunday for the whimsical musical "La La Land," the most honored film of the night.
The 28-year-old won her first Oscar in a field that included former winners Meryl Streep and Natalie Portman, as well as Ruth Negga for interracial historical drama "Loving" and French actress Isabelle Huppert for rape-revenge thriller "Elle."
The film, a glossy tribute to the Golden Age of Tinseltown musicals, also picked up the prize for best director, making Damien Chazelle the youngest ever filmmaker to win the award.
The 32-year-old triumphed against nominees who included Mel Gibson for "Hacksaw Ridge" and the directors of "Arrival," "Manchester by the Sea" and "Moonlight."
Composer Justin Hurwitz won two Oscars for the music behind "La La Land" after his bid to revive yet modernize musicals triumphed decisively at the box office.
Hurwitz saluted the musicians and actors in "La La Land" and said he wrote the score with them in mind.
Despite the film's contemporary setting, Hurwitz gave a retro Hollywood sound to "La La Land," which led the night's nominations.
"La La Land" took the Oscar for best original score in a field that included music from "Moonlight," a film that featured a unique blend of hip-hop but which was nowhere near as driven by the music.
A political frame of mind
Justin Timberlake opened the gala night with some upbeat music, and Kimmel then wasted no time putting the A-list audience in a political frame of mind.
"This broadcast is being watched live by millions of Americans and around the world in more than 225 countries that now hate us," joked the 49-year-old Kimmel.
The late-night comedian quipped that Trump, who pulled off a political upset win with his campaign that targeted immigration, had taken the heat off Hollywood and its annual gala.
"I want to say thank you to President Trump. Remember last year when it seemed like the Oscars were racist? That's gone, thanks to him," Kimmel said.
This year's nominees have reflected a push by the Academy to reward diversity after the #OscarsSoWhite controversy of the past two years that prompted calls for a boycott of the annual bash.
The third time was indeed the charm for Viola Davis, who took the supporting actress statuette for her work in "Fences."
The third time was indeed the charm for Viola Davis, who took home the best supporting actress Oscar on Sunday for her gut-wrenching performance in the big screen adaptation of August Wilson's searing play "Fences."
The 51-year-old, a nominee in 2009 and 2012, bested a field that included two past Oscar winners -- Nicole Kidman ("Lion") and Octavia Spencer ("Hidden Figures") -- as well as Michelle Williams ("Manchester by the Sea") and Naomie Harris ("Moonlight").
"O captain! My captain! Denzel Washington, thank you for putting two entities in the driving seat -- August and God. And they served you well," she said, appropriating a verse from US writer Walt Whitman.
In "Fences," directed by and co-starring Washington, Davis plays the wife of a bitter, frustrated garbage collector in Pittsburgh in the 1950s, who has to come to terms with the missed opportunities of his past.
Her character, Rose, has to endure her husband's infidelity and his difficult relationship with their son.
The Oscar is the crowning achievement for a dominant awards season for Davis, who also took home the Golden Globe, a Bafta, the Screen Actors Guild prize and a number of other honors for her work.
Casey Affleck triumphs
The most intriguing race was for best actor, which for weeks looked like a lock for "Manchester by the Sea" star Casey Affleck, but the 41-year-old had to fend off a late surge by Denzel Washington ("Fences") to take the trophy.
"One of the first people who taught me how to act was Denzel Washington, and I just met him tonight for the first time," said Affleck, who was a losing best supporting actor nominee in 2008.
"Manchester" went into the evening with six nominations but came away with only Affleck's win and a best original screenplay statuette for Kenneth Lonergan, who also directed the film.
Affleck's nomination had not been without controversy, bringing unwelcome renewed attention to 2010 sexual harassment allegations that threatened to derail his march to Tinseltown's top table.
Amanda White and Magdalena Gorka, the producer and cinematographer on his poorly-received directorial debut, mockumentary "I'm Still Here," sued Affleck for what they described as repeated sexual harassment.
The star, who has always vehemently denied any wrongdoing, employed the services of celebrity lawyer Marty Singer -- known as "Hollywood's guard dog" -- and settled for an undisclosed amount in both cases.
The highlight of the technical Oscars was sound mixer Kevin O'Connell's win for "Hacksaw Ridge," which broke a losing streak that saw the coveted award elude him through 20 nominations.
"Hacksaw Ridge" also took the prize for sound mixing, while "La La Land" won for cinematography and production design.
The Oscars is the highlight of the Tinseltown calendar, and wraps up two months of glittering prize galas.
(Staff with AFP)
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