In what was easily the most bizarre ending to an Oscar night, the coming-of-age drama “Moonlight” won the Academy Award Sunday evening for best picture — moments after the honor was mistakenly presented to the musical romance “La La Land.”
It was a shocking end to a night that saw “La La Land” collect six Oscars, including best actress for Emma Stone and best director for Damien Chazelle. And the film appeared to have won the top prize of the 89th Oscars at the Dolby Theatre, when Warren Beatty and Faye Dunaway announced it as the best- picture winner.
But in the midst of his acceptance speech, “La La Land” producer Jordan Horowitz said a mistake had been made, and “Moonlight” was the true winner. He held up the card with the winner’s name for the cameras to prove he wasn’t joking.
With the shocked audience unsure of what had just transpired, the cast and crew of “Moonlight” — the story of a boy’s emergence into manhood in a rough Miami neighborhood — took over the stage. Director Barry Jenkins appeared stunned.
“Even in my dreams this could not be true, but to hell with dreams, I’m done with it, ’cause this is true,” Jenkins said.
“There was a time when I thought this movie was impossible, because I couldn’t bring it to fruition. I couldn’t bring myself to tell another story. So everybody behind me on this stage said no that’s not acceptable. So I just want to thank everybody up here behind me, everybody out there in that room, because we didn’t do this, you guys chose us.”
Beatty explained to the crowd that he had been given the wrong envelope
“I opened the envelope and it said `Emma Stone, La La Land.’ That’s why I took such a long look at Faye and at you (host Jimmy Kimmel),” he said, saying he wasn’t trying to be funny. His explanation indicated the envelope he was given may have mistakenly contained a duplicate winner’s card from the best actress category. Stone said backstage she was still holding the card with her name on it when the flub occurred.
Casey Affleck, meanwhile, won the award for best actor for his role as a maintenance man with a tragedy-filled past who is named guardian of his teenage nephew in “Manchester by the Sea.” Affleck, 41, was previously nominated for a supporting-actor honor for his work in “The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford.”
“I’m only here because of all the talents and goodwill of so many people, they’re impossible to name,” he said. “But most of all, (writer/director) Kenneth Lonergan, who made this part, and without this part and without his writing I wouldn’t be here for sure.
… Man, I wish I had something bigger and more meaningful to say, but I’m really proud to be part of this community. … I’m just dumbfounded that I’m included and it means a lot to me.”
Stone, 28, also won on her second career nomination, having been previously tabbed for her supporting work in “Birdman,”
“I realize that a moment like this is a huge confluence of luck and opportunity, and so I want to thank Damien Chazelle for the opportunity to be part of a project that was so special and once in a lifetime. I’m so grateful to have been involved in this film and thank you for your faith and your patience and such a wonderful experience. And Ryan Gosling, thank you for making me laugh and for always raising the bar and being the greatest partner on this crazy adventure.
… I still have a lot of growing and learning and work to do and this guy (the Oscar) is a really beautiful symbol to continue on that journey, and I’m so grateful for that, so thank you so much.”
At age 32, Chazelle became the youngest-ever winner of the Oscar for best director, and he thanked songwriter/composer Justin Hurwitz, “who I’ve known since we were both 17, 18, I think. Justin, thank you for riding with me on this and carrying this dream forward and never giving up.”
Hurwitz won two Oscars on the night, for penning the original score of the musical — a love letter to Los Angeles — and for writing the original song “City of Stars” with Benj Pasek and Justin Paul.
“La La Land” also won Oscars for production design for David Wasco and Sandy Reynolds-Wasco and cinematography for Linus Sandgren. The film went into the night with a record-tying 14 nominations.
Viola Davis collected her first career Oscar for her supporting role in the big-screen adaptation of August Wilson’s “Fences,” while Mahershala Ali won on his first-ever nomination for best supporting actor in “Moonlight.”
Davis, 51, had been nominated for two previous Oscars, for her lead role in “The Help” and her supporting performance in “Doubt.” But her work opposite Denzel Washington, who also directed “Fences,” finally earned her the statuette.
“You know there’s one place that all the people with the greatest potential are gathered. One place. And that’s the graveyard. People ask me all the time, `What kind of stories do you want to tell, Viola?”‘ she said. “And I say exhume those bodies, exhume those stories, the stories of the people who dreamed big and never saw those dreams to fruition, people who fell in love and lost.
I became an artist and thank God I did because we are the only profession that celebrates what it means to live a life,” she said. “So here’s to August Wilson, who exhumed and exalted the ordinary people.”
Ali thanked his acting teachers and professors while accepting his supporting-actor prize.
“I had so many wonderful teachers, and one thing that they consistently told me … is that it wasn’t about you, it’s not about you. It’s about these characters. You’re a servant. You’re in service to these stories and these characters and I’m so blessed to have had this opportunity.”
Ali, 43, praised Jenkins and his fellow cast and crew members, but he gave particular praise to his wife, Amatus Sami-Karim.
“Lastly, I want to thank my wife, who was in her third trimester during awards season. We just had a daughter four days ago. I just want to thank her for being such a solider through this process and really carrying me through it all.”
“Moonlight” also won for best adapted screenplay for Jenkins and Tarell Alvin McCraney won for best adapted screenplay for “Moonlight.”
“All you people out there who feel there’s no mirror for you, that your life is not reflected, the Academy has your back, the ACLU has your back, we have your back,” Jenkins said. “And for the next four years we will not leave you alone, we will not forget you.”
Lonergan won for best original screenplay for penning “Manchester by the Sea.”
For best animated feature, the Oscar went to Disney’s “Zootopia,” which swept most of the pre-Academy Award prizes.
The Oscar for best foreign-language film went to the Iranian film “The Salesman,” directed by Asghar Farhadi, who announced earlier he would be boycotting the ceremony over President Donald Trump’s executive order barring visitors to the United States from seven Muslim-majority countries, including Iran.
A prepared statement, however, was read on behalf of the two-time Oscar winner.
“I’m sorry I’m not with you tonight,” Farhadi said in the statement. “My absence is out of respect for the people of my country and those of (the) other six nations whom have been disrespected by the inhumane law that bans entry of immigrants to the U.S. Dividing the world into the `us and our enemies’ categories creates fear, a deceitful justification for aggression and war.”
The anti-superhero film “Suicide Squad” scored an Oscar for makeup and hairstyling by Alessandro Bertolazzi, Giorgio Gregorini and Christopher Nelson. The spinoff from the world of Harry Potter, “Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them,” earned a costume design Oscar for Colleen Atwood. It was her fourth career Oscar, previously winning for “Chicago,” “Memoirs of a Geisha” and “Alice in Wonderland.”
The ESPN film “O.J.: Made in America,” tracing the rise and fall of O.J. Simpson, was named best documentary feature. For documentary short subject, the Oscar went to “The White Helmets,” produced by Orlando von Einsiedel and Joanna Natasegara. The Netflix film is focused on volunteer rescue workers in war-torn Syria.
“Sing,” a Hungarian film about a young girl who fights to perform in the choir at her new school despite being told not to sing out loud, was named best live-action short film.
“Arrival” won for best sound editing for Sylvain Bellemare, while the prize for sound mixing went to the “Hacksaw Ridge” team of Kevin O’Connell, Andy Wright, Robert Mackenzie and Peter Grace. The win for O’Connell was his first — in an astonishing 21 career nominations. He gave thanks to his late mother, saying she told him to work hard so someday he would be able to thank her from the Oscar stage.
“Mom, I know you’re looking down on me tonight, so thank you!” he said. “Thank you all so much, I really appreciate this.”
“The Jungle Book” won for best visual effects, by Robert Legato, Adam Valdez, Andrew R. Jones and Dan Lemmon.
As expected, the ceremony had its share of political moments, beginning in the opening monologue by host Jimmy Kimmel, who noted the ceremony was being viewed by millions of people “in 225 countries that now hate us.”
Kimmel later gave special praise to Meryl Streep, who delivered a much- publicized anti-Donald Trump speech at the Golden Globe Awards in January, earning her a sharp rebuke from the president, who called her “overrated.”
“Meryl Streep has phoned it in for more than 50 films,” Kimmel said. He then prodded the crowd to give Streep “a totally undeserved round of applause,” bringing the audience to its feet.
“The highly over-rated Meryl Streep, everyone,” Kimmel said.
In one of the night’s more inspirational moments, former NASA mathematician Katherine Johnson, 98, who was portrayed by Taraji P. Henson in “Hidden Figures,” was introduced by the film’s three female stars — Henson, Janelle Monae and Octavia Spencer. Johnson was brought onto the stage in a wheelchair, again bringing the Dolby Theatre crowd to its feet. She smiled broadly and gave the crowd a simple “thank you.”
Michael J. Fox also received a standing ovation when he took the stage with Seth Rogen to present the film editing award. The pair emerged from a “Back to the Future” DeLorean time machine.