Follywood: Best picture award nearly given to wrong film

February 27, 2017 GMT

At a politically fraught 89th Annual Academy Awards, Hollywood ended a long night by making history — and not in a good way.

Faye Dunaway and Warren Beatty nearly gave the best picture award to the wrong film, when Dunaway announced “La La Land,” as winner. In moments now cringeworthy, director Damien Chazelle and others thanked family and others who inspired them, when Beatty sidled up with the envelope. “I’m sorry, there’s a mistake,” “La La Land” producer Jordan Horowitz said after having made his acceptance speech. The camera zoomed in to confirm that yes, “Moonlight” was the upset best picture winner.

The winning film tells the story of a lost African-American boy, who is gay and lives with his crack addict mother. “Moonlight” also won for adapted screenplay.

Harvard graduate Chazelle, 32, became the youngest person to win for directing. A humble Emma Stone accepted the best actress award for her performance as an aspiring actor in love in “La La Land.” Falmouth’s Casey Affleck was named best actor for his heart-wrenching work in the powerful Massachusetts-set drama “Manchester by the Sea.” The film also won for original screenplay.

Mahershala Ali was named best supporting actor for his compellingly complex performance as a paradoxically paternal drug dealer, who changes the life of the boy in “Moonlight.” It was the actor’s first nomination for an Academy Award. “Moonlight” had eight nominations overall, including best director, adapted screenplay and picture and became the surprise winner later in the night.

Winning supporting actress for “Fences,” Viola Davis delivered an impassioned acceptance speech about the value of creativity in our lives. This was Davis’ third nomination. The actress has also won a Tony for playing the same role on stage, a rare feat. Her emotionally super-charged performance under the direction of co-star Denzel Washington brought it home for her. Ali and Davis were two of the African-American actors nominated in all four Oscar acting categories this year.

“Zootopia,” a comedy-adventure film from Disney about inclusion, the value of diversity and talking animals, took the award for animated feature film. “O.J.: Made in America,” a 467-minute documentary about the landmark O.J. Simpson murder case, won for feature documentary. “Arrival,” which had eight nominations, including best picture, landed the sound editing award. The editing and sound mixing prizes went to the six-times-nominated “Hacksaw Ridge.” Jon Favreau’s live-action adaptation of Rudyard Kipling’s “The Jungle Book” deservedly pocketed the award for visual effects. In addition to directing and best actress, “La La Land” received the prizes for production design, cinematography, original score and song.

With such Academy Award nominated titles as “Fences,” “Hidden Figures,” “13th,” “O.J.: Made in America,” “I Am Not Your Negro” and “Moonlight,” 2016 was an unusually strong year for films with African-American filmmakers, casts and themes. That was reflected in this year’s nominations and last night’s award ceremony.

For the first time in Academy Award history all four acting categories had African-American nominees. Setting another record were the four African-American directors nominated for best documentary. Barry Jenkins and Tarell Alvin McCraney made an impassioned team accepting the statuette for adapted screenplay for “Moonlight.” The Cannes award-winning Iranian drama “The Salesman,” was named best foreign language film. But its writer-director Asghar Farhadi (“A Separation”) is a Muslim from a country on President Trump’s visa ban and chose not to attend the Oscars. A representative read a statement to a rousing round of applause from the non-attending filmmaker after his film won the award.