“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.
Two black film stars took the early acting honors at the 89th Oscars on Sunday, which began with a salvo of jokes by host Jimmy Kimmel targeting US President Donald Trump.
Mahershala Ali won the best supporting actor prize for his turn as a drug dealer with a heart in coming of age drama “Moonlight” while Viola Davis took the supporting actress statuette for her work in family drama “Fences.”
Casey Affleck won the Oscar for best actor for his searing role as a man marked by tragedy in the family drama “Manchester by the Sea”.
Emma Stone picked up the Oscar for best actress for the whimsical musical “La La Land,” the most honored film of the night.
Justin Timberlake opened the gala night — expected to be dominated by musical “La La Land” — with some upbeat music, and Kimmel then wasted no time putting the A-list audience in a political state 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.
Ali was a first-time nominee along with “Moonlight” co-star Naomie Harris, while Davis and her co-star Denzel Washington are both old hands, with 11 nominations between them and — including Davis’s triumph — three wins.
Viola Davis won her first Oscar for her role in “Fences”, making her and Whoopi Goldberg the only black entertainers to gain the ‘triple crown’ of acting, with an Emmy, a Tony, and now, an Academy Award up her sleeve.
Just one Grammy away from the prestigious ‘EGOT’, Davis is the 23rd person to win all three awards.
In 2015, Davis won an Emmy for her role in drama series “How to Get Away with Murder”, and she previously received two Tonys – one in 2010 for her Broadway performance of “Fences” and one in 2011 for “King Hedley II”.
Adding her Oscar to the pile, Davis has raked the awards in this season with a Golden Globe, a BAFTA, and a Screen Actors Guild Award.
And her speech was almost as tear-jerking as the film itself. After she had finished speaking Kimmel joked that she “just got nominated for an Emmy for that speech”.
“You know, there’s one place that all the people with the greatest potential are gathered… and that’s the graveyard,” she began.
“People ask me all the time, what kind of stories do you want to tell, Viola? And I say exhume those bodies. Exhume those stories. The stories of people who dreamed big and never saw those dreams come into fruition, people who fell in love and lost.”
“I became an artist and I thank God I did because we are the only profession that celebrates what it means to live a life.”
After being nominated for best supporting actress in January, Davis became the first black actress to receive three Oscar nominations.
Davis joins film legends such as Jessica Lange, Helen Mirren and Al Pacino in the ‘triple crown’ group, a feat which some of the world’s best actors haven’t yet been able to achieve.
Damien Chazelle on Sunday became the youngest ever filmmaker to win the Oscar for best director for “La La Land,” a glossy tribute to the Golden Age of Tinseltown musicals.
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.”
The film, which stars Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling as an aspiring actress and a struggling jazz musician who fall in love in Los Angeles, has charmed critics the world over and returned more than 10 times its $30 million budget.
Composer Justin Hurwitz also won two Oscars after his bid to revive yet modernize musicals triumphed decisively at the box office.
Taking the stage at the Hollywood gala, 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.
Hurwitz also won for best original song with “City of Stars,” a duet between “La La Land” stars Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling, whose swings between major and minor keys mirror the plot tension.
Win for White Helmets
A film about Syria’s White Helmets — rescuers who risk their lives to help save civilians caught in the country’s devastating war — took home the Oscar for best documentary short on Sunday.
The Netflix-produced film, called simply “The White Helmets,” was directed by Orlando von Einsiedel, and bested another short about the Syrian conflict, “Watani: My Homeland.”
But members of the group including the cinematographer who shot much of the footage, Khaled Khatib, were not allowed to enter the United States for the Oscars.
Group members said on Twitter that they had waited for three days at the airport but were not permitted to board a flight.
The US Customs and Border Protection service said only that they did not have valid documents.
The ordeal comes as US President Donald Trump sharply curtails visas for Syrians as well as citizens of a number of other Muslim-majority countries.
Raed Saleh, leader of the rescue group, also was not able to attend but said in a statement that the White Helmets had saved the lives of more than 82,000 civilians.
“I invite anyone here who hears me to work on the side of life, to stop the bloodshed in Syria and around the world,” he said in a statement read by the director.
“It’s very easy for these guys to feel forgotten. This war has been going on for six years. If everyone could just stand up and remind them that we all care, (then) this war ends as quickly as possible.”
Khatib tweeted: “While we follow the Oscars, the Syrian regime has launched chlorine gas attacks in Harasta, injuring civilians.”
The White Helmets emerged in 2013, working to rescue civilians in rebel-held areas during the nearly six-year war.
Before fighting broke out, the volunteers had everyday jobs — bakers, painters and even students. Since 2013, the group says it has attracted more than 3,000 volunteers.
It is named for the distinctive white hard hats worn by its volunteers and has gained international renown for its daring rescues, often filmed and circulated on social media.
Red carpet glamour
Ahead of the ceremony, Tinseltown’s A-list paraded down the red carpet at Hollywood’s Dolby Theatre, with white, cream and champagne gowns emerging as a fashion favorite.
Best actress nominee Isabelle Huppert, already a Golden Globe winner for edgy rape-revenge thriller “Elle,” oozed glamour in a glittering long-sleeved, floor-length Armani gown with a demure neckline.
Many of the nominees had family members as their dates, with Dev Patel, Lucas Hedges and Lin-Manuel Miranda bringing their moms and Stone stepping out with her brother Spencer, who often accompanies her to awards shows.
The most intriguing race is for best actor, which for weeks looked like a lock for “Manchester by the Sea” star Casey Affleck until a late surge by Washington (“Fences”), who now has the momentum.
“It’s pretty exciting. I’ve only been once before. I was a lot younger and I didn’t fully appreciate the significance of it,” said Affleck, 41, who was a losing best supporting actor nominee in 2008.
Stone is expected to bag her first statuette in the best actress category despite a late push from Huppert, but Gosling is not expected to do the same.
The Oscars is the highlight of the Tinseltown calendar, and wraps up two months of glittering prize galas.
This awards season, the popping of champagne corks has been muted by the tense political situation in the United States.
Trump’s controversial (and now halted) travel ban led Iranian director Asghar Farhadi to opt out of attending — but a statement from Farhadi was read when his “The Salesman” was named best foreign language film.
“Dividing the world into the US and ‘our enemies’ categories creates fear — a deceitful justification for aggression and war,” he said in the statement read by the Iranian-born US engineer and astronaut Anousheh Ansari.
On Sunday, several stars including nominees Miranda and best actress nominee Ruth Negga wore blue ribbons in support of the American Civil Liberties Union, a high-profile civil rights organization.
The awards season has a long tradition of political activism, from Marlon Brando’s Oscars snub in 1973 to Meryl Streep’s rousing anti-Trump speech at this year’s Golden Globes.
On Sunday, Kimmel made mention of Trump’s retort that Streep was “highly overrated” — by recalling her record 20 nominations, and urging everyone to offer her a standing ovation. The audience willingly complied.