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‘Moonlight’ takes best pic Oscar after stunning mix-up

Hollywood, United States | AFP |

Coming-of-age drama “Moonlight” won the best picture Oscar on Sunday, but not before the film industry’s biggest night was marred by one of the worst fiascos in its history, as “La La Land” was mistakenly handed the award first.

Until the final minute the film industry’s biggest night had run smoothly, marked by plenty of political statements — mainly jabs at President Donald Trump — and light-hearted jokes from host Jimmy Kimmel.

The evening also represented a move towards burying the #OscarsSoWhite controversy of the past two years, with two of the four acting prizes and a handful of other major awards going to African American nominees.

But the stunning final stumble was a nightmare of a Hollywood ending that no one wanted to see.

Tinseltown legends Warren Beatty and Faye Dunaway, stars of 1967 crime classic “Bonnie and Clyde” and both past Oscar winners, were meant to give the best picture Oscar to Barry Jenkins’s film.

But after the pair were apparently handed the wrong envelope, she mistakenly called it for “La La Land,” Damien Chazelle’s nostalgic musical.

Scenes of confusion and embarrassment followed after the “La La Land” crew — already on stage and delivering speeches — suddenly realized the mistake and announced themselves that “Moonlight” had actually won.

Beatty, the 79-year-old veteran actor and director, said he’d been given the wrong envelope — the one containing the card announcing “La La Land” star Emma Stone’s best actress win.


– ‘Sincerely apologize’ –

Eventually PricewaterhouseCoopers, the accounting firm responsible for tabulating Oscar ballots and safeguarding the results until they are announced, apologized and admitted Beatty’s version was true.

“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.”

Ahead of Sunday’s event Brian Cullinan and Martha Ruiz, the two PwC partners who handle the Oscars, explained in an interview that two sets of envelopes are on site during the event.

“We stand on opposite sides of the stage, right off-screen, for the entire evening, and we each hand the respective envelope to the presenter,” Cullinan said in the interview published on

“It doesn’t sound very complicated, but you have to make sure you’re giving the presenter the right envelope.”

– ‘Speechless’ –

“Moonlight” was a shock winner for best picture, after Chazelle’s runaway favorite “La La Land” — a modern take on the all-singing, all-dancing Golden Age of Tinseltown’s studio system — had taken six prizes for best director, actress, score, song, production design and cinematography.

“I noticed the commotion and thought something was strange. And then I was speechless by the result,” Jenkins said backstage.

“I’ve watched the Academy Awards before and have never seen that happen.”

“Moonlight,” the story of a young African-American struggling to find his place as he grows up poor in Miami, ended up with three prizes on the night — best picture, best supporting actor for Mahershala Ali and best adapted screenplay.

The film has won plaudits as both a vital portrait of contemporary African-American life and a moving meditation on identity, family, friendship and love.

It beat eight other films to the best picture honors, including alien thriller “Arrival,” family dramas “Manchester by the Sea” and “Fences” — and of course, “La La Land.”

Starring Stone and Ryan Gosling as an aspiring actress and a struggling jazz musician who fall in love in Los Angeles, the musical charmed critics and did well at the box office.

“This was a movie about love and I was lucky enough to fall in love while making it,” said Chazelle, 32, the youngest filmmaker by several months ever to win a best directing Oscar.

– Music and politics –

The gala began without incident — first, Justin Timberlake crooned his upbeat nominated song, “Can’t Stop the Feeling.”

Then the 49-year-old Kimmel wasted no time putting the A-list audience in a political frame of mind, quipping that Trump, who has taken a hard line on 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.

Then came the stream of prizes.

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.

Stone bagged her first statuette in the best actress category despite a late push from Isabelle Huppert, already a Golden Globe winner for edgy rape-revenge thriller “Elle.”

And as expected, Viola Davis took the supporting actress statuette for her work in “Fences.”

“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.

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.

Kimmel made mention of Trump’s retort that Meryl Streep was “highly overrated” by recalling her record 20 nominations, and urging everyone to offer her a standing ovation. The audience willingly complied.

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