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Tuesday , September 29 2020

‘Moonlight’ beats ‘Land’ for top Oscar – Davis, Affleck, Stone win first Oscars

US actress and singer Auli’i Cravalho performs on stage at the 89th Oscars on Feb 26, in Hollywood, California. (AFP)

LOS ANGELES, Feb 27, (Agencies): African-American coming-of-age tale “Moonlight” won the Oscar for best picture on Sunday on a big night for Hollywood diversity that was overshadowed by an embarrassing onstage gaffe over the top award.

In a mishap that caused uproar and confusion, presenters Warren Beatty and Faye Dunaway initially announced that romantic musical “La La Land”, the presumed favorite for best picture, had won.

As the casts of both films stood awkwardly on stage, Beatty explained he had been given the wrong envelope to open.

It was the first time in living memory that such a major mistake had been made at the Academy Awards, Hollywood’s biggest night. It even eclipsed the prior three hours of a show peppered with jokes about US President Donald Trump.

Accountants Price Waterhouse Cooper, who oversee the ballots, said the presenters had mistakenly been given the wrong category envelope.

“We are currently investigating how this could have happened, and deeply regret that this occurred”, PwC said in a statement, while apologizing to “Moonlight” and “La La Land”, Beatty and Dunaway and Oscar viewers.

Officials from the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences were not immediately available to comment.

“Is that the craziest Oscar moment of all time?” Stone, who won the best actress Oscar for her “La La Land” role as a struggling actress, told reporters backstage “It’s a very strange happening for Oscar history”.

“Moonlight”, about a young boy struggling with poverty and his sexuality in Miami, also brought a supporting actor Oscar for first timer Mahershala Ali, a best adapted screenplay statuette.

Viola Davis won for her supporting role as a long suffering housewife in African-American family drama “Fences”.

The recognition for both the actors and their films made a stark contrast to the 2016 Academy Awards when no actors of color were even nominated.

“Moonlight” producer Adele Romanski said she hoped the movie would inspire “little black boys and brown girls and other folks watching at home who feel marginalized”.

“La La Land” went into the Oscars with a leading 14 nominations and emerged with six, including for its score and theme song “City of Stars”. “La La Land” director Damien Chazelle, 32, became the youngest person to ever win a best director Oscar.

Elsewhere, “Manchester by the Sea” star Casey Affleck was named best actor, winning his first Oscar despite 2010 sexual harassment allegations that resurfaced during awards season. Affleck denied the allegations which were settled out of court.

“Man, I wish I had something better and more meaningful to say … I’m just dumbfounded that I’m included”, said Affleck, who played a heart-broken father in the movie.

Earlier in the show, Trump had been the butt of numerous jokes, capping an awards season marked by fiery protests by celebrities at his policies.

Oscars host Jimmy Kimmel fired off political zingers and even tweeted at the Republican president, getting no immediate response.


Several celebrities wore blue ribbons on Sunday in support of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) advocacy group that worked to get Trump’s bid to ban travelers from seven majority Muslim nations blocked in US courts. But for the most part, speeches at the ceremony were mild or made general pleas for tolerance rather than directly attacking Trump.

The show kicked off with Justin Timberlake dancing down the Dolby Theatre aisles, singing his ebullient song, “Can’t Stop the Feeling”, from the animated film “Trolls”. It was an early cue that the Oscars would steer, at least in part, toward festiveness rather than heavy-handedness. Protests, boycotts and rallies have swirled ahead of Sunday night’s Oscars. But host Kimmel, in his opening monologue, quickly acknowledged that he “was not that guy” to heal a divided America.

Kimmel instead struck an irreverent but sarcastic tone, singling out Meryl Streep, whom President Trump derided as “overrated” after her fiery Golden Globes speech last month. Listing some of her credits, Kimmel said Streep has “phoned it in for over 50 films”. He led a standing ovation for the “overrated” actress before adding a pointed punchline: “Nice dress, by the way”, he said. “Is that an Ivanka?”

The host then predicted Trump was sure to tweet about the night’s awards at 5:00 am “during his bowel movements”.

The wins for Davis, who co-starred in Denzel Washington’s August Wilson adaptation “Fences”, and Ali, the “Moonlight” co-star, were both widely expected. Their awards marked the first time in more than a decade that multiple Oscar acting honors went to black actors.

“I became an artist, and thank god I did, because we are the only profession to celebrate what it means to live a life”, said Davis, the best supporting actress winner. “So here’s to August Wilson, who exhumed and exalted the ordinary people”.

Ali won best supporting actor for “Moonlight”. He glowed on the stage as he informed the crowd that he and his wife, Amatus Sami-Karim, welcomed a daughter four days earlier. The actor thanked his wife for “being such a soldier through the process”.

The broadcast often veered between such strong personal statements and Kimmel’s efforts to keep things a little lighter with bits reminiscent of his late-night show. Shortly before he led a dazed, unsuspecting tour group into the theater, presenter Gael Garcia Bernal, the Mexican actor, declared: “As a migrant worker, as a Mexican, and as a human being, I am against any wall”. Rich Moore, one of the three directors of Disney’s best animated film winner “Zootopia”, described the movie as about “tolerance being more powerful than fear of the other”.

Most expect the night to be dominated by Damien Chazelle’s celebrated musical “La La Land”, up for a record-tying 14 nominations. But its night started off with an upset, with the film losing out on costume design to the Harry Potter spinoff “Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them”. Nearly two hours into the broadcast, it finally got on the board with an award for production design.

Instead, it was Mel Gibson’s World War II drama “Hacksaw Ridge” that was the evening’s first double winner, taking awards for editing and sound mixing. The bearded Gibson, for a decade a pariah in Hollywood, was seated front and center for the show, and was a frequent presence throughout.

Ezra Edelman’s “O.J.: Made in America” took best documentary, making it — at 467 minutes — the longest Oscar winner ever, beating out the 1969 Best Foreign Language Film winner “War and Peace” (431 minutes). Edelman’s documentary, while it received an Oscar-qualifying theatrical release, was seen by most on ESPN as a serial, prompting some to claim its place was at the Emmys, not the Oscars.

Edelman dedicated the award to the victims of the famous crime, Nicole Brown Simpson and Ronald Goldman.

“This is also for other victims, victims of police violence, police brutality”, Edelman said. “This is their story as it is Ron and Nicole’s”.

The “OscarsSoWhite” crisis of the last two years was largely quelled this season by a richly diverse slate of nominees, thanks to films like “Moonlight”, “Fences” and “Hidden Figures”. A record six black actors are nominated. For the first time ever, a person of color is nominated in each acting category. And four of the five best documentary nominees were also directed by black filmmakers.

“I want to say thank you to President Trump”, Kimmel said in the opening. “Remember last year when it seemed like the Oscars were racist?”

The nominees follow the efforts by Academy of Motions Pictures Arts and Sciences President Cheryl Boone Isaacs to diversify the membership of the largely white, older and male film academy. In June, the academy added 683 new members: 46 percent of them were female; 41-percent were nonwhite; and they pulled from 59 countries.

“Tonight is proof that art has no borders, no single language and does not belong to a single faith”, said Isaacs.

The academy is hoping to improve on last year’s telecast. The Chris Rock-hosted show drew 34.4 million viewers, an eight-year low.

Politics had taken the spotlight ahead of Hollywood’s big night. On Friday, the United Talent Agency, forgoing its usual Oscar party, instead held a rally protesting Trump over immigration. “We will not tolerate chaos and ineptitude and war-mongering”, Jodie Foster told attendees. The six directors of the foreign film nominees released a joint statement condemning “the climate of fanaticism and nationalism we see today in the US and in so many other countries”. US immigration authorities also barred entry to a 21-year-old Syrian cinematographer who worked on the documentary short winner, “The White Helmets”, about the nation’s civil war.

List of winners for the 89th annual Academy Awards presented by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.

* Best Picture: “Moonlight”.

* Actor: Casey Affleck, “Manchester by the Sea”.

* Actress: Emma Stone, “La La Land”.

* Supporting Actor: Mahershala Ali, “Moonlight”.

* Supporting Actress: Viola Davis, “Fences”.

* Directing: Damien Chazelle, “La La Land”.

* Foreign Language Film: “The Salesman”, Iran.

* Adapted Screenplay: “Moonlight”, screenplay by Barry Jenkins, story by Tarell Alvin McCraney.

* Original Screenplay: Kenneth Lonergan, “Manchester by the Sea”.

* Production Design: “La La Land”, Production Design: David Wasco; Set Decoration: Sandy Reynolds-Wasco.

* Cinematography: Linus Sandgren, “La La Land”.

* Sound Mixing: “Hacksaw Ridge”, Kevin O’Connell, Andy Wright, Robert Mackenzie and Peter Grace.

* Sound Editing: “Arrival”, Sylvain Bellemare.

* Original Score: “La La Land”, Justin Hurwitz.

* Original Song: “City of Stars” from “La La Land”, music by Justin Hurwitz, lyric by Ben Pasek and Justin Paul.

* Costume Design: Colleen Atwood, “Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them”.

* Documentary (short subject): “The White Helmets”, Orlando von Einsiedel and Joanna Natasegara.

* Documentary Feature: “O.J.: Made in America”, Ezra Edelman and Caroline Waterlow.

* Film Editing: “Hacksaw Ridge”, John Gilbert.

* Makeup and Hairstyling: “Suicide Squad”, Alessandro Bertolazzi, Giorgio Gregorini and Christopher Nelson.

* Animated Feature Film: “Zootopia”, Byron Howard, Rich Moore and Clark Spencer.

* Animated Short Film: “Piper”, Alan Barillaro and Marc Sondheimer.

* Live Action Short Film: “Sing”, Kristof Deak and Anna Udvardy.

* Visual Effects: “The Jungle Book”, Robert Legato, Adam Valdez, Andrew R. Jones and Dan Lemmon.

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