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Late snafu overshadows ‘Moonlight’ best picture win

HOLLYWOOD — PricewaterhouseCoopers, which tabulates Oscar ballots on behalf of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, apologized Feb. 27 for the flub that caused Warren Beatty and Faye Dunaway to announce that “La La Land” had won the Best Picture Oscar, though the real winner was “Moonlight.”

“We are currently investigating how this could have happened, and deeply regret that this occurred,” the firm, one of the world’s four biggest auditors, said in a statement the morning after the Oscars.

What transpired on stage at the Dolby Theatre at the end of the awards show seemed to personify the whimsical dream-like atmosphere of “La La Land,” whose producers were halfway through their acceptance speeches when they learned they did not actually win the top award.

Producer Jordan Horowitz had to convince the team from “Moonlight” that he wasn’t joking when he stopped his speech to announce the real winner.

“Even in my dreams this could not be true,” said “Moonlight” director Barry Jenkins. “But to hell with dreams, I’m done with it, ’cause this is true.”

Jenkins shared the Oscar for best adapted screenplay with Tarell Alvin McCraney for “Moonlight,” the story of a gay black boy’s emergence into manhood in a rough Miami neighborhood. The film also won a supporting-actor prize for Mahershala Ali.

Peter Grace, Robert Mackenzie, Kevin O’Connell and Andy Wright kiss their Oscars backstage Feb. 26 after winning the Academy Award for achievement in sound mixing, for their work on ‘Hacksaw Ridge’. It was the first Oscar for O’Connell after being nominated for the 21st time. (Photo by Mike Baker/AMPAS)

Peter Grace, Robert Mackenzie, Kevin O’Connell and Andy Wright kiss their Oscars backstage Feb. 26 after winning the Academy Award for achievement in sound mixing, for their work on ‘Hacksaw Ridge’. It was the first Oscar for O’Connell after being nominated for the 21st time. (Photo by Mike Baker/AMPAS)

The mix-up over the best picture announcement occurred because presenter Warren Beatty had the wrong envelope when he walked onto the stage with Faye Dunaway. When he opened it, he noticeably fumbled with the card inside, as if he was looking for another one. He showed the card to Dunaway, who read “La La Land” as the winner.

As the chaos unfolded on stage, Beatty took to the microphone to explain.

“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 [host Jimmy Kimmel],” he said. “I wasn’t trying to be funny.”

Beatty had been given a duplicate envelope from the best actress category, with Stone receiving the honor just minutes earlier. But nobody realized the error until it was too late. Close-up photos of the envelope he carried on stage clearly showed that it was marked “Actress in a Leading Role.” It was still unclear exactly how Beatty wound up with the wrong envelope.

Kimmel quipped, “Personally, I blame Steve Harvey for this,” a reference to Harvey’s famous flub announcing the wrong winner of the Miss Universe contest in 2015.

“We sincerely apologize to ‘Moonlight,’ ‘La La Land,’ Warren Beaty, Faye Dunaway and Oscar viewers for the error that was made during the award announcement for Best Picture,” said PricewaterhouseCoopers. “The presenters had mistakenly been given the wrong category envelope and when discovered, was immediately corrected.”

The statement went on to report that an investigation is underway and concluded: “We appreciate the grace with which the nominees, the Academy, ABC and Jimmy Kimmel handled the situation.”

The best-picture flub wasn’t the only gaffe during the 89th Oscars. The “In Memoriam” segment honoring people who had died in the past year included costume designer Janet Patterson, but when her name was displayed on screen, it was accompanied by a photo of film producer Jan Chapman, who is still alive.

In a statement to Variety, Chapman said she was “devastated” by the error. She called Patterson, with whom she had worked, “a great beauty and four-time Oscar nominee,” adding, “it is very disappointing that the error was not picked up.”

“La La Land,” which went into the night with a record-tying 14 Oscars, took home six, including best actress for Stone and best director for Damien Chazelle, who at age 32 is the youngest person to ever claim that honor.

The winners of the acting awards at the 89th Academy Awards show Feb. 26 are, from left, Mahershala Ali, who won the best supporting actor award for ‘Moonlight;’ Casey Affleck, who won the best actor award for ‘Manchester by the Sea;” Emma Stone, who won the best actress award for ‘La La Land;’ and Viola Davis, who won the best supporting actress award for her role in ‘Fences.’ (Photo courtesy of the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences)

The winners of the acting awards at the 89th Academy Awards show Feb. 26 are, from left, Mahershala Ali, who won the best supporting actor award for ‘Moonlight;’ Casey Affleck, who won the best actor award for ‘Manchester by the Sea;” Emma Stone, who won the best actress award for ‘La La Land;’ and Viola Davis, who won the best supporting actress award for her role in ‘Fences.’
(Photo courtesy of the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences)

Casey Affleck, 41, 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.” The film’s writer/director, Kenneth Lonergan, won the Oscar for best original screenplay.

The best-actress win for Stone, 28, came on her second career Oscar 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,” she said, then addressed her co-star. “And Ryan Gosling, thank you for making me laugh and for always raising the bar and being the greatest partner on this crazy adventure.”

Composer Justin Hurwitz won two Oscars on the night, for penning the original score of “La La Land” 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.

Viola Davis collected her first career Oscar for her supporting role in the big-screen adaptation of August Wilson’s “Fences.”

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, making her the first black actress to win an Oscar, an Emmy and a Tony.

“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.”

Mahershala Ali, 43, thanked his acting teachers and professors while accepting his supporting-actor prize for “Moonlight” but gave particular praise to his wife, Amatus Sami-Karim, who gave birth to the couple’s daughter Feb. 24.

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.”

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.

“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 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.” “Hidden Figures” was nominated for three Oscars, including Best Picture, but ended up empty-handed.

 

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