LOS ANGELES — The 89th Academy Awards got off on the right foot, with a song and dance, but ended with the most stunning mistake ever to befall the esteemed awards show when the best picture Oscar was presented to the wrong movie. Faye Dunaway and Warren Beatty, holding an incorrect envelope, wrongly presented the top prize to "La La Land" instead of "Moonlight."
The moment at the conclusion of the Sunday-night show was so jaw-dropping, it eclipsed everything else in a ceremony that was packed to the brim with Donald Trump jabs, fun stunts, heartfelt positivity and a stunning upset by "Moonlight" over what had been a "La La" juggernaut throughout the awards season. Yet somehow, even the embarrassing moment pivoted into grace.
As confusion and bafflement overwhelmed those in the Dolby Theatre and at home on their couches, "Moonlight" director Barry Jenkins and "La La Land" director Damien Chazelle shared a hug on the back of the stage, out of sight from the television cameras.
"The folks of 'La La Land' were so gracious. I can't imagine being in their position and having to do that," Jenkins told reporters backstage. "It was unfortunate that things happened as they did but, goddamn, we won best picture."
Oscar tabulators PwC, in their 83rd year providing the service to the academy, later apologized in a statement and are investigating why it happened.
The actress, who pledged her deep love of "Moonlight," said later, "Is that the craziest Oscar moment of all time? Cool!"
The academy usually throws awards at films that gaze lovingly at Hollywood, but Barry Jenkins' heartfelt coming-of-age drama seduced academy voters in the end — a subtle tide change perhaps informed by both a prickly political climate and an urgent imperative to honor more diverse films after two consecutive years of OscarsSoWhite.
Diversity could be found in every corner of the awards this year, with supporting acting wins for "Moonlight's" Mahershala Ali and "Fences'" Viola Davis, although the best actor category proved to be a bit of an upset when Casey Affleck won for "Manchester by the Sea" over Denzel Washington of "Fences," who had picked up momentum in recent weeks.
The improvement followed efforts by Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences President Cheryl Boone Isaacs to diversify the membership of the largely white, older and male film academy. "Tonight is proof that art has no borders, no single language and does not belong to a single faith," said Isaacs.
Davis gave a particularly powerful speech in which she praised the late "Fences" playwright August Wilson who, she said, "Exhumed and exalted the ordinary people." Kimmel said later that Davis, "Just got nominated for an Emmy for that speech."
Ezra Edelman, whose nearly eight-hour epic "O.J.: Made in America" took best documentary, dedicated the award to the victims of the famous crime, Nicole Brown Simpson and Ronald Goldman.
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