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February 28, 2017

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Unexpected ending mars Oscars big night

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 toward 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.

Warren Beatty and Faye Dunaway, stars of 1967 crime classic “Bonnie and Clyde,” 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 had been given the wrong envelope — the one containing the card announcing “La La Land” star Emma Stone’s best actress win.

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

“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.

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.


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