The 89th Academy Awards came to a thundering close Sunday night, as “La La Land” was incorrectly announced as Best Picture by presenters Faye Dunaway and Warren Beatty.
The wrong announcement heard around the world, ironically gave way to a graceful moment – where “La La Land” producer Jordan Horowitz held a placard up to the camera, informing the confused crowd of the correct Best Picture winner – the beautiful and elusive “Moonlight.”
The victory by writer and director Barry Jenkins’ second feature capped off an Oscars show that was a jarring, stark contrast to previous Oscar nights, as diversity was celebrated and politics were center stage.
Mahershala Ali became the first Muslim actor to receive an Academy Award, winning for his supporting role in “Moonlight,” and the brilliant Iranian filmmaker Asghar Farhadi won his second Oscar for Best Foreign Language Film, “The Salesman.”
Perhaps the most powerful political statement came from Farhadi as he refused to attend the show – choosing to stay in his homeland of Iran – protesting President Trump’s controversial ban on immigrants from Iran and six other, Muslim majority countries. The spirit of Farhadi was felt in moments of the night where winners like the filmmakers of “The White Helmets,” Orlando Von Einsiedel and Joanna Natasegara, spoke about the titular Syrian Civil Defense and the organization’s mission to rescue victims of the civil war.
A reversal of #OscarsSoWhite, this year’s Academy Awards also gave top honors to African American artists such as Viola Davis, Best Supporting Actress, “Fences,” Mahershala Ali, Barry Jenkins and Tarell Alvin McCraney, Best Adapted Screenplay, “Moonlight,” and Ezra Edelman, Best Documentary Feature, “O.J.: Made in America.”
“La La Land’s” cast and crew, tied the notorious films “Titanic” and “All About Eve” with 14 total nominations. The film’s Oscar wins were filled with firsts, as director Damien Chazelle, 31, became the youngest filmmaker in the Academy’s history to win Best Director. Emma Stone captured her first Oscar with a Best Actress win and Justin Horowitz, Chazelle’s longtime friend and collaborator, picked up two awards – Best Original Score – “La La Land,” Best Original Song – “City of Stars.” A subtle milestone was also reached as “Moonlight” producer Dede Gardner became the first female producer to be awarded the Best Picture Oscar twice.
Other highlights of the show included Sara Bareilles’ touching, moving performance of Joni Mitchell’s “Both Sides Now,” as the Academy paid tribute to the many artists that passed away in 2016. Host Jimmy Kimmel was a nice add-on to the show, making for a few witty remarks about President Trump and poking fun at some of the attendees – although his bit with Matt Damon went overboard.
With the ongoing, controversial political climate and the pull for more diversity in Hollywood, the 89th Academy Awards powerfully displayed the unity of Hollywood’s greatest artists and minds, delivering a message about acceptance, not prejudice.