Moonlight is unexpected Oscar winner

Last minute twist turns the tables after La La Land is declared victor.

by Jennie Kermode

The Academy Awards 2017
The Academy Awards 2017 Photo: Prayitno

Sometimes the Oscars are surprising, but rarely like this. In a shock twist, five minutes after La La Land was declared Best Picture, the 89th Academy Awards ceremony in Los Angeles was called to a halt. Something had got wrong. Warren Beatty had gone the wrong envelope. The real winner was the underdog, Moonlight.

Moonlight also took the first award of the night, with Mahershala Ali winning Best Supporting Actor. As far as we're aware, he's the first Muslim actor ever to win an Oscar, and he's used the occasion to talk about his joy at having a new baby daughter.

Moonlight star Mahershala Ali
Moonlight star Mahershala Ali Photo: Gordon Correll

Viola Davis, winning Best Supporting Actress for Fences, urged filmmakers to "exhume the stories of the people who dreamed big and never saw those dreams to fruition."

"This is a movie about love and I was lucky enough to fall in love while making it," said Damien Chazelle, picking up the Best Director gong for La La Land.

Poor Auli'i Cravalho, enjoying her big moment at just 16 years of age, was hit over the head by a giant blue flag in the middle of her song from Moana, but bravely carried on. That's what we call an award worthy performance!

First to arrive on the red carpet for the Oscars tonight was Jackie Chan, accompanied by two plush pandas and in no rush to get inside as he chatted to fans. Ruth Negga was next, looking stunning in a long red lace dress. She didn't seem to be expecting to win, but was clearly just happy to be there. Similarly, Octavia Spencer said that being nominated is a win in itself. Talking about the film she tars in Hidden Figures, she said that it's about time that the women whose stories it tells were celebrated, and pointed out that "there are a lot more hidden figures out there." This is the first year in Oscar history that a person of colour has been nominated in every award category.

Emma Roberts looked sweet in vintage black and white Armani. Janelle Monae wowed the crowds with an enormous skirt made from black mesh and embroidery, plus a black mesh bodice that rivalled Cher's famous Oscar number. Taraji P Henson opted for a long, dark, slim cut velvet dress, slit high up the leg, and really made an impression. Eddie Redmayne had an elegant black velvet suit and Jessica Biel wore a shimmering golden gown. Hailee Steinfeld was in white and silver lace and, at just 20 years old, carried herself with the grandness of a Golden Age Hollywood star. Little Sunny Parwar, clad in a neat black suit, charmed everybody with his excitement about being there, and a frilly-shirted Ryan Gosling said he was amazed that La La Land has got so many nominations when nobody involved with it had any idea that it would be a big hit.

Many people at the ceremony were just hearing about the rescinding of the Best Sound Mixing nomination for Greg P Russell, who was told yesterday that he was no longer eligible for the award because he is believed to have engaged in telephone lobbying, breaking the rules. His film, 13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers Of Benghazi, remained eligible, but only his co-workers would have received the award.

Inevitably, this year's Oscars were complicated by politics. Asghar Farhadi, who won the Best Foreign Language Film award for The Salesman, opted to stay away, because President Trump's recent executive order, reported soon to be rewritten and reissued, would not have permitted him, as an Iraniam Muslim, to enter the US. Taraneh Alidoosti, who stars in the film, did likewise. "My absence is out of respect for the people of my country and those of other six nations whom have been disrespected," Farhadi said in a statement which was delivered on his behalf by Anousheh Ansari, the first Muslim woman in space. "Dividing the world into 'us and our enemies' categories creates fear, a deceitful justification for aggression and war. These wars prevent democracy and human rights in countries which have themselves been victims of aggression."

Khaled Khatib, one of the cinematographers behind Best Documentary Short winner The White Helmets, was due to attend the ceremony before reportedly being detained in Turkey after a intervention by the US Department of Homeland Security and alleged problems with is documents. His organisation, Syria Civil Defence, which is featured in the film, later issued a statement saying that Khatib's passport had been cancelled by the Syrian regime. They stated that they are grateful for the platform the Oscars have provided for their humanitarian message.

Asghar Farhadi, missing this year's Oscars
Asghar Farhadi, missing this year's Oscars Photo: Manfred Werner

The five directors whose work was nominated for Best Foreign Film - Iran's Asghar Farhadi (The Salesman), Germany's Maren Ade (Toni Erdmann), Denmark's Martin Zandervliet (Land Of Mine), Sweden's Hannes Holm (A Man Called Ove) and Austrailia's Martin Butler and Bentley Dean (Tanna), have issued a join statement in response to "fanaticism and nationalism" in the US and around the world.

"Human rights are not something you have to apply for. They simply exist — for everybody. For this reason, we dedicate this award to all the people, artists, journalists and activists who are working to foster unity and understanding, and who uphold freedom of expression and human dignity — values whose protection is now more important than ever," they wrote.

Several stars wore blue ribbons to signal that they stand with ACLU, the American Civil Liberties Union. Google reported a huge increase in people searching for the organisation, which just shows the level of influence that the Oscars can have on the wider world.

Donald Trump's star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame was taped over for the night "to protect it from damage."

Those awards in full:-

Best Picture:

Best Director

Best Actor

Best Actress

Best Supporting Actress

Best Supporting Actor

Best Foreign Language Film

Best Documentary

Best Animated Feature Film

Best Cinematography

Best Original Screenplay

Best Adapted Screenplay

Best Live Action Short Film

  • Sing

Best Animated Short

Best Documentary Short

Best Editing

Best Production Design

Best Visual Effects

Best Costume Design

Best Make-Up And Hairstyling

Best Sound Editing

Best Sound Mixing

Best Original Score

Best Original Song

Share this with others on...

A fusion of music and story Oliver Murray with Ed Bahlman on Ronnie’s, The Quiet One and They All Came Out To Montreux

Breaking the mould Memoir Of A Snail director Adam Elliot on creating textured underdogs and emotional conflict

Teen spirit Inma de Reyes on capturing a youngster's bullfighting ambition in The Boy And The Suit Of Lights

'I only wanted to make another film if it was really close to my heart' Àma Gloria director Marie Amachoukeli on her child's eye view of the world

In uncharted territory Alex Essoe on different kinds of horror and Trim Season

Sheffield DocFest announces winners At The Door OF The House Who Will Come Knocking takes top prize

More news and features

We're bringing your news, reviews and interviews from Sheffield DocFest and the Tribeca Film Festival.

We're looking forward to Docs Ireland, Frameline48 and the Fantasia International Film Festival.

We've recently covered the Muslim International Film Festival, Inside Out,Cannes, Fantaspoa, Queer East, Visions du Réel and New Directors/New Films.

Read our full for more.

Visit our festivals section.


More competitions coming soon.