'Moonlight’ wins best picture Oscar in surprise victory as Trump dominates speeches

The story of a young gay black man, which stars actors including Trevante Rhodes and Naomie Harris, was named the best movie of the year by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, though the movie 'La La Land' was initially and erroneously announced as best picture.

David Bornfriend/A24/AP
'Moonlight' stars Trevante Rhodes.

The drama "Moonlight," which stars actors including Trevante Rhodes, Mahershala Ali, and Janelle Monáe in the story of a young gay black man, won best picture at the Oscars in an upset, a surprise that was even more of one because the film "La La Land" was initially named as best picture before the mistake was discovered. 

Meanwhile, the evening included plenty of references to President Trump and his administration’s policies, with host Jimmy Kimmel, nominees, and presenters all bringing up recent controversies.

Mr. Ali was an early Oscars champion, winning in his category of best supporting actor for his appearance in the movie “Moonlight.” He discussed his family during his awards speech, noting that his wife had just given birth to a daughter four days before. 

Best supporting actress Oscar winner Viola Davis received the prize for her work in the film version of the play “Fences.” 

“I became an artist, and thank God I did, because we are the only profession that celebrates what it means to live a life,” Ms. Davis said.

And Ms. Stone picked up the best actress prize for her appearance in the musical “La La Land.” "I realize that a moment like this is a huge confluence of luck and opportunity," the actress said as she accepted her prize.

Casey Affleck took the best actor Oscar after starring in the film “Manchester by the Sea" and took a moment to single out a fellow nominee. "One of the first people who taught me how to act was Denzel Washington," he said of the "Fences" actor. 

"Manchester by the Sea" writer Kenneth Lonergan won the best original screenplay Oscar, while "Moonlight" writers Barry Jenkins and Tarell Alvin McCraney won the best adapted screenplay Oscar for their film.

Host Jimmy Kimmel offered his share of comments about Mr. Trump’s actions and those of his administration. “I want to say thank you to President Trump,” he said during his opening monologue. “I mean, remember last year when it seemed like the Oscars were racist?” And he also obliquely referred to Trump’s comments about Oscar nominee Meryl Streep, in which the president referred to Ms. Streep as “overrated” on Twitter, with Mr. Kimmel discussing Streep’s “many inspiring and overrated performances.”

But Kimmel also took a serious tone early on.

 “If every one of you took a minute to reach out to one person you disagree with … and have a positive, considerate conversation … we could make America great again,” he said.

The theme of discussing the Trump administration and its actions continued with Alessandro Bertolazzi, one of the winners for best makeup for his work in the film “Suicide Squad,” who dedicated his prize to “all the immigrants.”

And while director Asghar Farhadi won the best foreign language film Oscar for the film “The Salesman,” he chose not to attend the awards ceremony, with a statement from him reading, “My absence is out of respect for people of my country and those of six other nations whom have been disrespected by the inhumane law that bans entry of immigrants to the US … filmmakers can turn their cameras to capture shared human qualities and break stereotypes … they create empathy between us and others, an empathy we need today more than ever.” 

Multiple other winners or presenters referred to these topics as well, with actor Gael Garcia Bernal, for one, saying before presenting the Oscar for best animated film, “As a Mexican, as a Latin American, as a migrant worker, as a human being, I’m against any form of wall that wants to separate us.”

Kimmel’s opening monologue was preceded by a performance by singer Justin Timberlake, who kicked off the show with a burst of energy with a performance of his hit song “Can’t Stop The Feeling,” which appeared in the 2016 movie “Trolls” and which was nominated for the Oscar for best original song.

And some of late-night host Kimmel’s less serious moments included having candy descend from the ceiling for the Oscars guests and bringing in a tour bus full of people who were unaware they would be attending the Oscars.

The best documentary Oscar that went to the work “O.J.: Made in America” was the latest acclaim for a 2016 project based on the 1995 O.J. Simpson trial after the FX series “The People v. O.J. Simpson” won multiple Emmy Awards.

Director Ezra Edelman dedicated the prize to Nicole Brown Simpson and Ronald Lyle Goldman, saying, “This is for them and their families. It is also for others – the victims of police violence, police brutality, racially motivated violence, and criminal injustice.” 

Other winners included the movie “Zootopia” for best animated feature.

At the ceremony, artists performed multiple nominees for the Oscar for best original song, with “Moana” star Auli’i Cravalho performing “How Far I’ll Go,” with a special introduction from “Hamilton” star and composer Lin-Manuel Miranda, as well as singer Sting performing the song “The Empty Chair” from the film “Jim: The James Foley Story” and singer John Legend performing two nominated songs from the movie “La La Land,” in which he appeared.

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