Hollywood’s most celebrated stars gathered Sunday, February 26 at the Dolby Theatre in Los Angeles for the 89th Annual Academy awards. Jimmy Kimmel was this year’s host, and he’s has gotten mixed reviews for his hosting job, which included lots of Matt Damon feud bits and food falling from the sky. His hosting though was overshadowed by a major mix-up at the end of the evening, when Best Picture was awarded to the wrong movie. Other highlights included performances by Best Original Song nominees and tribute videos to some of the iconic actors of the past decades.
Here is a rundown of some of the winners.
Best Picture – Moonlight, after La La Land was mistakenly given the prize. What a Hollywood ending. Warren Beatty was mistakenly given the Actress in a Leading Role envelope instead of the Best Picture one. This was the preeminent upset of the night, as La La Land has scooped up nearly every best picture prize this awards season. La La Land received a historic 14 nominations, tied for the most ever with Titanic and All About Eve. Moonlight follows the journey of a gay African American young man in Miami through three stages of his life. The movie was Barry Jenkins’ passion project, based on playwright Tarell Alvin McCraney’s drama school project In Moonlight Black Boys Looks Blue. Both Jenkins and McCraney grew up in Miami during a drug crisis, so the story is largely personal. This win is monumental for a small-scale movie like Moonlight, although some of the momentum was taken away by the twist ending. I have been rooting for Moonlight all season, so I was thrilled by this result. The movie is gorgeous and moving, innovative and creative.
Best Actor – Casey Affleck for Manchester by the Sea. This was a tight race between Affleck and Denzel Washington for his role as Troy in Fences. Affleck won this category at the the BAFTAs and the Golden Globes, but Washington won the Screen Actors Guild award, which is typically a predictor of the Oscar winner. Some thought Casey’s chances might be hurt by some allegations against him. Nevertheless, Affleck carries Manchester by the Sea beautifully with his subdued and earnest performance. A small part of me was hoping Viggo Mortensen might get it for his role in Captain Fantastic, but the movie didn’t get much recognition.
Best Actress – Emma Stone for La La Land. She was the favorite in this category, although her competition was certainly fierce. Natalie Portman (Jackie), Isabelle Huppert (Elle), Meryl Streep (Florence Foster Jenkins) and Ruth Negga (Loving) were the other nominees, and most awards that did not go to Stone this season went to Isabelle Huppert for her haunting performance as Elle in the movie of that same title. However, I was rooting for Natalie Portman for this one. In her portrayal of Jackie Kennedy in a biopic about her life post-Kennedy assassination, Portman shines. Her chances were hurt by the movie’s lack of recognition; the movie itself had mixed reviews.
Best Supporting Actor – Mahershala Ali for Moonlight. Although he was snubbed for the Golden Globe in this category, losing to Michael Shannon of Nocturnal Animals, he picked up nearly every other award in the category this season. The Globes aren’t typically a sound prediction of what happens at the Oscars—only a small group of journalists, the Hollywood Foreign Press, vote on them. Dev Patel, who took home the BAFTA for his role in Lion, was Ali’s fiercest competition. Mahershala’s win makes him the first Muslim in history to win an Oscar for acting.
Best Supporting Actress – Viola Davis for Fences. There was no doubt in my mind, or anyone else’s. Davis has won all 27 awards in this category throughout the season. There is some speculation as to why she was in this category rather than the leading actress category. When she won the Tony award after playing this role on Broadway, she was considered a leading actress. In any other year, this race would have been closer; Michelle Williams (Manchester by the Sea), Naomie Harris (Moonlight) and Nicole Kidman (Lion) all gave widely acclaimed performances. And Octavia Spencer (Hidden Figures), the fifth nominee, is an Academy favorite, having won the category for her role in The Help. If it weren’t for Davis, I think Naomie Harris would have taken this prize for her formidable performance as the mother of Moonlight’s main character, Chiron.
Best Original Score – La La Land, as expected. Musicals often get this prize, especially since largely successful musical movies would not succeed at all without a score worth hearing. I was rooting for the score from Jackie, but La La Land was essentially a shoe-in.
Best Original Song – Justin Hurwitz, Benj Pasek, and Justin Paul for “City of Stars” from La La Land, as predicted. They had two nominations in this category for “City of Stars” and “Audition (The Fools Who Dream)”. There was a slim chance that Lin Manuel Miranda’s “How Far I’ll Go” from Moana would win if the two La La Land songs split the vote. I was rooting for Miranda; it’s time for him to get an EGOT already.
Best Director – Damien Chazelle for La La Land. Chazelle is now the youngest Oscar-winning director in history, and he picked up the D.A.G. award earlier this year. The combined success of this movie in box office and with watchers makes it no surprise that Chazelle was the winner. Barry Jenkins, Moonlight’s director, had the best chance of beating Chazelle, but Chazelle’s work on movie-musical La La Land was the winner.
Best Cinematography – La La Land, as expected. Whether La La Land’s cinematography is actually the best is still up for debate, but I think that is being one of the movie’s stronger aspects helped this out. I was hoping Lion would take this one home; shot largely in India, Lion is an absolutely stunning visual experience.
Best Original Screenplay – Kenneth Lonergan for Manchester by the Sea. This one was a toss up between Chazelle and Lonergan, and one of the evening’s more suspenseful awards. Lonergan has always been regarded as a particularly strong writer, and Manchester by the Sea thrives in its earnest dialogue. This was one of my favorite wins of the night — Lonergan is a favorite of mine as both a director and a writer. He’s rather theatrical in his approach to film, and finds such an excellent balance between the light and dark, even in a movie as devastating as Manchester.
Best Adapted Screenplay – Barry Jenkins and Tarell Alvin McCraney for Moonlight. No surprises here. They have been the favorite in this category all season, although whether they should be in Adapted or Original screenplay is up for debate. The movie was based on a play by McCraney that was a project in school and never staged, so some think the movie should be considered an original.
Best Documentary Feature – O.J.: Made in America. It’s been a big year for O.J.-themed media, between this and the American Crime Story FX series that has picked up award after award throughout the last year.
Best Documentary Short Subject – The White Helmets. In Syria, the white helmets are a group of unarmed volunteers who sacrifice themselves to protect and help civilians. This is the only one I saw in this category, but I was moved beyond belief (it is available on Netflix for those interested).
Best Foreign Language Film – The Salesman (Iran). Toni Erdmann (Germany) was the favorite all season until The Salesman’s director, Asghar Farhadi, announced that he would be boycotting the ceremony due to President Trump’s proposed Muslim travel ban. This brought the movie a great deal of attention, something that clearly worked in its favor. This isn’t the end for Toni Erdmann, however; an American remake is set for next year.
Best Animated Feature – Zootopia. This one was the favorite, as it was a major hit in the box office and succeeded in its exploration of deeper themes through a largely child-focused medium. Kubo and the Two Strings had a slim chance of winning, but any non-Disney or non-Pixar animated feature has a tougher chance of success.
Best Animated Short – Piper, the story of a little bird who learns to love the ocean, won as predicted. Pixar often gets this award simply because of how widely seen their shorts are.
Featured image courtesy of Dolby.com.