Plot Twist: ‘Moonlight’ Wins Best Picture After Mix-Up

By February 26, 2017
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Everyone was so convinced La La Land would take home the top award at the Oscars for best picture Sunday night, even the final presenters of the night was ready to give it to them.

But after all the speeches were shared – the Oscars offered its own plot twist: The actual best picture winners were the cast and crew from Moonlight.

Warren Beatty and Faye Dunaway took to the stage to not only announce best picture, but also to celebrate the 50th anniversary of their film, one-time best picture nominee Bonnie and Clyde. After Beatty opened the envelope, however, he stammered.

Dunaway, thinking he was just trying to be dramatic, elbowed Beatty along, but he handed the opened envelope to her. And with that, La La Land was the best picture winner.

It seems, however, Beatty was handed the wrong envelope. He explained soon after that read Emma Stone’s name for La La Land, and felt that couldn’t be right, as she just won best actress a few minutes earlier. Dunaway likely saw La La Land written on the envelope, and announced the film.

When the correct envelope was handed to Beatty, however, he realized there was a different winner: the Barry Jenkins film Moonlight.

As the La La Land team left the stage, Jenkins tried to calm down the confusion.

“Even in my dreams, this could not be true. To hell with dreams, be done with it. But this is true.”

“There was a time when I thought this movie was impossible, because I couldn’t bring it to fruition. I couldn’t bring myself to tell another story. But everyone behind me on this stage said that was unacceptable.”

Oscars host Jimmy Kimmel said he personally blamed Steve Harvey for the mix-up, making a joke about the Family Feud host in announcing the wrong winner at the Miss Universe pageant in 2015. Later, Kimmel joked that he knew he would “screw this show up.”

“Thank you for watching. I promise I’ll never come back.”

Moonlight ultimately won three awards on the night, including earlier awards for Mahershala Ali for best supporting actor, and the writing team of Jenkins and Tarell Alvin McCraney for best adapted screenplay.

To that point, La La Land had taken a dominating lead with six Oscar wins, including Stone’s victory in the best actress category. She personally thanked the other nominees in the category, like Isabelle Huppert for Elle, Ruth Negga for Loving, Natalie Portman for Jackie and Meryl Streep for Florence Foster Jenkins.

“To the women in this category – Natalie, Isabelle, Meryl, Ruth – you were all so extraordinary, and I look up to you, and I admire you more than I can put into words. It’s been the greatest honor to stand beside you. That is the greatest honor of them all.”

Stone also thanked her co-star Ryan Gosling, who was nominated in the best actor category, for “making me laugh and always raising the bar.”

Gosling watched as Casey Affleck took home the best actor award for Manchester by the Sea. Affleck, the younger brother of Ben Affleck and a childhood friend of one of Manchester‘s executive producers, Matt Damon, actually pointed out one of the other nominees in the category when accepting his trophy.

“One of the first people who taught me how to act was Denzel Washington, and I just met him tonight for the first time.”

“I’m only here because of all the talents and goodwill of so many people who are impossible to name. But most of all Ken Lonergan, and without this part and without his writing, I wouldn’t be here for sure.”

Affleck apologized for not having “something bigger and more meaningful to say,” but did add that he was “proud to be a part of this community” and was simply “dumbfounded that I am included.”

Lonergan won earlier in the night for best original screenplay, but lost in the director category to Damien Chazelle, who won for La La Land.

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Michael Hinman

Michael Hinman

Managing Editor at GeekNation
Michael began what has become nearly 19 years of entertainment reporting as the founder of SyFy Portal, which would become Airlock Alpha after he sold the SyFy brand to NBC Universal. He's based out of New York City where he is the editor of a Pulitzer Prize-winning newspaper in the Bronx.
  • John Ikarus

    They should have used the DeLorean for the Oscars they could’ve fixed this announcement hoopla!