Oscars: ‘Moonlight’ Shines Amid Blue Ribbons

Barry Jenkins (left) and Tarell Alvin McCraney
Barry Jenkins (left) and Tarell Alvin McCraney (Courtesy of oscars.org)

The 89th Academy Awards in Los Angeles on Sunday night had memorable moments, such as former NASA scientist Katherine Johnson taking the stage, and the film “Moonlight,” a coming of age story following the life of a Black boy, taking the top award.

Black actors won Oscars for best supporting actor and actress out of the six Black actors nominated in the four acting categories. This follows two years in which Academy voters nominated all white actors, which resulted in the hashtag #OscarsSoWhite. The hashtag’s creator, April Reign, said it was not only about Black actors but all communities marginalized in Hollywood, including women, Latinos and Asians.

According to the Hollywood Diversity Report released last week, people of color bought nearly half (45 percent) of all movie tickets sold in the United States in 2015. Latinos accounted for 23 percent of ticket purchases alone.

This year, the only non-Black acting nominee of color was British-Indian actor Dev Patel for his supporting performance in “Lion.” The last Latino best actor nominee was Demian Bichir in 2012. The last Latina to be nominated for the lead actress award was Colombian actress Catalina Sandino Moreno in 2005 for “Maria Full of Grace.”

At the awards show, presenters Warren Beatty and Faye Dunaway initially announced that romantic musical “La La Land” had won for best picture. However, Beatty explained he had been given the wrong envelope to open, and “Moonlight” was actually the winner.

PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC), who oversees the ballots, said the presenters had mistakenly been given the wrong category envelope.

PwC issued a statement apologizing for the confusion:

“We sincerely apologize to ‘Moonlight,’ ‘La La Land,’ Warren Beatty, Faye Dunaway, and Oscar viewers for the error that was made during the award announcement for Best Picture.

“The presenters had mistakenly been given the wrong category envelope and when discovered, was immediately corrected. We are currently investigating how this could have happened, and deeply regret that this occurred.

“We appreciate the grace with which the nominees, the Academy, ABC, and Jimmy Kimmel handled the situation.”

The coming of age drama “Moonlight” follows a Black boy named Chiron through defining moments of his life in childhood, adolescence and adulthood, as he grapples with his sexuality and identity among his peers.

The film’s director, Barry Jenkins, and Tarrell Alvin McCraney, who both grew up in Miami, won an Oscar for best adapted screenplay.

Mahershala Ali, 43, won the best supporting actor award for his role in the film. Ali is said to be the first Muslim actor to win an Academy Award.

The Human Rights Campaign (HRC) tweeted Sunday night:

 

Blue Ribbons and a Boycott

Jenkins, like many of the celebrities in attendance, wore a blue ribbon in support of the American Civil Liberties Union’s (ACLU) “Stand With ACLU” initiative.

Radio host and fashion commentator Bevy Smith tweeted:

The ACLU responded:

 

When President Donald Trump issued an executive order restricting travel for refugees and citizens of seven Muslim-majority countries last month, the ACLU filed a lawsuit against the administration on behalf of two men detained at New York’s John F. Kennedy airport and threatened with deportation.

The film “The Salesman” was directed by Asghar Farhadi, who is Iranian. It won the Oscar for best foreign language film. But Farhadi boycotted the awards ceremony because of the travel ban, which affects his country.

Anousheh Ansari, an engineer who was the first female space tourist, read a statement on behalf of Farhadi.

“My absence is out of respect for the people of my country and those of other six nations whom have been disrespected by the inhumane law that bans entry of immigrants to the U.S.,” Ansari said, in reading from Farhadi’s statement.

“Dividing the world into the ‘us’ and ‘our enemies’ categories creates fear, a deceitful justification for aggression and war.”

Actor Gael García Bernal, who is Mexican, made a statement in opposition to the Trump administration’s planned border wall between the United States and Mexico.

Before announcing the best animated feature film award with Hailee Steinfield, he said:

“A lot of actors are migrant workers. We travel all over the world, we construct stories, we build life but cannot be divided.

“As a Mexican, as a migrant worker, as a human being, I’m against any form of wall that separates us.”

‘Hidden Figure’ Honored, Viola Davis Wins

Before the cast of “Hidden Figures,” including Taraji P. Henson, Octavia Spencer and Janelle Monae, presented the nominees for best documentary feature, they introduced 98-year-old Katherine Johnson, who joined them on stage. Henson played the former NASA research mathematician in the film.

Johnson received the Presidential Medal of Freedom from former President Barack Obama in 2015 for her work at NASA from 1953 to 1986 when she retired.

NASA tweeted the following:

 

Viola Davis won her first Oscar for her supporting role in “Fences.” She had been nominated for an Oscar twice in the past.

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

“Fences” is the screen version of the August Wilson play, for which Davis won a Tony Award for the same role in 2010.

View Davis’ speech:

The complete list of 2017 Oscar winners

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