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Friday, August 25, 2017 7:23 pm

‘Moonlight’ named best picture at Academy Awards after ‘La La Land’ mix-up: Jewish connections

NEW YORK CITY (JTA) – “Moonlight” was named best picture at the 2017 Academy Awards after “La La Land” producers gave acceptance speeches onstage after being announced erroneously as the winner.

“La La Land” did take home six Oscars at the ceremony Sunday night in Los Angeles after being nominated for 14, tying the record set by “All About Eve” and “Titanic.” But the seventh and biggest was not to be.

Award presenters Warren Beatty and Faye Dunaway hesitated after opening the envelope for best picture, which was later found to have included the proclamation that Emma Stone had won the best actress award for her work in “La La Land.” Stone had been announced as the best actress winner moments before, beating Jewish nominees Natalie Portman and Isabelle Huppert, among others.

Dunaway pronounced “La La Land” as the winner, and the film’s cast and producers took the stage and presented celebratory speeches. Producer Jordan Horowitz realized the error after being approached onstage by security personnel from the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences.

“There’s a mistake,” Horowitz told the crowd. “This is not a joke. ‘Moonlight’ has won best picture.” He then showed the cameras the correct card that pronounced “Moonlight” as the winner.

“I’m going to be really proud to hand this to my friends from ‘Moonlight,’” Horowitz said, raising the golden Oscar statuette that he had been handed.

Among the other major awards, Casey Affleck won as best actor for “Manchester By the Sea”;  Viola Davis was best supporting actress for “Fences,” and Mahershala Ali was best supporting actor won for “Moonlight.”

In his acceptance speech Ali, who is Muslim, thanked his teacher Zelda Fichandler, a Jewish stage producer, director and educator who was chair of the graduate acting program and master teacher of acting and directing at the Tisch School of the Arts at New York University.

Damien Chazelle, who won for best director for “La La Land,” grew up in a Catholic household in Princeton, N. J., but attended Hebrew school for four years after his parents became dissatisfied with his religious education at a church Sunday school.

Composter Justin Hurwitz, Chazelle’s Jewish roommate at Harvard University, won for best original score and for best original song for “City of Stars” from “La La Land.” Benj Pasek, who is Jewish, and Justin Paul wrote the song’s lyrics. Pasek in his acceptance speech thanked his mother, who he said “let me quit the JCC soccer league to be in a school musical.”

Kenneth Lonergan, whose mother and stepfather are Jewish, took home an Oscar for best original screenplay for “Manchester By the Sea.” He had also been nominated for best director.

Ezra Edelman, who with Caroline Waterlow won for best documentary feature for “O.J.: Made in America,” is the son of Marian Wright Edelman and Peter Edelman, among the founders of the New Israel Fund. Ezra Edelman also serves on the board of Americans for Peace Now.

“Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them,” based on the 2001 book by Harry Potter series author J.K. Rowling, which features two Jewish characters, took an Oscar for best costume design.

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