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Moonlight, a drama about a gay black youth coming to terms with his sexuality in an impoverished Miami neighborhood, received the Oscar for best picture after a stunning, unprecedented flub in which presenters erroneously announced the musical La La Land as the winner.
The cast and creative team for La La Land had already taken the stage to begin delivering acceptance speeches when one of the producers interrupted the proceedings to say that the award had been given to the wrong movie, and that Moonlight was the real victor. He then held up the envelope to the camera to prove it was true.
Veteran actor-director Warren Beatty tried to explain that he and Faye Dunaway announced the wrong winner because the envelope they had been handed bore incorrectly the name of best actress winner, Emma Stone, and the movie title La La Land.
Host Jimmy Kimmel joked after the snafu, "I knew I would screw this show up. I really did.
Emma Stone won her first Oscar on Sunday for her lead role as a struggling actress who falls in love with a jazz musician in musical romance La La Land.
Stone (28) plays Mia, a determined actress who tries to carve her own path in Hollywood, in a film that captures the fantasy and reality of falling in love against the backdrop of a dreamy Los Angeles.
The actress beat previous Oscar-winners Natalie Portman and Meryl Streep as well as France's Isabelle Huppert and Irish-Ethiophian Ruth Negga for the accolade.
Stone had been seen as the frontrunner for the Oscar after winning Golden Globe, BAFTA and Screen Actors Guild awards.
Casey Affleck won the best actor Oscar on Sunday for his role as a grief-stricken father in family drama Manchester by the Sea.
It was the first Oscar for Affleck (41) the younger brother of Argo director and actor Ben Affleck.
Affleck's understated performance as a taciturn working man who unexpectedly has to look after his teenage nephew beat challenges from Denzel Washington and Ryan Gosling to win the Academy Award.
Affleck swept awards in the run-up to the Oscars, taking home a Golden Globe and numerous trophies from film critics groups.
Stone and Affleck were the favourites to win the awards.
John Gilbert has won his second Oscar in Film Editing for the film Hacksaw Ridge.
Gilbert, from Wellington, told Newstalk ZB that at a Film Australia function celebrating the country's record 14 nominations, his Best Editing nod was celebrated as a 15th.
"They were trying to count me as an Australian but I told them to make it 14.5 - I really am a New Zealander when I comes down to it.
"New Zealand and Australia, we're just seen as the same kind of area I suppose."
Gilbert, who is nominated for Mel Gibson's WWII drama Hacksaw Ridge, says he's excited for the ceremony, but also 'vaguely terrified'.
"You sit in this auditorium with 1000 people, knowing that there's 100 million people watching, and the idea of having to get up and actually win the award and speak to all those people is a bit of a worry.
"I don't expect to win, but if I do I'll be nicely surprised."
As an Academy member, Gilbert wasn't ashamed to say he voted for himself.
This year is his second chance at an Oscar win, with a nomination in 2002 for the first Lord of the Rings instalment.
Viola Davis and Mahershala Ali won early Oscars for their supporting roles in African-American stories Fences and Moonlight on a night where diversity, and US President Donald Trump, both loomed large.
Ali, and a tearful Davis, each winning their first Oscars, were among a record seven actors of color nominated for Academy Awards this year, in stark contrast to 2016 when there were none.
O.J.: Made in America, a series about the 1995 double murder trial of former footballer O.J. Simpson won best documentary.
Trump and actress Meryl Streep also took center stage on the movie industry's biggest night as host Jimmy Kimmel fired off political zingers after an awards season marked by celebrity opposition to the Republican president and his policies.
"I want to say thank you to President Trump. Remember last year when it seemed like the Oscars were racist?" quipped Kimmel in an apparent reference to Trump's crackdown on immigrants and travelers from seven majority Muslim nations.
Streep (67) was given a standing ovation by the Oscar audience after Kimmel recalled how Trump had derided the actress as "overrated" after she attacked him at the Golden Globes ceremony in January.
"Meryl Streep has phoned it in for more than 50 films in the course of her lackluster career," Kimmel quipped as triple Oscar winner Streep squirmed in her seat.
Several celebrities wore blue ribbons on Sunday in support of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) advocacy group that worked to get Trump's travel ban blocked in US courts.
Iran's The Salesman was named best foreign language film but its director, Asghar Farhadi, boycotted Sunday's ceremony because of the Trump's controversial bid to ban travelers from seven majority Muslim nations.
In a speech delivered on his behalf by Iranian-American space expert Anousheh Ansari, Farhadi said his absence was due to "an inhumane law that bans entry into the US.. Dividing the world into the 'us' and 'our enemies' categories creates fear, a deceitful justification for aggression and war."
'ART HAS NO BORDERS'
Cheryl Boone Isaacs, president of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences which votes on the Oscar winners, made no mention of Trump when she took the stage on Sunday.
But she told the audience of A-listers and the millions of people watching on television around the world that, "tonight is proof that art has no borders, art has no single language and art does not belong to a single faith. The power of art is that it transcends these things," she said.
With a leading 14 nominations, romantic musical La La Land had looked set to dance away with an armful of Academy Awards, including best picture at the end of the night, for its love letter to artistic ambition and Los Angeles itself.
A best picture win for La La Land, starring Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone as a jazz pianist and a struggling actress, would be the first musical to win best picture at the Academy Awards since Chicago in 2003.
But the movie's chances of equaling the 11 Oscar record held by Titanic, Ben-Hur, and Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King, appeared to have slipped away as the musical lost early technical awards for sound and costumes.
ZOOTOPIA TOP ANIMATED FEATURE
Animal cartoon Zootopia, an exploration of bias through the comedic story of a bunny who becomes a police officer, won the Academy Award on Sunday for best animated feature film.
The movie from Walt Disney Co's Disney Animation Studios was one of year's biggest box-office hits, selling more than $1 billion in tickets worldwide.
"Zootopia" features the voice of Ginnifer Goodwin as Judy Hopps, a rabbit who leaves her small hometown to join the big-city police force. The family film tackles social issues as the residents of the animal metropolis are divided by prejudice and fear. Jason Bateman voices the role of a conniving fox.
The social commentary of Zootopia arrived in theaters as the United States grappled with issues of racism, sexism and inequality during the 2016 presidential campaign.
The filmmakers started developing Zootopia about five years ago with "this crazy idea of talking about humanity with talking animals, in hopes when the film came out it would make the world just a slightly better place," co-director Byron Howard said as he accepted the award.
Co-director Rich Moore said he was grateful to audiences around the world "that embraced this story of tolerance being more powerful than fear of the other."
The Oscar win for Zootopia extends a renaissance for Disney Animation Studios, which took home the animation trophy in 2014 for Frozen and in 2015 for Big Hero Six. Zootopia was co-directed by Byron Howard and Rich Moore.
Zootopia competed against another Disney Animation film, the musical Moana about a young Pacific island heroine. Other nominees were stop-motion film Kubo and the Two Strings, Swiss drama My Life as a Zucchini, and The Red Turtle, a film with no dialogue, from Japan's Studio Ghibli.
MUSIC AWARDS FOR LA LA LAND
With a leading 14 nominations, romantic musical La La Land won for orignal score and theme song City of Stars for its tale of a struggling actress (Emma Stone) and a jazz pianist (Ryan Gosling).
- additional reporting by New Zealand Herald