The Academy Awards celebrate quality performances and flawless production. But after last weekend’s show, I have a hard time believing that (at least, sort of). From what I saw, it actually looked like it was a good night for the film industry. Jimmy Kimmel was hilarious as always, and who doesn’t love Justin Timberlake? And yet, the 32.9 million viewers of the 89th awards experienced what was arguably the most awkward Oscars’ moment in the event’s history.
In Steve Harvey-esque fashion, presenters Warren Beatty and Faye Dunaway accidentally awarded the Oscar for Best Picture to La La Land instead of Moonlight. Instead of last year’s #OscarsSoWhite fiasco, we’ve moved on to #OscarsSoAwkward. La La Land was the clear favorite among critics. Just as everyone assumed Hillary Clinton would win the election, so too would La La Land take the top award. But alas, things are getting weirder by the day, and Moonlight took the prize.
Of course, this upset was not without its “John Podesta at the Javits Center” moment. The producers, cast, and crew of the film took the stage to make their acceptance speeches. About two minutes in, a few men wearing headsets politely move toward the microphone to pull one of the La La Land producers aside to break the news.
The audience and the La La Land group were stunned, naturally. Thankfully, the La La Land producer whose speech was interrupted acted graciously and announced with gusto that Moonlight was the rightful winner of the award.
According to a report at the Wall Street Journal, Mr. Beatty received the incorrect envelope from Brian Cullinan, one of the Pricewaterhouse Coopers partners at the award. Pricewaterhouse Coopers LLC is the accounting firm that’s been responsible for tallying the votes since 1935. Until the awards’ announcement, these accountants are the only ones who know the results. Before the Best Picture announcement, Mr. Cullinan was backstage, tweeting about meeting Emma Stone. Three minutes later, Beatty and Dunaway took the stage.
Mr. Cullinan asked for permission to post on social media during the ceremony, and according to one of the Journal‘s sources, was denied that permission. The Academy will be reviewing the backstage footage to confirm, but it is clear that a flub so serious will go down in history.
And what amusingly uncomfortable history it will be.