It’s so hard to believe what happened at the Oscars. Even if I hadn’t been four glasses of wine deep, I don’t think I’d understand it any better. After a largely unremarkable Oscars ceremony, the entire production devolved into chaos right at the end. After the cast and crew of La La Land took the stage to accept their award for Best Picture, they were soon informed they had not actually won. For one brief and glorious moment, the 89th Academy Awards looked more like a wrestling promo than a sophisticated awards show.
The most shocking part was that La La Land lost at all. Leading up to the ceremony, everyone on Earth had already come to the same two conclusions. One: Moonlight deserved to win Best Picture. Two: The award would go to La La Land. It’s just what the Academy does. Make a movie about how great Hollywood is, and they’ll reward you for it. The Oscars awarding Best Picture to the year’s actual best picture is a rarity.
So what happened? It all started with Warren Beatty. When he opened the envelope to announce the Best Picture winner, he took an awfully long time to read the name. At the time, we all believed he was pausing for dramatic effect. After all, Beatty has always been (and I mean this in the best possible way) a ham. But, after all the confusion, there turned out to be a good reason for the pause. He had been given the wrong envelope. As freely as the Steve Harvey jokes flowed, the two incidents aren’t all that similar. Harvey misread the correct (admittedly confusingly laid out) envelope. Beatty was given the Best Actress envelope by mistake.
How is that possible? Emma Stone, who had just accepted her Oscar for Best Actress, was holding the envelope bearing her name. Well, it turns out two envelopes are printed for each category, just in case one gets lost, or there’s some kind of mistake I guess. Although last night, it led to a mistake rather than preventing one. According to Forbes, there are two people who know the winners before the envelope is opened. Those would be Martha Ruiz and Brian Cullinan, two PricewaterhouseCoopers partners who collect the ballots and make sure the awards get to the right people. They can be seen running up to the stage to correct the mistake.
So why did the wrong envelope end up in Beatty’s hand? Nobody has an answer for that, so let the wild conspiracy theories roll. Clearly, clearly, somebody didn’t want Moonlight to win Best Picture. Not in today’s post-great again America, no sir. Why the Academy had already done enough damage with their Best Foreign Film category. Did you know none of the movies nominated for Best Foreign Film were made in America? Shameful. That’s why an American/Russian/Dalek/Reaper operative switched the envelopes before it was too late. Thankfully, their efforts were for naught, and the art of film was saved by the powers of bureaucracy.
Yes, it was definitely either that, or someone grabbed the wrong envelope by accident. One of those two. In either case, we should be thankful it happened. The mistake was corrected, but not before La La Land producer Jordan Horowitz called his (translucently white) film a “bold and diverse work.” We all got to hear that moments before he had to give up his Oscar. You really couldn’t ask for a better ending to an interminably long night.