The 89th Academy Awards televised presentation was expected to be controversial. Everyone was wondering if we would have to witness moments such as actress Meryl Streep’s anti-Trump monologue at January’s Golden Globes Awards. While journalists have tallied at least 15 political moments at the 2017 Oscars, most of them were not particularly memorable.
By contrast, the night’s big controversy happened with the last award of the evening, best picture. Best picture award presenters actors Warren Beatty and Faye Dunaway announced La La Land as the best picture. After the La La Land cast and crew had assembled on the stage, it was revealed that a terrible mistake had taken place. Beatty and Dunaway had been given the wrong envelope. The best picture prize had actually been awarded to the film Moonlight.
The Academy tried to explain away the error. As it turns out, Warren Beatty had been handed the best actress award card, Emma Stone for La La Land. Ms. Stone had just received her award and was holding a copy of the best actress card. Apparently, PriceWaterhouseCoopers makes two copies of each award card, one for the recipient and one for internal use. Beatty looked confused when he opened the envelope and gave Dunaway a long look. The audience thought that this was just banter between two former co-stars who actually had been chosen to present the best picture Oscar in celebration of the fifty-year anniversary of their film Bonnie and Clyde. Even Dunaway thought Beatty was just having a moment with the audience. She opened the envelope and read La La Land as the winner.
While it is comforting to know that mistakes happen in live television even with seasoned performers on what has been described as “Hollywood’s biggest night,” I am still boggled by the idea that when Beatty and Dunaway opened the envelope and saw it was for the wrong award, they didn’t question it. Again, it is easy to Monday morning quarterback. After all last year, talk show host Steve Harvey accidentally announced the first runner up as the winner of the Miss Universe Pageant.
On this night of 1,000 stars, the biggest star of the evening was clearly Jordan Horowitz, the La La Land producer who moments after delivering an acceptance speech for “winning the 2017 Best Picture,” told the startled crowd and the millions of people watching all over the world, “Guys, guys, I’m sorry. No. There’s a mistake,” Horowitz said. “‘Moonlight,’ you guys won best picture. This is not a joke.” Horowitz then displayed the envelope which listed “Moonlight” as the winner of the 2017 Oscar for Best Picture.
Now that is grace under pressure. We should all take a page from him.
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