erik lundegaard

Monday February 27, 2017

The Oscars: Everyone's Getting It Wrong About Who Got It Wrong

Oscar Screw-up: Moonlight Wins Best Picture, Wasn't Announced Correctly

“There's a mistake. 'Moonlight,' you guys won best picture.”

I admit it: I thought he was milking it. 

I like presenters who get right down to it. “And the Oscar goes to Vinny for that piece of shit, 'Mad Max.'” Boom. Over, done. Don't hold the stage when the stage isn't yours; when we're all there for someone and something else. 

But Warren Beatty seemed to be doing just that. The best picture winners were all announced, he opened the envelope, looked at the card, then looked back in the envelope. The fuck? He got some laughs for that. “Just announce it already,” I thought. He looked over at Faye Dunaway, his costar for “Bonnie and Clyde,” which was released 50 years ago and heralded a new (and shortlived) era in Hollywood, which was what the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences was honoring last night, Feb. 26, 2017, by having these two former big, big stars present the Oscar for best picture. But even as Beatty looked at her, Dunaway seemed impatient. He tried to right the ship. “And the Academy Award ... for best picture ...” Then he stopped again. She moved forward, as if to say, “Say it already!” and he shot her a look. No, not her. If you watch it again, he shot a look to the sides, to the wings of the stage, as if to say, “Is anyone going to help me here?”

Think about that. It's an unprecedented moment for anyone presenting at the Academy Awards. You're about to announce the most presitigious film award of the year and you know they've given you the wrong card. The card in your hand says, “Emma Stone, La La Land.” It's the card for best actress, which has already been announced. Apparently they have two envelopes for each award, one for either wing of the stage, and somehow Beatty wound up with the best actress envelope/card.

That's the real story. How did he wind up with the wrong card? Who gave it to him? Who wasn't paying attention? (UPDATE: The answer appears to be Brian Cullinan of PriceWaterhouseCooper.)

Nevertheless, it wound up in his hand. And he knew. And that's what that cutting look backstage meant. But he saw no help there. And everyone in front of him and around the world was impatient. Everyone, like me, thought the old man was milking it; that he was in his dotage and wanted the attention. 

I think in his younger days Beatty would've said something. He would've announced, “We got the wrong card. Can someone give us the card for best picture, please?” Straightforward. He might’ve made a joke about it. “Emma Stone is great but she's hardly best picture.” But he's older now, a month from turning 80 years old, and he didn't quite know what to do. Backstage wasn’t helping. So he showed Faye Dunaway the card—probably to show her that it was effed up—and she simply read the bottom part. She announced “La La Land.” The orchestra played, and the producers, etc., got up in their finery and made their way to the stage. Like normal.

Meanwhile, Beatty had a slightly sick look on his face. Like he was trapped in a nightmare from which he couldn't wake.

The straightforwardness had to come from producer Jordan Horowitz, who was the first to thank everyone for the Oscar for best picture, and who, amid other speeches, realized the error. He came forward and said the following:

“I'm sorry, no. There's a mistake. 'Moonlight,' you guys won best picture.”

I love the “you guys.” Makes it sound like it’s a little league game or something.

The calm straightforwardness with which he said all of this made it seem even more surreal, but I love Horowitz's thoughts about it this morning to CNN:

“Hey, I won the Oscar for best picture. I got to thank my wife and kids. And then I got to present the Oscar for best picture. Not many people can say that.”

I would say zero other people can say that. He’s the first person in history to both present and accept the Oscar for best picture in the same evening. Good future Oscar trivia question.

Normally I would’ve liked this twist ending if but for the following reasons:

  1. It was a good show. Jimmy Kimmel was a great host. And all of that is forgotten now. No one’s mentioning it. Shame. He should be asked back.
  2. There’s already conspiracy theorists out there thinking the old Hollywood guard was trying to deny this black LGBTQ movie its rightful place in Oscar history. #envelopegate is currently trending on Twitter. Good god, people, go back to the moon landing or something.
  3. Beatty’s getting blamed for it. The one guy who knew it was wrong; the one who didn’t announce. It’s being called “The Warren Beatty Oscar screw-up.” Variety tweeted “Warren Beatty makes mistake.” Etc. etc.

Here's one of those tweets:

That’ll never go away, by the way. That will always be there. People will always get it wrong about who got it wrong. They'll crow about it. 

Warren Beatty looks angrily backstage but receives no help

The moment: Beatty looks angrily backstage for help, receives none.

Posted at 10:18 AM on Monday February 27, 2017 in category Movies - The Oscars  
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Twitter: @ErikLundegaard