The Blue & Gray Press

The University of Mary Washington Student Newspaper

How can we make sure Sunday’s Oscar’s blunder never happens again?

3 min read

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In what seemed like a surefire victory for Damien Chazelle’s “La La Land” one of the biggest upsets in Oscar history occurred. During the 89th Academy Awards on Sunday night “La La Land” was named best picture, but moments later it was announced that “Moonlight” took the prize.

The producers and actors of “La La Land” got up and were giving their thanks when abruptly it was stated that “Moonlight” had in fact won. “La La Land” producer Jordan Horowitz made the announcement and handed the Oscar off to the cast and crew of “Moonlight.” There was confusion amongst the two presenters of the award, Warren Beatty and Faye Dunaway on what the envelope contained.

When Beatty opened the envelope, he took a considerable look at it before showing it to Dunaway, who announced “La La Land” as the winner. After it was said that “Moonlight” was the true winner, Beatty clarified the envelope stated, ‘Emma Stone, La La Land’ which caused him to take that extensive look.

Shortly after the awards ceremony, Stone spoke with ABC that she held onto her own best actress envelope after she won for best actress. Users on Twitter and Reddit quickly pointed out that the envelope that Beatty was holding read “Actress in a Leading Role.”

PricewaterhouseCoopers, which is the accounting firm that tallies the Oscar voting told ABC that Beatty and Dunaway did in fact receive the incorrect envelope. There is currently an investigation on how this occurred and the firm stated deep regrets on the situation. The firm does print two of every envelope since the recipient of an academy award gets to keep it.

This is yet another live television flub that in many ways resembles the Steve Harvey Miss Universe 2015 pageant. The difference with Harvey’s mishap and the Oscars is that incident took days to gain media attention while this time it was unfolding before the world’s eyes.

What might need to happen to prevent such mishaps is to have presenters know the winners beforehand so it doesn’t happen again. Horowitz handled the situation with grace and integrity and handed the award over to Moonlight director Barry Jenkins. Some may be surprised how well it was handled given that Hollywood is a fiercely competitive environment. What they don’t know is that most of the nominated directors, actors and producers have upmost respect for one another. Hollywood Reporter and Variety have videos where nominees talk and learn from each other about the filmmaking process.

The Oscars ceremony isn’t the only place the nominees get to meet. A lot of things can go wrong during award shows, but nothing is more awkward than announcing the wrong winner. Mistakes always happen and perhaps the academy will be even more cautious in the future. In the end of each Oscar broadcast there’s a disclaimer that states the results are only known to PricewaterhouseCoopers and aren’t revealed until the envelope is opened on air.

Perhaps the accounting firm could work something out with the presenters to let them know who true winner is in the event of a mix-up. This could prove to be difficult since one of them could potentially reveal a winner to the press before the ceremony.

 It’s a shame Moonlight’s big win will be overshadowed by media coverage of the mix-up rather than the award itself. It’s been the main topic of discussion for the past couple of days. Even some conspiracy theories have gotten out of control with many reading way too much into it. Perhaps analysis of this mix-up is unnecessary and all the academy needs to do is simply be more careful in the years ahead. 

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