Near the end of the 89th Academy Awards, Warren Beatty and Faye Dunaway announced “La La Land” as the winner for the best picture award. After chaos backstage, one of the biggest mistakes in Oscar history occurred. “Moonlight,” not “La La Land,” won the award for best picture. Although the mistake was shocking to the audience and viewers, it did not completely ruin the night.
How could a mistake like this possibly happen? PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) is responsible for the ballots. Two accountants representing PwC carry a briefcase with the winner envelopes and memorize the winners. Accountants hand off the envelopes to the presenters before they enter the stage.
This year, accountants Brian Cullinan and Martha Ruiz stood on either side of the stage and distributed the envelopes to presenters. Cullinan handed the presenters for best picture the envelope for best actress which read “Emma Stone for ‘La La Land.’” According to abc.net, Nigel Currie, a branding specialist, said the mistake was “as bad a mess-up as you could imagine.”
During the acceptance speeches of “La La Land,” there was commotion backstage. Ultimately, the envelope for best picture was revealed. “Moonlight” won the award.
For PwC, it was a nightmare. According to abc.net, Currie said, “They had a pretty simple job to do and messed it up spectacularly. They will be in deep crisis talks on how to deal with it.”
PwC apologized to everyone that was affected in order to protect their image. According to CNN, they said, “We sincerely apologize to ‘Moonlight,’ ‘La La Land,’ Warren Beatty, Faye Dunaway, and Oscar viewers for the error that was made during the award announcement for Best Picture.”
The error did in fact put “Moonlight” in an uncomfortable position as they took the award from “La La Land.” According to CNN, Mahershala Ali, winner of best actor for “Moonlight,” said, “It threw me more than a bit. I didn’t want to go up there and take anything from somebody. It’s very hard to feel joy in a moment like that.”
Despite the controversy, Moonlight and La La Land supported one another. Stone said, “God, I love ‘Moonlight’ so much. I was so excited for ‘Moonlight,’” according to CNN. Also the Director of Moonlight, Barry Jenkins, thanked the “La La Land” team for being “so gracious” during the event.
Will Brooks, theatre teacher at HR, said, “I am surprised there hasn’t been more mistakes like that. Mistakes happen all the time. Even in Cinderella things happen backstage.” However, Brooks said, “Chaos should be avoided at a professional level.”
Brooks makes a valid point. Many viewers were shocked, because they had never seen an incorrect winner announced at the Academy Awards. However, it was just a mistake, which is sometimes unavoidable amidst the chaos that occurs backstage.
Moreover, instead of ruining the night, the mistake resulted in some positive reactions. I watched the Oscars in order to see the drama unravel. Although it was stressful for the people responsible, it was quite humorous to watch.
In fact, the humor helped everyone involved handle the chaos. I think the “Moonlight” and “La La Land” actors acted graciously and made light of the situation in the best way they could.
The 89th Academy Awards will definitely be remembered as having one of the worst mistakes in Oscar history. However, the mistake was quickly resolved. It is unlikely that either cast and crew members from “La La Land” or “Moonlight” will hold any resentment against the accountant members representing PwC.
Ashley Burns, Staff Reporter