The 2017 Academy Awards wasn’t supposed to be full of surprises, with most everyone expecting a big night for La La Land. Yet the ceremony ended with a shocker: Presenters Warren Beatty and Faye Dunaway mistakenly read La La Land as the winner of Best Picture, but Moonlight had actually won the award.
What seemed like possibly a sick joke, perhaps planned by host Jimmy Kimmel as a spoof of Steve Harvey reading the wrong winner at the 2015 Miss Universe pageant, turned out to be reality. This was no joke. The wrong film was announced, and the Oscars stage was briefly chaos as the La La Land crew left the stage while everyone associated with Moonlight claimed Best Picture.
When Dunaway said “La La Land,” nothing seemed out of the ordinary. It was the culmination of an anticipated big night, during which the musical won six Oscars, including Best Actress for Emma Stone and Best Director for Damien Chazelle. (Chazelle became the youngest winner of the award at 32 years old.)
Yet something seemed amiss when Beatty opened the envelope to announce the winner. Was he trying to keep everyone in suspense and build anticipation by not saying the winner? Was Beatty having a senior moment? Was he trying to be gracious in giving the card to Dunaway to let her read the winning film? Or was he trying to make sure something inexplicable hadn’t happened?
The producers of La La Land took the stage because their film was announced as Best Picture. All seemed normal, and a very long Oscars ceremony was reaching its end. But then things got very weird as people were making their speeches.
As his fellow producers were making their acceptance speeches, word of the wrong title being read circulated around the stage with Oscars organizers and stage managers informing the La La Land team of what happened. Then producer Jordan Horowitz took the microphone and announced the shocking news: Moonlight had actually won Best Picture, not La La Land. What in the hell was going on?
While everyone in the audience was trying to process whether an elaborate prank was being played or an embarrassing mistake had just occurred, and the La La Land crew was leaving the stage in order for the Moonlight team to accept the Best Picture award, Kimmel and Beatty explained what had happened. The wrong card was in the envelope.
How the entirely wrong card, a duplicate of Emma Stone winning Best Actress for La La Land, ended up in the red envelope handed to Beatty is a mystery that will hopefully be explained soon. Maybe we’ll get an oral history from whomever handled the envelope, Warren Beatty, Jimmy Kimmel, Jordan Horowitz and the La La Land producers, and director Barry Jenkins with the team from Moonlight.
Speaking of Moonlight, here’s the acceptance speech from the real 2017 Best Picture winners once order was restored.
In the meantime, an Oscars ceremony that seemed likely to be more memorable for the jokes, statements and speeches directed at President Donald Trump (or maybe the comedic feud between Kimmel and his arch-nemesis Matt Damon), rather than whatever films may have won awards, will now be remembered for years to come. And what looked like a triumphant night for La La Land suddenly, surreally became bittersweet.
At the very least, the Academy and the Oscars producers will make damn sure the correct card is in the envelope and announced from here on out. Did those Price Waterhouse guys with the briefcase mess something up? Were they even on the job this year?
And after all this, does the story about Jack Palance accidentally giving Marisa Tomei the Best Supporting Actress award at the 1994 Oscars now seem more like it could really be true?