CAITLIN MCCAULEY | FEATURES COLUMNIST
The 89th Academy Awards left audiences thunderstruck when the final award of the night, Best Picture, was awarded to the wrong movie. In what Jimmy Kimmel, the host of the night, described as “the weirdest TV finale since ‘Lost’,” the award for Best Picture was mistakenly given to “La La Land” before their Oscars were rescinded and given to “Moonlight,” the true winners of Best Picture.
The award was presented by Warren Beatty and Faye Dunaway. Beatty hesitated before he announced the winner, handing the card to Dunaway so she could see the mistake. Beatty was given the wrong envelope, the one awarding Emma Stone for Best Actress in a Motion Picture. Dunaway, seeing only ‘Emma Stone—“La La Land”’ printed on the card, announced to all in attendance at the Dolby Theatre, and everyone watching at home, that “La La Land” had won for best picture. As managers for the show and backstage employees swarmed the stage, viewers knew something was amiss. The “La La Land” acceptance speech was interrupted about two minutes in, and a producer of “La La Land” announced to the audience: “We lost, by the way.” The “Moonlight” team then appeared on stage to accept the award.
PwC, the accounting firm that indexes all the votes for the Academy Awards, later clarified the mix-up after Emma Stone stated in an interview after the show that she still had her Best Actress card. There are two PwC employees backstage at the award show, one on each side and each with a set of the envelopes announcing the award winners. Brian Cullinan, the PwC partner who gave Beatty the envelope to read, mistakenly gave him the Actress in a Leading Role instead of Best Picture. In photos of Beatty on stage, it can be seen when zoomed in that he did indeed have the incorrect envelope.
Critics have speculated that the possible mix up could have been due to the switched colors of the envelopes. In years past they have been gold envelopes with dark lettering, but this year they were red envelopes with gold lettering, making it slightly more difficult to see the labels on them. Ironically, before announcing the incorrect Best Picture, Beatty stated the goal of the arts was to “get to the truth.”