The end of the 89th Academy Awards has already become the thing of legend. In the biggest mistake in the entire history of the Oscars, La La Land was read out as the winner of Best Picture winner at the climax of last Sunday's ceremony, only for it to be revealed there'd been a major mixup and the award had actually gone to Moonlight.
Now the dust has settled, we have a good idea what went wrong. Warren Beatty, who was presenting the award with Faye Dunaway, was accidentally given a duplicate Best Actress envelope instead of the Picture, so when it came to announcing the award the card said La La Land (Emma Stone won the award for her part in the musical). It was further discovered to be the fault of Brian Cullinan and Martha Ruiz; the accountants from PricewaterhouseCoopers who oversee the awards process were reportedly distracted from organizing the winners by social media. However, while that explains how the mistake happened, it doesn't quite address why it took so long to correct; two minutes and twenty seconds passed before the problem was raised, during which time three of La La Land's producers had given speeches.
Speaking to The Wrap, Oscars stage manager Gary Natoli has elaborated on why things were so confused, further putting blame on the accountants:
"I was in the wings stage left with Jimmy [Kimmel] when they announced La La Land. We watched for about 10 more seconds, and during that entire time Martha [Ruiz] was no more than five feet away from us. When La La Land was announced, she did not try to get my attention, she did not say anything. And she’s supposed to have memorized the winners. As I was taking Matt’s wife to the side of the house [they were prepping a final comedy bit involving Matt Damon], I heard John Esposito [stage manager] on my headset say, ‘Brian [Cullinan] says he didn’t think they said the right winner. Can you have Martha check her envelope?’ That was the first time I heard anything about it, and it was probably a minute, or a minute and 15 seconds, from the time Faye announced the wrong winner."
So not only was there an envelope mixup, but there was no immediate response from either of the accountants to the mistake, which led to no major red flags being raised and everything continuing as planned. This is backed up by the footage of the now-immortal snafu; it does take over a minute for the show officials to start checking the envelopes to rectify the issue.
Natoli also revealed that before the night he had actually discussed the protocol in the highly unlikely chance of a mistake. After Cullinan suggested his plan - "Well, we would tell the stage managers and check with each other and react" - the manager corrected him: "If you know who the winner is, you don’t need to check with each other. You need to immediately go out and rectify the situation, ideally before the wrong winners get to the mic." This advice was clearly not followed, with the pair freezing up following their error.
In the end, the handling of the flub has been widely praised; La La Land producer Jordan Horowitz, in particular, has been commended for his calm, selfless announcement of his loss, giving a rarely seen look at the sportsmanship of the awards. The mistake ended what was an otherwise entertaining evening full of deserving winners, although the popularity of host Jimmy Kimmel didn't do anything to reverse declining ratings. After this year's eventful finale, however, it's likely many more will tune in next year - even though the Academy are sure to crack down on any potential issues.
Source: The Wrap