Update: In a post-show interview, Emma Stone claimed to have been holding her Best Actress card “that whole time” during the Best Picture segment of the show. Additionally, there are reportedly always two sets of Oscar-winner announcement cards for every category at every show. So maybe this is a conspiracy…or that PA f***d up real bad.
Conspiracy theories are borne out of moments of indescribable confusion. And a new one was created tonight at the 89th Annual Academy Awards ceremony, where, for the briefest of moments, La La Land won Best Picture.
The event played out like this. In celebration of the 50th anniversary of the great Bonnie & Clyde, Bonnie and Clyde themselves Warren Beatty and Faye Dunaway took the stage to award the most coveted award in Hollywood cinema: The Best Picture Oscar. Beatty opened the card, went to the mic, then paused.
Beatty proceeded to look back at the card, squint in confusion, then turn to his on-stage partner. He flashed Dunaway the card, who looked at the card briefly, perhaps merely seeing the film title in bold, and called out “La La Land.”
About a minute into the speech, everything came to a halt when one of the La La Land winners (Jordan Horowitz) announced that Moonlight had actually won the award for Best Picture, insisting that it was not a joke and flashing the real card to the camera (the Academy crew quickly moving to the dramatic closeup of the card).
So what happened? Did La La Land win? Did Moonlight win? Who screwed up?
In a world of alternative facts and truth being dictated by emotions, it almost feels fitting that this is how the Oscars in post-election 2017 concluded. The fact is that Moonlight won the award (even if some folks, *cough* Mark Ellis *cough*, claim it all to be a rigged stunt).
Moonlight‘s belated win is the gut punch to La La Land‘s massive awards season run. La La Land, taking home numerous awards at the Golden Globes and the Best Picture-predicting Producers Guild Awards, was the clear favorite coming into the Academy Awards with a record breaking 14 nominations. Moonlight was the underdog, the crowd favorite that didn’t have a clear path to victory when it came to Best Picture.
With Moonlight taking home the unclear win, after an awkward second round of acceptance speeches, we are left to pick up the pieces as to what happened.
Somehow, Beatty received the wrong card (as far as I know, the winner of Oscar awards take the envelope and card along with the statue, so why Emma Stone didn’t have the card with her name on it I do not know). It isn’t his fault, nor is it Dunaway’s, even though she was the one to say the wrong name.
With no one to blame aside from, in all likelihood, some unfortunate young PA runner who received an earful and a kick to the curb as soon as the show was over, the final triumphant moment of Best Picture was left unfulfilled.
The pack of La La Land, particularly Damien Chazelle, were likely dumbstruck and devastated by having their hearts lifted and then dropped from the ceiling of the Dolby Theater. The Moonlight crew then had to take the stage and usher out the surprised non-winners.
It is hard for Moonlight to truly relish its victory in light of the controversy. But they deserve the win, and Horowitz’ highly respectable passing of the Oscar from La La to Moonlight certainly re-established some sense of decorum to the room in the immediate aftermath.
If this were a conspiracy theory, though, we might start by looking at Ms. Stone. What did she do with that card…
In all seriousness, the Moonlight win should not be lessened in value, superseded by the process by which it happened. Twitter may be broken, and all of the early morning news outlets will do their 30-second cheeky spiel about the momentous faux pas. But it is just a show where adults give shiny objects to adults for playing make pretend (note: the reductiveness of that statement is intentionally hyperbolic).
There is no winner in this situation (aside from their being a literal winner, and that literal winner is cause for this no-win situation in the first place…), but I think we have learned a valuable lesson from the likes of the Academy and Steve Harvey and, perhaps, certain political figures: Don’t read things out loud if you aren’t 100% certain what they mean!
So…do we call this La La Land-gate or Moonlight-gate. Which one makes more sense? I mean, neither of them are hotels, so the terms mean absolutely nothing, but which one sounds better?
As always, thanks for reading!