By Joe Clancy `18
“And the winner is…,” well, that is a good question. This Sunday, February 26, the audience of the 89th Academy Awards heard that phrase a lot, in fact, one too many times. Going into the night, there were two heavily favored films to win Best Picture: La La Land, a film honoring the golden age of Hollywood, and Moonlight, a drama focusing on a homosexual black man trying to escape poverty. In deciding the award, the Oscars’ pageantry gave the audience a twist ending one could only hope to find in Hollywood.
Warren Beatty and Faye Dunaway, co-stars in the film Bonnie and Clyde, essentially stole the show when they came out to present the final and most prestigious award for Best Picture. Dunaway announced the win for La La Land and the cast congregated onto the stage to accept the award. Just as the director, Damien Chazelle, was giving his acceptance speech, it was announced that there was a mistake, and Moonlight had actually won the award. Everyone was shocked, including the cast of Moonlight, which became the first film with an all-black cast and LBGTQ plot to win.
In the immediate aftermath, it appeared that either Beatty or Dunaway was at fault, but they were just the messengers. PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC), the corporation in charge of calculating winners, released an official statement explaining the mistake: “PwC Partner Brian Cullinan mistakenly handed the back-up envelope for Actress in a Leading Role instead of the envelope for Best Picture to presenters….” It was innocent and candid, but the mix-up still left all in attendance and watching from home baffled.
Up until that point, La La Land and Moonlight had dominated the night. Coming into the Oscars, the two pictures held 22 nominations in the 24 categories. La La Land was nominated for 14 awards, including two separate nominations in the Best Original Song Category. Moonlight had received eight nominations.
The two films had also done very well with previous award ceremonies. During the Golden Globes, La La Land was nominated for Seven awards and won in all seven categories, making it the most awarded movie in Golden Globe history. Moonlight received six Golden Globes, making it the second most awarded movie in Golden Globe history. Among the Golden Globes brought in by the two films were Best Picture in both film categories, as well as Best Musical and Best Drama, respectively.
In the wake of the incident and its accompanying confusion, the director of Moonlight, Barry Jenkins, accepted the award saying that he had dreamed of the moment and was shocked it actually happened. He was not alone in a number of ways. Despite the mayhem, the mix-up seemed a fitting end to Oscar night—with an entire event dedicated to cinema and spectacle, a little drama was in order.