The Oscars made history tonight, though not exactly the kind of history it wanted to make. As Warren Beatty and Faye Dunaway came out to present Best Picture, Beatty opened the envelope and took a lengthy pause before reading the winner—a pause that many, including Dunaway, took for some kind of tension-building/feeble old man shtick. And when Dunaway read the winner as La La Land, no one believed anything was amiss. Of course it was La La Land. This whole awards season, the narrative has been La La Land’s inevitable victory. And so, as the producers, cast, and crew came on stage to begin their well-rehearsed acceptance speeches, nothing seemed out of the ordinary.
But then Warren Beatty popped back in—always with the Warren Beatty—and suddenly it was evident something had gone very wrong.
“This is not a joke,” said producer Jordan Horowitz. “Moonlight, you guys won Best Picture.”
After the initial shock wore off, and Jimmy Kimmel made the obligatory Steve Harvey reference, Beatty attempted to explain. “I want to tell you what happened,” Beatty said. “I opened the envelope and it said ‘Emma Stone, La La Land,’ and that’s why I took such a long look… I wasn’t trying to be funny.’”
Oh but it was funny—funny in the Bulworth, I-can’t-believe-this-is-actually-happening sense. And if you look at closely at the envelope Beatty was holding, you’ll see it wasn’t his fault.
Amid all of this, full credit to the La La Land team for yielding so quickly and so graciously to Moonlight, a film whose well-deserved victory now feels even more like a surprise upset.