Oscars: PwC apologises for blunder after La La Land incorrectly named as winner

Shock as Moonlight takes best picture minutes after La La Land is announced

In a mix-up for the Academy's most coveted prize Warren Beatty and Faye Dunaway announce La La Land as the winner, then realise that the real winner was in fact, Moonlight. CLIP COURTESY A.M.P.A.S. 2017

 

The 89th Academy Awards ended on Monday morning with what was certainly the most shocking moment in Oscar history.

In the final segment of the ceremony, Faye Dunaway and Warren Beatty announced that, as everyone expected, Damien Chazelle’s La La Land had won best picture. The producers of that musical were halfway through their acceptance speech when Beatty sidled in to confirm there had been an error. The winner was, in fact, Barry Jenkins’s Moonlight.

The La La Land team then gave over the stage to the folk behind that low-budget drama. It seems that Dunaway and Beatty had been handed the wrong envelope. The card within was a duplicate of that announcing Emma Stone, star of La La Land, as winner of the best actress Oscar.

Warren Beatty looks on during confusion over presentation for bst picture. Photograph: Lucy Nicholson/Reuters
Warren Beatty looks on during confusion over presentation for best picture. Photograph: Lucy Nicholson/Reuters

The veteran presenters’ tentativeness in reading out the title had been conspicuous. Beatty looked confused, showed the card to Dunaway and she declared La La Land the winner.

Accountancy firm PricewaterhouseCoopers (PWC) who were responsible for the counting and collation of votes apologiesd for its blunder. In a statement PWC said: “We sincerely apologise to Moonlight, La La Land, Warren Beatty, Faye Dunaway, and Oscar viewers for the error that was made during the award announcement for best picture. 
 “We are currently investigating how this could have happened, and deeply regret that this occurred.” 

The shock was compounded by the fact that, by this stage in the evening, La La Land’s triumph seemed inevitable. The film had converted six of its record-equalling 11 nominations into victories. Chazelle had, at 32, just become the youngest person ever to win best director and had delivered a charming speech.

“This was a film about love and I was lucky to fall in love while making it,” he said, addressing his girlfriend in the audience. Stone, who plays opposite Ryan Gosling in the director’s airy musical, had taken the best actress award. It looked as if Moonlight would have to settle for just two wins. Mahershala Ali won best supporting actor. Jenkins and Tarell Alvin McCraney took best adapted screenplay. Those two were the only awards they had been expected to win.

Moonlight

When the fuss over the error has died down (if it ever does) Jenkins will be justified in celebrating a remarkable achievement. Made for just $1.6 million, Moonlight tells the tale of an African-American man growing up gay in a rough corner of Miami. The film was among the best-reviewed releases of 2016, but many felt that it was a little too oblique to win at such a mainstream event. “Clearly even in my dreams this could not be true,” Jenkins said as both teams of producers still milled about him.

“But to hell with dreams. Oh my goodness. We have been on the road with these guys for so long. My love to La La Land.”

Mahershala Ali of ‘Moonlight’ poses with his Oscar for best supporting actor. Photograph: Lucy Nicholson/Reuters
Mahershala Ali of ‘Moonlight’ poses with his Oscar for best supporting actor. Photograph: Lucy Nicholson/Reuters

To that point the ceremony had been a lively, efficient and amusing jamboree. Events began with Justin Timberlake performing Can’t Stop the Feeling - Oscar-nominated song from Trolls - with a joyous bounce through the auditorium. Host Jimmy Kimmel perhaps profited from middling expectations as he gently prodded the stars and made a few inevitable cracks at Donald Trump. Those two strands were combined during a genuinely funny routine in which - referencing Trump’s attack on Meryl Streep - Kimmel derided that actress for her “many uninspiring and overrated performances”.

Elsewhere there were less politics about the place than many had predicted. Kimmel publicly tweeted Trump from the stage. The Mexican actor Gael Garcia Bernal, when presenting the award for best animated feature, addressed one of Trump’s most controversial policies. “As a Mexican, as a migrant worker, as a human being, I’m against any form of wall that separates us,” he said to a ripple of applause.

Winners L-R: Mahershala Ali (supporting actor-Moonlight), Emma Stone (best actress-La La Land), Viola Davis (supporting actress-Fences) and Casey Affleck (best actor-Manchester by the Sea). Photograph: Paul Buck/EPA
Winners L-R: Mahershala Ali (supporting actor-Moonlight), Emma Stone (best actress-La La Land), Viola Davis (supporting actress-Fences) and Casey Affleck (best actor-Manchester by the Sea). Photograph: Paul Buck/EPA

Travel ban

There was, however, a sniff of politics in one of the Academy’s decisions. Asghar Farhadi’s Iranian movie The Salesman took the award for best foreign language film. That Oscar had been marked down for Maren Ade’s German comedy Toni Erdmann until Trump’s travel ban set in. Farhadi declined to attend and Iranian astronaut Anousheh Ansari accepted in his place. “I’m sorry I’m not with you tonight,” Farhadi’s statement said. “My absence is out of respect for the people of my country and those of other six nations who have been disrespected by the inhumane law that bans entry of immigrants to the US.”

Away from La La Land’s sweep of six awards, the Academy spread the love pretty evenly. Moonlight was in second place with three Oscars. Kenneth Lonergan’s Manchester by the Sea and - a sign that a return from disgrace was imminent - Mel Gibson’s Hacksaw Ridge managed two awards. Best actor went to Casey Affleck for the Lonergan film. Viola Davis, an enormously strong favourite, won best supporting actress for her turn in Denzel Washington’s Fences.

There will be much to chew over in coming days. The Academy will, after recent complaints about a lack of diversity be happy that so many people of colour took home awards. But the manner of the show’s end will never be forgotten. None of the nominated movies managed such a jarring twist.

Oscar winners:
Best picture: Moonlight
Actor in a leading role: Casey Affleck — Manchester By The Sea
Actress in a leading role: Emma Stone — La La Land
Actor in a supporting role: Mahershala Ali — Moonlight
Actress in a supporting role: Viola Davis — Fences
Directing: Damien Chazelle — La La Land
Adapted screenplay: Moonlight — Barry Jenkins
Writing (Original screenplay): Manchester By The Sea — Kenneth Lonergan
Animated feature film: Zootopia
Cinematography: La La Land — Linus Sandgren
Music (Original song): City Of Stars — La La Land
Best makeup and hairstyling: Suicide Squad
Best costume design: Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them
Best documentary: OJ-Made in America    
Best sound editing: Arrival
Best sound mixing: Hacksaw Ridge 
Best foreign language film: The Salesman 
Best animated short: Piper 
Best animated feature: Zootopia
Best production design: La La Land  
Best visual effects: The Jungle Book 
Best film editing: Hacksaw Ridge 
Best documentary short: The White Helmets 
Best live-action short: Sing 
Best cinematography: La La Land