Who is Responsible for the Biggest Error in Oscars History?

By  · Published on February 27th, 2017

‘Moonlight’ crowned victorious among a moment of shock.

Pictured (L to R): Justin Horowitz (La La Land Producer), Host Jimmy Kimmel, Actor Warren Beatty
“Those responsible have been sacked.”— Monty Python and the Holy Grail

The scene was the 89th Annual Academy Awards. The night had been going along to most pundits projections including six wins for Best Picture favorite, La La Land. The precursors were aligned in the films’ favor, including wins for Best Actress Emma Stone and Best Director Damien Chazelle. It was time for the big moment of the night when best picture of the year was to be announced. In celebration of the 50th anniversary of Bonnie and Clyde, Warren Beatty and Faye Dunaway were to present the final award of the evening. The nominees were read and then it was time to announce the winner.

Except when it wasn’t. Warren Beatty was handed the wrong envelope.

Beatty proceeded to examine the envelope in what was making the everyone a little bit nervous. Faye Dunaway grabs the envelope from Beatty and announces that La La Land has won the award for best picture of the year. Except it hadn’t.

Justin Horowitz (La La Land Producer)

Moonlight was actually the true winner of best picture of the year.

Who is to blame for this massive snafu? Let’s try to get to the bottom of this egregious error.

The Case for Warren Beatty

Warren Beatty has made a massive mistake this year already; he directed and starred in the uneven Rules Don’t Apply. Even if that wasn’t the only reason, Annette Bening’s husband is getting older everyday. The seventy-nine year old has seen plenty in his day and he isn’t getting any younger. When he was given the envelope he had the instinct to be able to tell something was wrong. He has to check to make sure what he was reading was right, maybe his eye sight was playing tricks on him? He just didn’t want to commit to saying those words unless he was absolutely sure. Even when the mistake was made, he explained what happened and how the error was made. Was Beatty responsible for this goof?

Probably not. Would a younger actor reading the card recognize the error and be able to act faster? Perhaps. It is easy to diagnose the situation when you aren’t under enormous pressure.

The Case for Jimmy Kimmel

Host Jimmy Kimmel

Jimmy Kimmel was having a rough night. His signature bits weren’t working out all that well and he needed the night to be memorable. Making fun of Matt Damon can only take you so far. Perhaps there is reason enough to believe he staged the weird finale. He was quick to blame everyone but himself. One second he is up there jokingly blaming Steve Harvey, then he even questions Warren Beatty asking him what he has done. Is Kimmel really malicious though?

No. Apparently the only thing that he tries to destroy is his own gags.

The Case for La La Land

I’m going to stop right here. If anything producer Justin Horowitz was the one to officially announce the error and bring Moonlight to the stage. It was a gracious moment to go from elation, disappointment, and then honoring a fellow nominee.


Faye Dunaway and Warren Beatty

The Case for Faye Dunaway

If anyone is going to take immediate blame for this snafu, Faye Dunaway is the culprit. Just as she did in 1967’s Bonnie and Clyde, she figures they are going to go down the path of whatever that card says. Without hesitation she reads the words, La La Land, even if the card was wrong. When it came time to issue a correction, Dunaway had exited the stage and was no where to be found. Did she give Beatty the wrong envelope? No. Did she read what was written on the wrong envelope without hesitation.


The Case for PricewaterhouseCoopers

PricewaterhouseCoopers have been in charge of the Oscars ballots for years. Normally they get to do a big song and dance on the Oscars stage, announcing their partnership with The Academy. This year they were absent from the proceedings, most likely because it doesn’t make for very good television. While Warren Beatty was handed the wrong envelope, the fact that The Academy went along with the La La Land victory for so long leads me to believe they did their job.


What We Know

Faye Dunaway is actually the one who got things rolling in the wrong direction, but really it comes down to who handed Warren Beatty the wrong envelope. Emma Stone has already gone on record saying she had her envelope with her the whole time.

Were there duplicate envelopes made in case one was destroyed? Where was this card pulled from? Was it a staffer working for the production of the 89th Annual Academy Awards? (I don’t expect this show to be nominated for an Emmy next year, just a hunch). Emma Stone is feeling a little bit like the rest of us right now. Happy that Moonlight won best picture, but not too pleased with the way we got there.

Moonlight is Phenomenal

It is easy to diminish the weight of an Academy Award for outsiders, but careers/movies/jobs are made from the results. For the team from La La Land, this whole ordeal has to sting. The snafu also had the effect of taking away from Moonlight’s victory. Moonlight is the first LGBTQ movie to win best picture in the 89 year history of the academy awards. It is a monumental achievement in film. One envelope has done massive damage, but hopefully the reputation of the show will recover, Dunaway and Beatty will be forgiven, and the creators of La La Land and Moonlight can be proud of the art they have made.

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News Writer/Columnist for Film School Rejects. It’s the Pictures Co-host. Bylines Playboy, ZAM, Paste Magazine and more.