So, How the Hell Did that Best Picture Screw-Up Happen?

The jaw-dropping ending of last night's Oscars, explained.

In the cold light of morning, the full story of what exactly caused the baffling debacle during the Best Picture announcement during last night’s Academy Awards is beginning to come to light, and hew lord, what a mess – a combination of fumbled fail-safes, onstage confusion, and general fuckery.

The picture of what went wrong, which was beginning to emerge late last night, has solidified around a few points – most of them confirmed by an apologetic tweet from Oscar accountants PricewaterhouseCoopers. “The presenters had mistakenly been given the wrong category envelope,” according to the firm (which has been the official accounting firm for the show for 83 years, a streak that may be coming to an end). Ironically, as the Guardian reports, the system that put the Best Actress envelope into Warren Beatty’s hand is intended to correct such an error, not to cause it; a PwC rep stands in each of the two wings with a set of envelopes, ready to rush out with one “in case anything should go wrong with a presenter or an envelope.” Imagine that!

Thus, we can understand Beatty and Faye Dunaway’s confusion when they opened an envelope with the words “Emma Stone, La La Land” inside, causing Beatty to look into the envelope for another slip, pass what he saw to Dunaway for confirmation, and shrug as she announced the name of the only movie they saw there. Should one of them have noticed the name of the actor and tried to figure out what was wrong? Maybe, but hell, how nervous would you be on that stage, in that unprecedented moment?

“Oh my God, he got the wrong envelope,” stagehands were heard saying in the wings as the La La crew took to the stage, prompting one of the accountants into the scrum to stop the show. La La Land producer Jordan Horowitz had the unenviable task of telling his crew, to say nothing of the audience and the world, that their film didn’t win – a job he handled with professionalism and grace, to the admiration of Moonlight director Barry Jenkins:

To that end, it’s worth noting that Horowitz has resisted the notion that these films are in competition for months:

So yes, an unforeseeable combination of bizarre events led to a shockingly amateurish conclusion to Hollywood’s biggest night, and you can bet on two things: 1) whoever the Academy hires to do their accounting next year, they’ll work out a system that doesn’t include duplicate ballots, and 2) whoever hosts next year, they’re gonna do a lotta jokes about the end of this year’s show.