As many predicted, both “La La Land” and “Moonlight” snagged plenty of gold during the 89th Academy Awards, held Sunday, Feb. 26 in Los Angeles.
But the stunning and unprecedented occurrence that made Oscars history and caused a firestorm of responses on social media came when co-presenters Faye Dunaway and Warren Beatty incorrectly announced that the film “La La Land” had garnered the Academy’s most prestigious honor, Best Picture, when in fact “Moonlight” had won.
Celebratory comments already underway from “La La Land” producers Jordan Horowitz and Marc Platt would be abruptly halted by an official representing the Academy’s producers and accountants as he appeared onstage with the news.
Meanwhile, PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC), the auditing giant that certifies the results of all awards, has been besieged with jokes and ridicule, its reputation tarnished and its business relationship with the Academy Awards in jeopardy.
The embarrassing announcement, later attributed to “human error” as explained by Tim Ryan, U.S. chairman and senior partner of PwC, occurred because Beatty had been handed the wrong envelope from a PwC representative. But many people wonder how an accounting firm that has tabulated results and monitored awards distribution for the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences for 83 years, could have made such a simple yet monumental blunder.
Despite the major mix-up seen by an estimated 32 million TV viewers, this year’s award winners represented a greater swath of America than last year when criticisms (#OscarsSoWhite) of the Academy Awards reached massive proportions after an exclusively-white tandem of honorees received every possible trophy.
Winners illuminating greater diversity included: Viola Davis, Best Supporting Actress, “Fences;” Ezra Edelman, whose “OJ: Made in America” captured Best Documentary; Mahershala Ali, Best Supporting Actor, “Moonlight”; Barry Jenkins for Writing (Adapted Screenplay), “Moonlight,” penned by African-American writer Tarell Alvin McCraney; and as previously mentioned, Best Picture, “Moonlight.”
Davis, now part of an elite group of thespians who have achieved the actor’s “trifecta,” winning an Emmy, Tony and Oscar, heaped praises on Denzel Washington, her co-lead in the film and with whom she previously co-starred when “Fences” appeared on Broadway, and upon August Wilson, the late playwright.
“I became an artist and thank God I did because we are the only profession that celebrates what it means to live,” said Davis, finally winning the Oscar after two previous nominations.
“August Wilson exhumed and exalted the ordinary people,” she said. “Thank you [directing her words to Washington who also directed the film] for putting two entities in the driver’s seat — August and God — they served you well.”
Jenkins said he had finally seen a “dream come true” and thanked the Academy “for choosing us.”
As for Ali, the first Muslim to win an Oscar for acting, expressed his thanks to his professors and teachers who taught him, “it’s not about us, it’s about the characters.”
“We had a wonderful cast — any of them could be up here instead of me,” said Ali, who called his wife a “soldier” for her support before explaining the reason for her absence — the birth of their daughter four days before the awards.