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Oscar’s Nightmare: 89th Academy Awards

By Michael Russnow

Co-presenter Warren Beatty seemed to toy with the crowd as he fiddled with the card, which he then showed to Faye Dunaway, who told the world what it expected: La La Land won the Oscar.

Suddenly, it was revealed Beatty was given the wrong envelope and La La Land producer Jordan Horowitz said Moonlight was the winner. There were attempts amidst gasps to be a good sport and I give lots of credit to the La La Land folks who scurried to the side as astonished Moonlight winners hurried onstage.

Beatty later said his envelope revealed Emma Stone and La La Land, which is why he’d reacted as he did, though one wonders why he didn’t call attention to this. However, given the tension of live television, even for pros like Beatty and Dunaway they can be forgiven for an act that should cause PriceWaterhouseCooper (PWC) heads to roll when the Academy meets to dissect the events.

Sure, mistakes happen, but this is the first such in Academy history. The closest to this was when Sammy Davis, Jr. read the wrong name in the sixties, which was for a different music category he was also to give. He made a joke about reporting it to the NAACP. But the name he gave was in fact a winner later on. In this case, it was horrific, and I feel for the La La Land people, even as the Moonlight people clearly had mixed reactions with their win.

Interestingly, I’d read an article in Huff Post about what goes on at the accounting firm, wherein two folks in charge, Martha Ruiz and Brian Cullinan were singularly responsible for counting ballots and double checking his/her partner. They memorized the winners, and it was mentioned if such a situation happened each was in the wings ready to alert a stage manager who would call the producer, hence the stage manager scurrying forth to deal with this terrible situation.


Michael Russnow

Read his new book, Hollywood on the Danube, available at and on Kindle & Amazon sites.


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