clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

The Winners and Losers of the Oscars Debacle

Steve Harvey is having a great day

(Getty Images)
(Getty Images)

In any moment of crisis, there is both the opportunity to become a hero and the risk of becoming a goat. That was certainly the case at the Oscars on Sunday night, just as the clock struck midnight on the East Coast. By now you’ve certainly seen the tape: Warren Beatty opens an envelope, is noticeably confused, and then his presenting partner Faye Dunaway takes over and announces that La La Land, as most expected, has won Best Picture. Only, La La Land didn’t win Best Picture. The ensuing fracas onstage, as producers scrambled to tell everyone that, actually, Moonlight was the winner, was one of the strangest, most exciting moments in Oscars history. But not everyone will look back on this February night in 2017 with fond memories. As the high from the mix-up dies down (kind of; we’re still rolling), Ringer staffers assess who won and who lost.

Winner: The Stagehand Who Stopped La La Land’s Acceptance Speech

For a few minutes it really did seem like La La Land had won. Trophies were handed out; Emma Stone teared up; multiple white men uttered different variations of “this one’s for the dreamers.” But one man — this man — did the right thing, bravely rushing onto the stage and into the La La lion’s den to correct the glaring mistake. Can you imagine how much guts that took? Ryan Gosling legitimately could have punched him in the face, but the guy was all business out there, snatching envelopes and telling a group of people who have been praised all awards season that their pinnacle, the one they’d already started celebrating, was false. This guy’s got the clutch gene. — Andrew Gruttadaro

Winner: ‘La La Land’ Producer Jordan Horowitz

In two seconds, Horowitz went from that guy who cringingly thanked his “blue-eyed wife” to the guy who graciously handed over his trophy to the Moonlight crew. And to anyone arguing that Horowitz just did what anyone would have — nuh-uh. Rewatch the clip: After producer Fred Berger says, “We lost, by the way,” there’s a brief lull in the action when it’s unclear what’s going on, and what’s going to happen next. Horowitz jumps right back into the spotlight and cuts through the confusion. “There’s a mistake,” he says. “Moonlight, you guys won Best Picture.” In that moment, Horowitz displayed a unique combination of courage, nimbleness, and genuine humility. In other words, he’s going to be able to produce whatever the hell he wants for the rest of his life. — Andrew Gruttadaro

Winner: Steve Harvey

In December 2015, Steve Harvey misread a ballot card and awarded that year’s Miss Universe pageant to Miss Colombia. After four minutes of revelry, he admitted his mistake: Miss Philippines was actually the winner. The Family Feud host got absolutely roasted on social media — a 30-year career was reduced to a single error. But guess who’s having a ball today?

We now live in a universe in which Steve Harvey is offering advice to Warren Beatty. Beatty really should give Harvey a call, though, because after the initial online savagery, Harvey managed to wiggle out of the gaffe relatively unscathed. Case in point: He also hosted the 2016 Miss Universe pageant. Right now I’m imagining a training montage set to “You’re the Best” featuring the Mustached Marvel teaching Beatty how to open envelopes, read from a teleprompter, and tell Faye Dunaway what’s really on his mind, all before Beatty successfully announces the 2018 Best Picture winner. — Andrew Gruttadaro

Winner: Conspiracy Theorists

It doesn’t take much to build a conspiracy theory these days, and there is way more fodder for conspiracy here than anything Alex Jones talks about on InfoWars. Why did Warren Beatty have an envelope for Best Actress? What was Leonardo DiCaprio’s role in all this? Isn’t the timing of this Huffington Post article about what would happen if the wrong name was read just a little suspicious? Doesn’t Jimmy Kimmel have a long history of elaborate pranks?

These questions only scratch the surface. What’s more, there is a high-definition, seven-minute video of this entire event readily available so that millions of people can comb through it frame-by-frame like the Zapruder film. There are people out there trying to connect the dots between this, the 2016 election, the Warriors blowing a 3–1 lead in the NBA Finals, and the Falcons choking away a 28–3 lead in the Super Bowl. Today is Truther Christmas. — Andrew Gruttadaro

Winner: ‘Moonlight’

Hopefully, after we’ve all got the giggles out of our system, we can move on to celebrating the fact that Moonlight — the best movie of the year — actually, really, totally won Best Picture. An independent movie (made for less than $2 million) with an unknown cast that was about a poor, closeted gay black man, beat out a movie about how Los Angeles and the moviemaking business are magical. That’s amazing and great, and it should be what we’re talking about today. Moonlight deserved to win, but it never felt like it would — even up until the last second. Eventually, though, director Barry Jenkins took the stage, and all felt right. — Andrew Gruttadaro

Loser: Warren Beatty

It’s hard to imagine an L as profound as Beatty’s. I mean, OK, sure, there’s not winning Best Picture. Fine. But in the word cloud of Sunday’s La La LandMoonlight fiasco, the name WARREN BEATTY is in size-72 font. Whether it turns out that it was somebody else’s fault — and it seems like it may have been! — he’s going to be remembered as the one who made it happen. La La Land didn’t lose; Moonlight didn’t win: Warren Beatty Grabbed The Wrong Envelope. It’s worse than that: Our man was only up on the stage as a nod to Rules Don’t Apply, his long-awaited return to stardom that … maybe wasn’t worth the wait? The most-played YouTube clip of one of our very movie-starriest movie stars is going to be him, 79 years old, sputtering his way into a destruction that was (probably) not of his making. Faye Dunaway, his partner in cataclysm, and the backstage envelope-minders: gone from history. This was the Beatty show. He’s going to be a damn Jeopardy! clue. — Claire McNear

Loser: Jimmy Kimmel

Kimmel’s brand of ambivalence is perfectly suited for a debacle of this magnitude. Can you imagine if this happened and Jimmy Fallon was hosting? THIS IS CRAZY, THIS IS CRAZY, EVERYONE’S A WINNER, LET’S LIP-SYNC BATTLE! Thank god for Kimmel, who sauntered onto the stage with a bemused look on his face to assure the world that this wasn’t one of his famous pranks (and to pile on Warren Beatty). But where Kimmel went wrong was when he told Jordan Horowitz, “I think you guys should keep [the Oscar] anyway.” A harmless joke, maybe. But also, in a moment when Moonlight’s massive, important accomplishment seemed like it might not be real, a joke that hit all the wrong nerves. — Andrew Gruttadaro

Loser: Whoever Designed the Illegible Oscars Envelopes

When Steve Harvey famously announced the wrong Miss Universe winner in 2015, a rash of nerdy design think pieces emerged. Their argument was that, as dimwitted as Harvey appeared, the real culprit of the mix-up was bad design. And, hey, when you really examine the card in question, it’s hard to disagree.

Sunday night’s historic slip-up was similar. Warren Beatty was handed the envelope for Best Actress instead of the envelope for Best Picture, and sure, we could blame whoever was distributing the envelopes backstage. But that person, too, was simply a victim of thoughtless design.

In a misguided attempt at chicness, the show’s producers chose to label their deep red envelopes with thin, small, golden text — making the right ones hard to identify in crunch time. Humans often don’t notice important details in moments of intense pressure, and it’s possible that because of that, someone just grabbed the wrong envelope. The Oscars could’ve prevented this brouhaha if they had just stamped that precious red paper with bold, jet-black, all-caps lettering. I’m not saying they should have used something hideous like Comic-Sans. But, c’mon dudes, make that shit legible. — Alyssa Bereznak

Loser: Ben Affleck

Ha ha, whoa. Seems like something crazy is going down. Lotta people on stage. Emma Stone — she looks perturbed! Like she’s choking. Is she? Hey, Matt, is she? Matt. Matt! What’s happening, Matt? Why are the people mad? Matt! Matt. Matt! Matt. Matt! — Claire McNear

Loser: ‘La La Land’ Director Damien Chazelle


Loser: Also ‘Moonlight’

The right movie won, and the Oscars mess was sorted out quickly enough for Moonlight to get its moment in the spotlight. But as much as we say the focus should be on that, it’s hard not to feel like Moonlight’s win — a true game-changer in the scope of the Academy Awards — was slightly diminished by the gaffe. Yes, everything is now in its rightful place, but Moonlight never had that moment of gleeful eruption when a winner’s name is announced. The cast and crew ascended the Oscars stage in partial confusion, rather than outright ecstasy. It’s probable that most viewers, astounded by an unprecedented chain of events, didn’t even hear producer Adele Romanski say, “I hope that [Moonlight] is inspiring to little black boys and brown girls, and other folks watching at home who feel marginalized.” Moonlight’s win will forever be attached to this mix-up, and that’s a bummer. — Andrew Gruttadaro

More Oscars Coverage