And the Oscar goes to…

Published: March 6, 2017

By Jim Lichtman
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Like the many millions around the world who tuned in to watch the Oscar telecast (Feb. 26), I was stunned by the final piece of drama that played out on stage.


By now, most everyone knows what happened when Warren Beatty and Faye Dunaway presented the award for Best Picture. The audience was squirming in their seats waiting for Beatty to announce the winner. He checks the inside of the envelope, looks perplexed, ultimately handing the card to Dunaway who announced, “…‘La La Land’!”

The producers and cast of the film bounded onto the stage and, beginning with producer Jordan Horowitz, begin their litany of “thank yous.”

At that same moment, backstage, panic gripped the two PricewaterhouseCoopers representatives Brian Cullinan and Martha Ruiz, the accounting officials not only charged with counting the ballots, but responsible for handing-out the right envelopes to the right presenters just before they walk on stage.

It was later revealed that two sets of envelopes were taken to the Oscar ceremony. Ruiz and Cullinan stand on opposite sides of the stage in order to accommodate whichever entrance is used by presenters. It appears that Cullinan mistakenly gave Beatty the envelope marked “Best Actress” instead of the one labeled “Best Picture.” This is what led to Beatty’s confused looks.

It took several minutes before Cullinan and a stage manager to run out on stage and explain the error – not to the audience – but the cast and producers of “La La Land.”

Hey, mistakes happen, and it’s not as if someone was pushing the wrong button at the stock market or missile launch. It’s an awards show, people!

However, the real story was “La La Land” producer Horowitz, who, once he was told of the error, quickly rushed back to the mic.

“Guys, guys, I’m sorry. No. There’s a mistake. “ ‘Moonlight,’ you guys won best picture.”

“This is not a joke,” Horowitz added.

Once the correct envelope was placed in Beatty’s hand and opened, Horowitz grabbed the real card, held it up and repeated, “ ‘Moonlight,’ Best Picture!”

Oscar Host Jimmy Kimmel tried to make a joke of the whole thing, but Horowitz wasn’t going along with it.

“I’m going to be really thrilled to hand this to my friends from ‘Moonlight,’ ” Horowitz said.

Just before Horowitz handed the Oscar to “Moonlight” Director Barry Jenkins, he gave him a bear hug and congratulated him.

The next day, the Twittersphere lit up with admiring messages:

“You are a real class act,” Actress Jessica Chastain wrote.

Screenwriter Justin Marks: “[Jordan Horowitz] handled that with class, grace, and genuine happiness for the winner is why he is at the pinnacle of the game.”

As Washington Post reporters, Stephanie Merry and Lindsey Bever, noted, “…what he did wasn’t exactly revolutionary. He told the truth even though it was difficult and awkward and embarrassing, because he had just stood in front of the world and thanked his friends and family for an award that wasn’t his.

“Horowitz could have slunk offstage and let Kimmel and Warren Beatty continue to fumble through an explanation.

“Instead he did the dirty work with what looked like pride, sticking around to hug his friends from ‘Moonlight.’ ”

Mistakes happen.

How you handle them often reveal character.


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