Film critic and historian Leonard Maltin has been watching the Oscars his whole life, but he’s never witnessed an Academy Awards moment quite like the confusing and shocking finale to Sunday’s ceremony.
“I can think of no comparison, because there is none,” Maltin told XFINITY in the Oscars press room.
In the closing moments of the 89th Oscars, Hollywood legend Faye Dunaway and Warren Beatty took the stage to present the evening’s final trophy for Best Picture. After opening the envelope and hesitating for several moments, Beatty showed the result card to Dunaway who then leaned into the microphone and said, “La La Land.”
The result came as no surprise to most film pundits, who expected a big night for director Damien Chazelle’s tribute to old Hollywood musicals, but the celebration soon came to a crashing halt when “La La Land” producer Jordan Horowitz grabbed the microphone to relay some startling news.
“I’m sorry, no. There’s a mistake,” Horowitz told the stunned crowd. “‘Moonlight,’ you guys won Best Picture. This is not a joke. ‘Moonlight’ has won Best Picture.”
While the series of events that lead to Sunday night’s embarrassing climax have yet to be determined, the Oscars’ accounting firm PricewaterhouseCoopers released a statement saying in part, “The presenters had mistakenly been given the wrong category envelope and when discovered, was immediately corrected. We are currently investigating how this could have happened, and deeply regret that this occurred.”
The wild Oscars ending bewildered not only the live audience and millions of viewers around the world, but also the Oscars press room reporters, who had already begun transmitting news of “La La Land’s” victory.
“It’s especially funny and ironic that, given the overall lack of surprises in many key categories, the show should end on the note it did,” Maltin reflected. “Unprecedented. Stunning. Startling. In some ways outlandish and hilarious.”
So, did the Academy voters make the right choice?
“I think they’re both worthy winners,” Maltin told us. “My favorite film of the year was ‘Manchester by the Sea,’ but all the oddsmakers were saying ‘La La Land’ for Best Picture, so I was very pleased that both Casey Affleck and Kenneth Lonergan walked away with Oscars. To me, that gave me enormous satisfaction.”
Perhaps Emma Stone said it best tonight during her post-win press conference: “Is that the craziest Oscars moment of all time? Guys, we made history tonight!”
Check out Leonard Maltin’s podcast “Maltin on Movies” and more at LeonardMaltin.com.