Oscar ceremony ends with best picture gaffe

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LOS ANGELES (AP) -- The 89th Academy Awards got off on the right foot, with a song and dance, but ended with the most stunning mistake ever to befall the esteemed awards show when the best picture Oscar was presented to the wrong movie. Faye Dunaway and Warren Beatty, holding an incorrect envelope, wrongly presented the top prize to "La La Land" instead of "Moonlight."

The moment at the conclusion of the Sunday-night show was so jaw-dropping, it eclipsed everything else in a ceremony that was packed to the brim with Donald Trump jabs, fun stunts, heartfelt positivity and a stunning upset by "Moonlight" over what had been a "La La" juggernaut throughout the awards season. Yet somehow, even the embarrassing moment pivoted into grace.

As confusion and bafflement overwhelmed those in the Dolby Theatre and at home on their couches, "Moonlight" director Barry Jenkins and "La La Land" director Damien Chazelle shared a hug on the back of the stage, out of sight from the television cameras.

"The folks of 'La La Land' were so gracious. I can't imagine being in their position and having to do that," Jenkins told reporters backstage. "It was unfortunate that things happened as they did but, goddamn, we won best picture."

Oscar tabulators PwC, in their 83rd year providing the service to the academy, later apologized in a statement and are investigating why it happened.

There's no denying, though, that "Moonlight's" win over "La La Land" was a massive upset, made only more pointed by the envelope gaffe. Chazelle's candy-colored musical was widely presumed to be a shoo-in for the top prize after its record-tying 14 nominations and a relative sweep of the awards season. The film still won six Oscars, including best director for Chazelle, who at 32 became the youngest ever to take the prize, and for score, song ("City of Stars") and actress to Emma Stone.

The actress, who pledged her deep love of "Moonlight," said later, "Is that the craziest Oscar moment of all time? Cool!"

The academy usually throws awards at films that gaze lovingly at Hollywood, but Barry Jenkins' heartfelt coming-of-age drama seduced academy voters in the end - a subtle tide change perhaps informed by both a prickly political climate and an urgent imperative to honor more diverse films after two consecutive years of OscarsSoWhite.

Diversity could be found in every corner of the awards this year, with supporting acting wins for "Moonlight's" Mahershala Ali and "Fences'" Viola Davis, although the best actor category proved to be a bit of an upset when Casey Affleck won for "Manchester by the Sea" over Denzel Washington of "Fences," who had picked up momentum in recent weeks.

The improvement followed efforts by Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences President Cheryl Boone Isaacs to diversify the membership of the largely white, older and male film academy. "Tonight is proof that art has no borders, no single language and does not belong to a single faith," said Isaacs.

Davis gave a particularly powerful speech in which she praised the late "Fences" playwright August Wilson who, she said, "Exhumed and exalted the ordinary people." Kimmel said later that Davis, "Just got nominated for an Emmy for that speech."

Ezra Edelman, whose nearly eight-hour epic "O.J.: Made in America" took best documentary, dedicated the award to the victims of the famous crime, Nicole Brown Simpson and Ronald Goldman.

Rich Moore, one of the three directors of Disney's best animated film winner "Zootopia," described the movie as about "tolerance being more powerful than fear of the other."

The majority of speeches were moving and personal and generally in praise of art's ability to create empathy in the world, including Jenkins' in his win for adapted screenplay, who said, "All you people out there who feel like there isn't a mirror out there for you, the Academy has your back, the ACLU has your back, and for the next four years we will not leave you alone, we will not forget you." But not one speech came close to Meryl Streep's Golden Globes barnburner.

"Personally, I didn't say anything because my head was completely blank," Affleck said backstage of his not political speech.

Instead, politics stayed largely with host Jimmy Kimmel, who kept his barbs coy and irreverent, stating at the start that he wasn't the man to unite the country.

The host peppered the evening with digs at President Trump, at one point asking the crowd to stand for the "overrated Meryl Streep," and, later, for any news outlet with the word "Times" in its name to leave, saying, "We have no tolerance for fake news."

Kimmel even jokingly thanked the president for shifting the focus of the night.

"Remember last year when it seemed like the Oscars were racist?" he said in the opening.

The evening's most blunt protests against Trump came not from the A-list stars but from foreigners, a few of whom were not even in attendance and could communicate their sentiments only through statements.

Kimmel, as if predicting that this would be the case, said early that the Oscars are watched by 225 countries "that now hate us."

Iranian director Asghar Farhadi, whose "The Salesman" won best foreign film, his second win in the category, did not attend the ceremony in protest of Trump's travel ban to seven predominantly Muslim nations.

Anousheh Ansari, an Iranian astronaut, read a statement from Farhadi.

"I'm sorry I'm not with you tonight," it read. "My absence is out of respect for the people of my country and those of other six nations who have been disrespected by the inhumane law that bans entry of immigrants to the U.S."

Gael Garcia Bernal, the Mexican actor, while presenting an award, also declared: "As a migrant worker, as a Mexican, and as a human being, I am against any wall."

But, of course, the big best picture mistake will be the thing that history remembers about the 89th Academy Awards.

"Let's remember this is just an awards show," Kimmel said at the close. "I knew I would screw this show up, I really did. I promise I'll never come back."


LONDON (AP) -- For 82 years, accounting and consulting firm PwC has enjoyed a reputational boon from handling the balloting process at the Academy Awards.

Now its hard-won image as a dependable partner is under threat.

The company has apologized for a colossal mistake at the 89th Academy Awards on Sunday night when actors Faye Dunaway and Warren Beatty wrongly announced the top Oscar went to "La La Land," instead of "Moonlight."

The presenters, it turned out, had been given the wrong envelope by tabulators PwC, in this case the one awarding Emma Stone for best actress for her role in "La La Land." They eventually corrected the mistake on air but it's not clear yet how the wrong envelope ended up in the hands of the "Bonnie and Clyde" stars.

Whatever the reason, it's been a cue for endless jokes and hilarity around the world.

For London-headquartered PwC, it's anything but funny.

According to Nigel Currie, an independent London-based branding specialist with decades' worth of industry experience, this mistake is "as bad a mess-up as you could imagine."

"They had a pretty simple job to do and messed it up spectacularly," he said. "They will be in deep crisis talks on how to deal with it."

Brands go to extraordinary lengths to protect their image and reputation and to be seen as good corporate citizens. History is littered by examples when a hard-won reputation nosedives - from sporting legends Tiger Woods and Lance Armstrong to business giants like BP following the Deepwater Horizon oil spill disaster.

Currie says PwC has no other option than to front-up immediately and explain exactly what happened to contain the damage to its reputation.

"They are absolutely in the spotlight for next week and for longer probably as it unfolds," he said. "They have to show what happened."

PwC, which was formerly known as PricewaterhouseCoopers and originated in London over a century ago, was quick to apologize to the movies involved, Beatty, Dunaway and viewers, but has yet to fully explain what happened.

"The presenters had mistakenly been given the wrong category envelope and, when discovered, was immediately corrected," it said in a statement. "We are currently investigating how this could have happened, and deeply regret that this occurred."

In fact, it took over two minutes on air, during which time the "La La Land" team gave three acceptance speeches, before PwC corrected the mistake on stage.

PwC's representatives were Brian Cullinan, a partner at the firm - and, according to his bio on the company's website, a Matt Damon lookalike - and Martha Ruiz, the second woman to serve as a PwC Oscars tabulator.

Cullinan is the lead partner for the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, including the annual balloting for the Oscars ceremony. He has been part of the balloting team since 2014.

Ruiz, a 19-year veteran at PwC who specializes in providing tax compliance and advisory services to entertainment clients in southern California, joined Cullinan as the Oscars balloting co-leader in 2015.

In a promotional video on the company's website ahead of Sunday's show, Cullinan said he and Ruiz are the only two who knew who the winners were on the night of the awards.

"There are 24 categories. We have the winners in sealed envelopes that we hold and maintain throughout the evening and hand those to the presenters before they walk out on stage," he said.

Both Cullinan and Ruiz would have had a briefcase on either side of the auditorium to hand out the envelope for the category to be announced.

Cullinan said PwC's relationship with the Academy Awards is testament to the firm's reputation in the market for being "a firm of integrity, of accuracy and confidentiality and all of those things that are really key to the role we have with the Academy in counting these ballots."

"But I think it's really symbolic of how we're thought of beyond this role and how our clients think of us and I think it's something we take very seriously and take a lot of pride in."

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