On Sunday night I put off a substantial amount of work to watch the 89th annual Academy Awards. Sure, I had already spent most of the day marathoning the new season of It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia, but I deserved a break nevertheless. It was my first time watching the Oscars away from home and the party my parents have been throwing for as long as I can remember, and it served as a reminder of how much has changed since I’ve gone away to college. For a moment, while sitting on a worn-down couch in Bassett’s sad excuse for a common room, I got a little bit sentimental thinking about how childhood traditions are now a thing of the past, and how currently I’m in a limbo of sorts between the departure from old traditions and the formation of new ones.
Something about these Oscars felt less special than usual. Perhaps it was the change in setting or that I had watched fewer of the nominated films than I usually do this year, due to the lack of free time that comes with being a Duke student and being a bit detached from the Los Angeles scene that encourages such movie expeditions. But I think it also had something to do with the ceremony itself and the films nominated. Of the frontrunners for Best Picture, none really jumped out at me as deserving of the grand prize.
Don’t get me wrong, I really enjoyed La La Land, Moonlight, Manchester by the Sea and Lion, but none of them got me excited in the way I want from a so-called “Best Picture.” Best Pictures in my mind are not just good movies, they’re iconic, and none of these seemed to fit the bill. My point isn’t to judge these films—I have no authority to do so—but as a fan of movies I felt undeniably less invested in this year’s results.
Nevertheless, I tuned in and was pleasantly surprised by what turned out to be an enjoyable show. Jimmy Kimmel was funny and effective as host; politics, while definitely referenced, didn’t dominate the night, and the musical performances were entertaining and diverse (although I could have done without Lin Manuel Miranda’s forced original rap introduction to the Moana performance). Towards the middle of the ceremony I began to miss the presence of the Oscar ballot competition my family and friends would hold each year. Without money on the line, it’s hard to care all that much about categories such as sound mixing or documentary short. The rest of the show was pleasant, but it was missing that special feeling I’ve always associated with the Oscars. All I wanted was something to make the three hours I could have used to do homework worth it. Luckily, my wish was granted.
At the end of the night, as expected, La La Land won Best Picture and a plethora of white dudes in suits stormed the stage to put the cap on a successful show. That’s when s**t hit the fan, and what will most likely go down as the greatest gaffe in Oscar history overshadowed this otherwise pleasant evening. When reading the winner of the penultimate award, Hollywood legends Faye Dunaway and Warren Beatty mistakenly announced that La La Land had won, leading to a very uncomfortable scene (which the producers of La La Land handled with grace and poise) in which the producers were notified that Moonlight had actually won, and they would and had to hand over the awards to the Moonlight team. The first thing I thought after seeing this was: “Well someone’s getting fired.”
But the question was, who? Who should take the blame?
First, let’s understand how exactly this happened. When Beatty opened the envelope, to his surprise it read “Emma Stone, La La Land.” Confused, Beatty showed this wrong card to Dunaway who saw the words “La La Land” and announced them the winner. But how did the wrong card get into Beatty’s hand in the first place? According to the New York Times, PricewaterhouseCoopers, the accounting firm responsible for tallying the Oscars voting results and producing the cards used by presenters, has two copies of each card on opposite sides of the stage. Beatty had entered from the opposite which previous presenter Leonardo DiCaprio had entered and was mistakenly handed the other copy of card for Best Actress. What lead the PricewaterhouseCoopers representative to hand Beatty is unclear, but there is speculation it may have something to do with the new design for the cards which made it more difficult to distinguish which category the card belonged to, or that he was too busy tweeting a picture of Emma Stone right before he was supposed to hand Beatty the envelope.
So who’s to blame: Beatty, Dunaway, the PricewaterhouseCoopers representative, Emma Stone or the designers of the card? To answer this question, let us turn to a recent episode of It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia titled “Hero or Hate Crime?” In the episode, the gang fight over who has rightful ownership of a lottery ticket. Dee, who purchased the ticket, Dennis, whose money Dee used to purchase the ticket, Mac, who is in possession of the ticket, Charlie, who saved Mac from getting crushed by a falling Piano while picking up the ticket, or Frank, who alerted Charlie to push Mac out of the way. In the show, the professional arbitrator the gang goes to see deems Mac as rightful owner of the ticket. So to find who is to blame for the Oscar gaffe, we must simply figure out who the Mac in this scenario is.
Mac’s claim to the ticket comes from the fact he’s in possession of the ticket last, so going off of that flawless logic, Dunaway must be to blame. After all, if she just took a minute to read the card we wouldn’t be in this scenario in the first place. Sure, Beatty probably shouldn’t have showed it to her in the first place and the PricewaterhouseCoopers dude should have just handed them the right card, but someone needs to burn at the stake for this and I nominate Faye Dunaway.
Case closed. Oscars people, for my arbitrator’s fee please have your people contact my people and we’ll work something out.
Sami Kirkpatrick is a Trinity freshman. His column, "the new duker" runs on alternate Thursdays.
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Sami Kirkpatrick is a Trinity sophomore. His column, "worms in space," runs on alternate Wednesdays.