So, uh, yeah. That really just happened. As last night’s Oscar celebration slogged past the three-and-a-half hour mark, you could’ve been forgiven for shutting off the TV as soon as Faye Dunaway announced La La Land for Best Picture.
But if you did, you would’ve missed the most shocking last-second upset since Super Bowl LI, after it was revealed that Dunaway and her co-presenter Warren Beatty had been accidentally handed the wrong envelope and that Moonlight was the night’s real Best Picture winner.
What followed was an epic clusterfuck of confusion. People in headsets racing around the stage holding envelopes. Jimmy Kimmel and Beatty trying to explain what the hell just happened to the crowd. La La Land producer Jordan Horowitz finally setting the record straight and graciously sticking around to hand Barry Jenkins his Oscar.
It was a messy, brutal, fascinating moment. Up until that point, the highlight of the night had been, I don’t know, a half-baked Kimmel “prank” that dragged on wayyy too long? His continued digs at Matt Damon? The way the show parachuted snacks into the audience like they were in a black tie version of The Hunger Games?
For 99.9 percent of the telecast, this year’s Oscars was boring AF, full of all your typical cheesy, manufactured, wannabe “viral” moments. Then the Academy actually got one for real. And it’s one we’ll be talking about for years to come.
Here’s a second-by-second breakdown of how it all went down.
0:02-0:22 – Look at Beatty. Helplessly rifling through the envelope for a second slip of paper that’s not there. Looking to Dunaway for help. His hands literally shaking. In hindsight, we should’ve known something was up. But at home – and for his co-presenter – the takeaway was “Warren forgot his glasses again,” not “Someone at PricewaterhouseCoopers is getting taken out into a cornfield after the show.”
0:23-0:26 – “You’re impossible,” laughs Dunaway. And that’s when Beatty realizes what he has to do: hand off the envelope and let Faye take the fall. Damn, dude. That Warren Beatty is straight cold-blooded.
0:27-0:53 – Dunaway reads the (wrong) name. The crowd applauds. But as the camera cuts away to the La La Land crew kissing and hugging, the mic catches Warren letting the other shoe drop: “It says here, ‘Emma Stone.’ ” Dunaway shouts “What?!” loud enough to be heard in the cheap seats. But it’s too late. The Oscar lady is already rattling off La La Land’s wins from earlier in the night. Oh God. This is happening.
1:05-1:13 – La La Land producer Jordan Horowitz launches into his acceptance speech. In the background, Beatty is still standing around dazed, looking like he’s going to throw up.
1:20-1:58 – More speech. Hugging. Tears. So far, so good. This is all perfectly normal awards show stuff.
1:59-2:15 – The second producer jumps on the mic to thank some people. But something’s clearly going on in the background. The other producers share a look. Guys in headsets come flying in faster than you can say “Mel Gibson on a hot mic.”
2:17-2:24 – If you pause, you can actually pinpoint the exact second the La La Land producers realize what’s happening as Headset Guy takes away the wrong envelope.
2:25-2:30 – Yeah, something is definitely up. All the envelopes are being checked now. Although to be fair, this is probably the type of thing that should’ve been triple-checked in advance. Kind of like making sure you’ve got all the pictures right for the In Memoriam segment. Ahem.
2:35-2:47 – As all hell is breaking lose behind him, and even though he already knows they didn’t win, the third producer steps up to give an acceptance speech anyway. Ballsy move, man. Emma Stone clearly mouths “Oh my God” behind him. Emma Stone is all of us right now.
2:49-2:51 – The third producer caps his speech with what could go down as the greatest mic drop in Oscar history: “We lost, by the way. But, you know.” Uh, no, dude. Actually, we don’t know.
2:52-2:59 – Horowitz jumps back on the mic to explain, saying, “There’s a mistake.” He’s not wrong per se. But see, a mistake is when a restaurant messes up your order. This? This is… much worse.
3:00-3:17 – “This is not a joke” has to be repeated at least three times, before Horowitz shows the real card to the stunned audience as proof. Behind him, Warren Beatty is realizing he just bombed his audition for Punk’d Season 10 host.
3:40-3:43 – As Damien Chazelle and the rest of the La La Land crew slinks off the stage, the Oscar conductor wisely chooses not to play them off like this. Smart choice.
3:53-4:33 – Horowitz hands the statue off to Moonlight director Barry Jenkins in what must’ve been a legitimately heartwarming moment of good sportsmanship. But we don’t see any of that, because Beatty is too busy grabbing the mic to try to explain himself. Somewhere, Steve Harvey is ordering him and Annette a nice Edible Arrangement.
4:45 – Almost five full minutes later, the real Best Picture winners finally get to make their acceptance speeches as the cameras pan across the still-shocked crowd. Lost in all this though? If it’d just been announced normally, Moonlight beating the presumed Oscar favourite La La Land would’ve been a historically-stunning upset. As is, it rates about a 9.9 on the WTF-Just-Happened Scale.
And just like that, an otherwise boring, predictable Oscar night wrapped up with a twist ending worthy of M. Night Shyamalan.