It was one of the biggest blunders in awards history. The Best Picture award at the Oscars had the wrong winner announced. This led the closing minutes of the telecast proceedings to tailspin into confusion, havoc and bedlam – as stagehands rushed to the stage to inform the “La La Land” producers that they had in fact lost to “Moonlight.”
The nature, timing and impact of the mistake means it will permanently go down in Oscar history. It was also an unfortunate moment for: a team that had to be told they had lost; a winning film being overshadowed by the drama; and an academy that prides itself on flawless operation. However, this event produced what I think may be the greatest moment in Oscar history.
After a stage hand informed the “La La Land” team that they were not the legitimate winner, producer Jordan Horowitz re-approached the mike. He declared “I’m sorry, no, there’s been a mistake. ‘Moonlight,’ you guys won Best Picture. This is not a joke. Come up here.” With confusion breaking out he grabbed the card with “Moonlight” on it, held it up to the camera, leaned into the microphone and declared “‘Moonlight:’ Best Picture.”
Never before in the history of the Oscars has a losing nominee had to announce to the worldwide audience the winner in their own category. What makes it more remarkable is that audience (and seconds earlier Horowitz) thought he was the winner.
Horowitz then said “I’m gonna be really proud to hand this to my friends from ‘Moonlight.'” Which he then did, as his team hugged the winning producers entering the stage.
In a moment which could have been marred by bitterness, anger and frustration; from Horowitz we saw grace, humility and calm. We saw a lot of great winners on Sunday night, like we do every year. But what is rarer to see at the Oscars and elsewhere is someone who knows how to lose well.
The Best Picture announcement this year was a debacle. But from the rubble of that debacle a great story of grace emerges and perhaps the greatest moment in Oscar history.