If you haven’t heard already, on Sunday night this happened. All of it is worth watching, but you only need the first 3 minutes for what we need to talk about:
And now a lot of people are blaming this guy, Brian Cullinan.
Brian Cullinan is the Lead Partner for the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences with PwC. During the Academy Awards he and Martha L. Ruiz were responsible for handing out the envelopes containing the winners of each category to the presenters. The presenters can enter the stage from either side, that is why two people have this job. At the start of the night Martha and Brian each had 24 envelopes and as each set of presenters headed to the stage they were supposed to either hand the presenters their envelope or set the envelope aside. This process worked without a hiccup for the first 22 awards and over the 88 ceremonies before Sunday night, but when the time rolled around for the 23rd award of the 89th Academy Awards things went a little differently. Martha handed Leonardo DiCaprio the envelope for awarding Emma Stone the Oscar for Best Actress, at that point Brian was supposed to set aside his copy but never did. Instead, not even realizing his mistake, he handed the second copy of Emma’s Awarding Envelope to Warren Beatty who then walked onto the stage and the rest was witnessed on national television.
PwC has issued an apology for what happened and Brian himself has stated how sorry he is for his mistake. But in the internet chaos that has followed #Oscarfail, people are still constantly blaming Brian. It is about time we cut Brian a break. Here are a few reasons why you should lay off Brian a bit. Or, if you just want to be internet angry, here are some reasons you should be internet-angry at other people too.
The Awarding Process
With this process it is surprising this mistake didn’t happen earlier, and that the mistake wasn’t worse. Do the stars presenting the awards need as much hand holding as this process assumes they do? Probably not. Why can’t the presenters go to one location where one copy of the envelope is readily available? If a second copy is necessary, lock it away at a nearby location in case something goes wrong. The Academy claims it still does everything by hand to prevent the winners leaking ahead of the official announcement. Doesn’t having two of each envelope increase the chances of information getting out? It also could have easily been much worse. Imagine a scenario, in which Brian or Martha handed the Best Actor envelope to Warren and Faye and Manchester by the Sea was announced as the winner.
Twitter and Congratulatory Kindness
Brian made four tweets during the Academy Awards. Most stories would like you to think he was tweeting up a storm backstage and that is why he messed up. Not true, four tweets, one during the red carpet proceedings. People also criticize that he, a fan of the stars along with all of us, congratulated and hugged some of the winners. How could you resist and not offer congratulations and love to these people you admire. There is nothing to suggest he wasn’t professional throughout the evening. Not to ignore that his job was a relatively simple one, but simple repetitive tasks are the ones people tend to mess up the most. Often people make these small mistakes of omission because they think they have already completed the task. Who among you has never lost progress on a video game or report because you forgot to save? Setting aside the envelope is a task of equivalent difficulty and regularity to saving.
The Presenters: Warren Beatty and Faye Dunaway
As you saw above, Warren Beatty noticed almost immediately that something was awry. He knew it was the wrong card and should have immediately said something or asked someone to help out. Instead, without saying anything, he showed the card to Faye. It would seem he did not intend for Faye Dunaway to read the card right away, but hoped to share his confusion with her. Speaking of Faye, in her excitement, she looked at a card that had the name Emma Stone in big letters and La La Land in small ones and declared little letter La La Land the winner. These presenters made mistakes as big as Brian’s; he may have made the first mistake, but either one of these stars could have solved the problem before things got out of hand.
La La Land Producer Fred Berger
Between the #fakeaward being announced and Moonlight being outed there were about two and a half minutes of confusion. During this time La La Land producers Jordan Horowitz, Marc Platt, and Fred Berger all gave acceptance speeches. Before Fred made his remarks and before most people realized something was wrong half the La La Land team on the stage were tipped off to the mistake.
Fred Berger was among those who knew a mistake had been made, he has admitted that much. Yet he still gave a thank you speech and with a shrug tacked this to the end of it, “We lost, by the way — but, you know, there’s a mistake.” He knew before either of his fellow producers and could have gracefully corrected things as Justin Horowitz did immediately after finding out. He has said he couldn’t resist his desire to thank those he loved most before stepping down, which is innocent enough, but he had the power to make the revelation about the true results smoother and less awkward, instead he didn’t even tell us who won. That is not to say Justin Horowitz didn’t do an excellent job once he stepped in; he most definitely did.
Host Jimmy Kimmel
As the confusion began on the stage, host Jimmy Kimmel realized something was up, so he got himself up there to fix things. After Justin announced there was a mistake and that Moonlight had won, Jimmy said this to the La La Land producers and crew, “I think you guys should keep it anyway.” He was probably trying to make a joke to lighten the tension, but perhaps something with a little less salt may have been better. The La La Land people just achieved and lost their dreams within 3 minutes time and the Moonlight people just lost and then achieved theirs, and Jimmy basically said, “La La Land you can’t have this but you should.” and “Moonlight you don’t deserve this.” Jimmy eventually tried to save his rude statement with a slightly better one, “I would like to see you get an Oscar, anyway, why can’t we just give out a whole bunch of them?”
Nemesis to the Host: Matt Damon
If Matt Damon and Jimmy Kimmel really hate each other, than perhaps Brian Cullinan is Matt Damon and was just trying to make the host look bad. The two men look similar enough to be the same person or at least be related. Wait… that’s nonsense.
Brian Cullinan may have made a mistake but other mistakes were made, and some of those mistakes were arguably worse. Who among us hasn’t made a mistake? You were just lucky enough to not have had your most recent blunder witnessed on national television.