I was fighting sleep; barely holding on when the 2017 Academy Awards was set to present the Oscar for "Best Picture."
But within seconds, I was wide awake, looking at the television, wondering how could the awards show have presented the Oscar to the wrong movie. Not just the wrong movie, but the biggest presentation of the evening - the one which goes to the the movie deemed as the best in the American film industry.
Wow! Talk about a trainwreck. And I don't mean the movie by that name. It wasn't the fault of longtime Hollywood stars Faye Dunaway and Warren Beatty who were chosen to award the golden statue for the best picture. When the wrong movie was announced as the winner, there was widespread applause because "La La Land" had been the sentimental favorite movie to win.
But within a couple of minutes or less, there were apologies because Dunaway and Beatty had been given the wrong envelope to open for the announcement of best picture. I tried to put myself in their shoes, especially the patent leather ones Beatty was wearing.
He was the one who opened the envelope and then looked as if something was wrong, It was, but he had no way of knowing just how wrong it was. We found out later the card in the red envelope bore the name Emma Stone for her performance in "La La Land." That movie being the favorite, Beatty apparently tried to go with the announcement.
But he must have heard a voice in the back of mind saying "somethin' ain't right here." But to stop the show and call offstage for clarification would stop the suspense and make him look shaky as a presenter. I ask what would you have done under all those television lights with an audience of many millions of people around the world tuning in, and audience of Hollywood A-listers staring at you? He did what seemed sane and okay. He showed the card pulled from the envelope to Faye Dunaway, apparently looking for help from his co-presenter and the iconic actress who had starred with him in the movie "Bonnie and Clyde" fifty years before.
Dunaway pushed through without hesitation. "La La Land," she announced.
By then, the toothpaste had been squeezed from the tube. The horses had gotten through the opened corral gate. The ship had hit the iceberg.
The actors, producers, and others with "La La Land" ran to the stage, shaking hands, hip-hip-hooraying, and accepting the golden Oscar statue. But it was not until in the third acceptance speech from executives of the film did the announcement come that Beatty and Dunaway had read the wrong movie because they had received the wrong envelope. Again, I ask what would you do had you been the presenter?
I think Beatty did all he could do given he had 13 seconds to open the envelope and spout out the name. Dunaway rushed in, maybe too quickly, and took over, announcing. "La La Land."
Before the whole train went off the track, the situation was righted as much as it could have been righted. "Moonlight" was declared the real winner on the real envelope which was produced on stage. It was flashed on the live camera and the "Moonlight" crew celebrated, although in a state of shock. The "La La Land" people left the stage, but they were generally happy for they had won several Oscars on the night in other categories.
Live television can have its moments. When something is breaking and you are on stage, on camera, standing with a live microphone, and the entire world watching, you want to get it right. You just hope the people who give you information - in this case, the envelope - are paying attention to their jobs and get it right.