Wonder and Horror with an Oscar

Those precious seconds of Warren Beatty on stage, with card and unsealed maroon envelope in front of him, could’ve lasted an eternity.

He was the only one in the world who could spot an error. The stress and chaos running through his mind. If not for the words ‘Emma Stone’, the card would’ve been like any other. How about turning it over? Nope. Will the card change if I turn it over again? Nope.

This isn’t the right card. No wait it is. This hasn’t happened before. But it isn’t the right card. But wait it is?

The seemingly-perpetual state of flux prophesized what was to come. Initially it was bad drama, but there was a subsequent series of unfortunate events, with none of the public representatives to blame (neither Bonnie and Clyde, La La Land’s 2.5 producer speeches or innocent Jimmy). The poor taste turned even more sour (into full blown vomit for the two PWC partners).

Who would’ve thought the Patriots comeback in Super Bowl 51 could be overshadowed by a live awards ceremony. Yet entertainment writers and Oscars attendees were able to experience the spontaneous adrenalin rush reserved for sports fans and journalists. Congratulations — wasn’t expecting that!

The millions watching didn’t love this; we insisted on a culprit. But maybe the unfortunate event was a better outcome than what we could’ve imagined?


For all that PWC did wrong, and for all the quality assurance jokes that followed, what happens if all goes to script?

Moonlight would’ve gotten their moment in the limelight, the producers would’ve had their speeches and thanked all those around them. Jimmy Kimmel would’ve finished the night with a final Matt Damon joke to maintain the late-night flow he sought to achieve.

Journalists writing their copy had their cover stories written, aside from the first two paragraphs for Best Picture. Without any major hiccups, writers could begin to exhale. They thought Moonlight could win, and the words they had in mind are already there.

Media analysts are writing their final cues. Transfer the Moonlight thoughts from the ideas board to the teleprompter.

The fans would’ve congratulated Moonlight on social media, confirming their thoughts on the Oscars without any first-hand experience of the film (or the happy scene halfway through).

All of this has a certain rhythm. There are successes and commiserations. This was clockwork, like the up-teenth years of Academy Awards before it. The rehearsals and the well-versed discussions by the Oscars’ producers meant another year of smooth sailing.


Until it was. Not. The unadulterated, spontaneous ‘WTF’ moment captured our attention in a manner that the status quo could not. The metaphoric table was turned and ripped apart. Outside of the producers’ tight control, the narrative turned in the milli-second it took for the stage manager to appear on camera.

The wider public start caring. The journalist, the analyst and the fan become the forensic scientist, scrutinising every frame of footage. Speculation starts. Social media turns into conspiracy central, as does water cooler conversations and talkback radio.

Because let’s face it, we like someone to blame. This wasn’t completely outside the wheel-house of expected scenarios. Its taken 87 years for a quality assurance error, for crying out loud! Although the unforeseen mind explosions happening across the globe (by attendees and audience) lessens the gloss attached to Moonlight’s victory, the world cares. And wants an answer.

And let’s face it, if we didn’t have the error, this would’ve been just another Oscars. Sure, the wrong reasons are attached to it, but we will remember this now.

The aim is to get zero percent error, for the sake of public relations and branding. Which is a great aspiration. The prior eighty-six Academy Awards did not have an error by the auditors. That should be celebrated as much as the eighty-seventh causing a manual handling error, a quality assurance error.

We don’t want continual errors. But do we actually want zero percent?


There is something special about the unexpected faux pas. Not the fabricated ones that are as expected as a rollercoaster turn, but the ones not even the producers could’ve scripted. The buzzer-beater shot. The miracle comeback. The spontaneous one-liner on that radio show or TV programme that producers didn’t think twice about, but turns into a hashtag or a meme.

The unadulterated reaction, in the midst of chaos and confusion. That was the Oscars. As beautiful as it was frustrating.

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