The Moonlight mix-up mystery

Was the wrong Best Picture announcement truly an honest mistake, or is there a greater conspiracy afoot? Calum Trenaman investigates what really went on behind-the-scenes

Calum Trenaman
13th March 2017

What happened at the Academy Awards this year was unprecedented. With not a single non-white nominee for one of the four acting categories in the previous two years, two black actors won Oscars this year: Mahershala Ali for Moonlight and Viola Davis for Fences. Yet, this wasn’t even the story of the night.

If you do not know what happened, let me briefly summarise. The winner for Best Picture was announced as the favourite, La La Land. Halfway through speeches, however, there was commotion and one of the La La Land producers announced there was a mistake; the wrong card had been given to presenters Warren Beatty and Faye Dunaway, and that Moonlight was the real winner. Stunned, confused and taken aback, the show went on, with host Jimmy Kimmel wrapping up the show soon after.

In Trump’s America though, we must always ask ourselves: is this the real truth? Or is this fake news? Alternative facts? Something didn’t seem right to me, it seemed too simple, too convenient that the PwC accountant in charge of the cards take the fall for this mistake. Too convenient that poor, elderly Warren Beatty be made to look the senile fool for this. Something was out of place. I’ve been unable to sleep. I’ve played the tape back again and again. It controls me and haunts me. A dissertation on Ernest Hemingway had to wait. Now, after much digging, I give you What Really Happened.

“It seemed too simple, too convenient for the PwC accountant in charge to take the fall for this mistake”

Our story begins in 2012. A coalition between the Lib Dems and Tories is in full swing. Spain has won the UEFA Euro tournament in South Africa. The amount of Marvel Comics-related film and TV production is still at an acceptable level. The Academy Awards for the year’s releases are coming up. When the nominations are released there isn’t much surprise, except a notable absence. Nicolas Winding Refn’s Drive has only one nomination (Sound Editing) despite being one of the films of the year. Indeed, well-respected film critics Peter Travers and Richard Roeper rate it as their film of the year for their respective publications. Shock as Winding Refn and main star Ryan Gosling’s efforts are overlooked.

Skip forward five years, everyone on stage is stunned, bar one. Gosling. Cameras caught him laughing and struggling to hide his laughter as payback for the pain of that snub was finally taken. An unnamed insider saw him messing around backstage in the build-up. All the signs point to the beautiful Canadian bastard. He planted the dodgy card.

But with Winding Refn absent, he needed an accomplice. Enter Faye Dunaway. Once Hollywood’s darling, her time to shine has passed. Now starring in those movies that you scroll past on Netflix, those close to her have claimed she misses the spotlight. And this is how Gosling recruited her. One last chance to be on people’s lips, to be talked of, to be the subject of gossip. That is why she announced it with such conviction when Beatty hesitated. She lit the fuse then got the hell of out there, not seen again for the rest of the night. I imagine she is sipping on a glass of wine in St. Tropez, wryly smiling at the destruction she has left in her wake. Gosling himself though finally has closure. As for me, I suppose I’d better get back to Hemingway.

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