Oscars end on a surprise plot twist*

beatty-wrong-envelope.jpgGrab shows the envelope is clearly for best actress.

* Updated post

After 3½ hours of mostly uneventful filler, the Oscars show needed a surprise to close strongly. Boy, they got one. If you haven't heard, Warren Beatty and Faye Dunaway drew the chore of reading the winner of the Best Picture award. He opened the envelope and hesitated, oddly — long enough that Dunaway, his partner at the mic, told him to basically spit it out. He gave her the card and she read the winner: "La La Land." Cheering erupted and the whole "La La Land" team came to the stage. Emotional thanks flowed. But during producer Jordan Horowitz's acceptance speech, TV viewers could see guys with earphones scurrying around among the celebrants. I wondered if an interloper had rushed the stage. But no. There was a flag on the play.

The "La La Land" producer stepped to the microphone and said, to everyone's surprise, that the actual winner was "Moonlight." No one knew what to do, so he repeated the news and said very graciously it's no joke, there's been a mistake, and he held up the card showing that, yes, "Moonlight" won Best Picture. A new round of cheering broke out, Barry Jenkins and the "Moonlight" team congratulated each other, and they made their way to what was now a very crowded stage.

Host Jimmy Kimmel stepped in and kind of lamely apologized, then Warren Beatty explained: when he opened the envelope, it said the winner was Emma Stone for "La La Land." That's why he skipped a beat, he said. Stone had just won and accepted the Oscar for Best Actress, so maybe someone had given Beatty the wrong, already opened envelope for her category.

I want to tell you what happened. I opened the envelope and it said Emma Stone, 'La La Land.' That's why I took such a long look at Faye [Dunaway] and at you. I wasn't trying to be funny.

While the Dolby Theater audience looked on agog, Twitter exploded in commentary and wit — my early favorite was the call from Variety's Ted Johnson for a special prosecutor to investigate — and media outlets including the LA Times began sending out corrective tweets. I didn't check the Hollywood trade websites, but there probably were entire stories quick-posted about "La La Land" triumphing at the Oscars, only to be taken down.

Here's some New York Times video.

The show on ABC ended with the academy scrambling to explain what happened. The story is that Beatty was given the wrong envelope.Grabs show that the envelope he was holding said "Best Actress" on it. Nobody is claiming foul, but some more transparent explanation would help. It just happened to occur on the most divisive award of the night, after an almost cultural divide within Hollywood between fans of "Moonlight" and "La La Land." Both films collected a bunch of Oscars, including acting awards for Stone and Mahershala Ali. He is the first black male actor to win an Oscar in more than a decade and, according to coverage, the first Muslim actor ever to win an Oscar.

"La La Land" director Damien Chazelle won the directing awards Also of note: Kevin O'Connell won for sound mixing on "Hacksaw Ridge." He is the longtime Hollywood sound pro who had been nominated 20 times before this year without winning an Oscar. In his speech he paid tribute to his late mother, a secretary in the sound department at 20th Century Fox who first got him a job. He said had told him to go win an Oscar some day — "and you can stand on the stage, and you can think me in front of the whole world."

Full list of winners.

More by Kevin Roderick:
Mary Melton exits as Los Angeles Magazine sold
Streetscape: Looking up on Bunker Hill
Cardinal Mahony still walks the walk on refugees and migrants
Oscars end on a surprise plot twist*
Amy Dawes, 56, journalist and author
Recent Hollywood stories on LA Observed:
Oscars end on a surprise plot twist*
Westwood's Regent theatre to close, become restaurants
Richard Schickel, 84, film critic, director and author
Media notes: Nikki Finke going to Harvard, local Ellies and more
Janice Min leaving THR, Matthew Belloni upped
Tyrus Wong, legendary Disney artist, was 106
Hollywood night: A mellower Ovitz and Meyer together
James Dean died 61 years ago today. Now the famous gas station is gone

LA Observed on Twitter