I was the Hugo Awards administrator the year after the presenter was given a card with the wrong winner on it. I was earnestly instructed by the executive committee not to do that. I said, "Don't worry: we will only make new and original mistakes." (I later learned that the late great George Flynn had said the same thing the first time he ran the Hugos, so it wasn't a new and original joke.)
I have no idea how the wrong name on the card happened, and it would never have happened under my watch. We didn't prepare anything except the templates until we finalized the winners, and then we made the cards, the press release, instructions for the plaque-maker, and everything else.
But that's not what happened at the Oscars. Instead of the card being incorrect, Beatty was given the card for the wrong award. How that happened, I don't know either. And so Dunaway saw the name of the movie the Best Actress winner was in and read that. I'd give them both some slack for screwing up: they weren't expecting this; they're actors, they work from scripts; and also but not only because of their ages, they may have "senior moments" from time to time, something that's fuddled previous venerable presenters worse than this without the wrong card as an excuse.
Contrary to statements that nothing like this has ever happened before at the Oscars, it has. In 1964, Sammy Davis Jr. was given the card for the wrong film score award (in those days there were two awards).
He read the nominees for the first award — scoring of music, adaptation or treatment — opened the envelope and proudly announced that John Addison had won the Oscar for "Tom Jones." The problem was Addison actually had won the Oscar in the music score, substantially original category. "They gave me the wrong envelope?" asked Davis, as a representative of Price Waterhouse quickly came out with the envelope that had the correct winner — Andre Previn for "Irma la Douce." "Wait'll the NAACP hears about this!" he quipped.I've seen neither Moonlight nor La La Land - they don't sound like my kind of movies. I like musicals, but an attempt to watch Chicago proved that's not enough to save a movie for me if I'm otherwise uninterested in it. The only movies that won Oscars this year that I have seen are:
- Manchester by the Sea - a very close cousin of Seth Meyers' Oscar Bait parody. Story about really depressed people with a happy ending consisting of their becoming slightly less depressed. Arrival was supposed to be the hard-to-follow movie this year, but this is the one whose plot confused me, because the flashback scenes were not stylized in any way, and I often didn't realize I was in one.
- Zootopia - I realize this movie wasn't about its plot, but the plot was such a tedious routine crime-detection story it bored me, and the parallels with race relations were painfully self-conscious to the point of agony.
- Arrival - hey, a movie I actually liked.
- Hell or High Water - a caper film, fun to watch, but typically for the genre quite amoral. And if the scene where the brothers are getting into separate cars to drive away didn't telegraph what was going to happen next, Samuel Morse never lived.
- Hidden Figures - I saw this because I like historical movies about the Moon program, not to feel virtuous. But gosh, does it ever make you feel virtuous.
- Jackie - far duller than I'd expected, and an uncomfortably eerie movie. Felt as if it had been filmed in that weird apartment at the end of 2001.
- Florence Foster Jenkins - I saw this out of curiosity as to what would be done with a movie about the worst singer of all time. Turned out that they toned down the badness of her singing (she was actually much worse than Streep portrays her), and made the moral out of turning her into the kind of person who'd have sung "I did it my way!" if that song had been written yet.
- Kubo and the Two Strings - arresting animation, sprightly dialog, but rambling and wayward story.
- Sully - a vicious libel on the investigating commission, but other than that, pretty good.
- Hail, Caesar! - If you like this sort of thing, this is the sort of thing you'll like. Turned out I didn't.