Most days, it’s probably a pretty good thing to be Brian Cullinan. He’s a big mucket-y muck at PricewaterhouseCoopers, and, for the past four years, he’s been Mr. Limelight with respect to the super-big-deal-security-hush-hush-what’s-in-the-envelope at the Oscars. He’s the one who just the other day was boasting about PwC’s fail-safe process for making sure that the awards are awarded flawlessly. Only he and one other PwC bigwig knew who the winners were before the big reveals.
And then there was Monday evening…
If it had been a regular old Oscar-y Monday evening, Cullinan would have been swanning around in his tux, getting up somewhat close and somewhat personal with Hollywood royalty, and basking in the glow that all was well with the 83 year relationship with The Academy. Which is almost as long as the Oscars have been in existence.
And then, there was the big OOPS moment.
God knows, most of us have had them at work. It’s just that ours aren’t televised to tens of millions of viewers.
Amazingly, I actually was watching the show when the mistaken announcement of Best Picture was made.
I say amazingly, because I think this is the only time in my life I’ve watched the Academy Awards in its entirety. It’s one of the few times in my life I’ve watched any of it. This year, the only film that was up for anything was Florence Foster Jenkins. (Meryl Streep was nominated for Best Actress for her eponymous role.) But I’m never all that interested. What got me to tune in was to see what kind of digs at Trump would be made. I’m not a big Jimmy Kimmel fan, but I think he was doing a pretty good job. And there were enough barbs – direct or oblique – directed at the Tweeter in Chief to keep me entertained.
So I was still with when the culminating award was made.
Just after Warren Beatty and Faye Dunaway had fumbled their way through announcing Best Picture, and as the presumed winners from La-La Land took to the stage for their moment of glory and started thanking their blue-eyed wives (one actually did specify the color of his wife’s eyes) and grammar school teachers, I saw some guys who looked like Secret Service start making their moves. My first thought was that there was some security threat, and that the muscle was about to clear the stage. Now that would have been something.
But what had happened was the Cullinan had handed Warren Beatty the wrong envelope. Instead of the one containing the name of the Best Picture winner, he was given the duplicate of the one for Best Actress, which had minutes before been awarded to Emma Stone for her role in La-La Land.
Beatty was clearly befuddled, and pretty much realized he had to wrong envelope. So he handed it off to Dunaway to see what she made of it. Well, old Faye went ahead and, spotting the words “La-La Land” on the Emma Stone, announced that La-La Land had won. (As one of my friends said as we were discussing why neither Beatty nor Dunaway had the presence of mind to say, “hey, this is the wrong envelope,” these folks are used to being handed a script, not thinking or taking charge.)
Anyway, all Hollywood hell then broke lose before the “real” winner – Moonlight – was announced.
Now, in the grand scheme of things, this is no big deal.
Sure, people do a lot of betting on the winners. And winning does translate into box office and better gigs. But it’s just the movies, for crying out loud, not real life.
But because this is Hollywood, it somehow matters more.
And this year it seemed to matter a lot more, because La-La Land was a throwback paean to old, white, Singin’ in the Rain Hollywood, while Moonlight chronicles the coming of age of a poor black guy from the mean streets of Miami.
Anyway, the mistake was quickly rectified.
Some ruffled feathers: the La-La Land folks who’d embarrassingly given their acceptance speeches. Old Faye and old Warren for being kind of dopey (and too vain to wear glasses). The august Academy itself for having made the envelopes more difficult to read this year. But most of the crap came down on the head of Brian Cullinan, the culprit who had handed Warren Beatty the wrong envelope.
I’m actually glad that if someone had to take the blame – and props because the person who had to take the blame seems to have been the person who actually goofed up - it was a head guy, not some little underling.
As it turned out, Cullinan was tweeting a few minutes before the mix-up – tweeting a picture of Emma Stone backstage just after she’d won her Oscar. (Note to Cullinan: if you’re the man next year, hand your phone to one of your underlings, and let that person do the intra-show tweeting.) So Cullinan took his eye off the prize, and goofed up big time.
I suspect nothing will bad will happen to Cullinan, other than the humiliation factor. He’s too high up and, thus, protected (he’s some sort of super-partner). And, truthfully, the mistake is pretty damned petty when you consider the real problems of the world.
So nothing will happen to Cullinan. Unless, of course, the Academy gets their shorts in a knot about this regrettable event, goes full frontal fiasco, and replaces PwC with E&Y or some other firm. But I wouldn’t bet on that happening.
I’m guessing that the big outcome will be that PwC will tone down some of the advertising about how the Academy has so trusted them over the years…
(Is it just me, or isn’t it more impressive when a really big and respected corporation trusts them with their accounting than when the Motion Picture Academy trusts them with tallying some votes?)
Meanwhile, I will note that, predictably, the Tweeter in Chief’s response to the screw up was that it occurred because there was altogether too much focus on politics during the show. Sad, he told Breitbart. Sad.
Me? I’m sad that a) he’s talking to Breitbart; and b) that he can’t help making everything about himself.
Oh, and I now have Moonlight, Manchester-by-the-Sea, and Lion on my to-watch list.