And the Oscar goes to…

This weekend, movie fans witnessed the biggest error in the history of the Oscars, when the musical film, ‘La La Land’ was mistakenly announced as the best-picture, instead of the actual winner, the coming-of-age drama ‘Moonlight’.   In fact, the producers of the musical were already deep into their victory speeches when it became quite evident that something was wrong. This mistake was quite devastating for the producers of ‘La La Land’, but on the other hand, it was a huge triumph for ‘Moonlight’.  Of course, this gaffe altered to some degree the usual celebrations that follow the coronation of a best-picture winner and for quite a while, confusion reigned galore on stage.

But before people start to wonder why I’m discussing the movie scene on this portal, let me just explain that this incident triggered my attention with respect to how the people concerned handled this rather ambiguous situation.  I must admit that I learnt a thing or two and I wish to share my observations with the reader of this page.

To begin with, I was amazed by the graciousness which the previously-announced winners displayed during such a difficult moment.  Remember that three of the film’s producers had already spoken when the error came to light.  Rather than create a fuss, they stepped aside to make way for the real winners, who in the person of Barry Jenkins, the director of ‘Moonlight’, admitted that even in his wildest dreams, “this could not have been true”.  Which led me to realize just how conceivable it is to achieve our dreams in life – even when things just don’t seem possible, they can actually happen!

The gracious attitude reigned on both sides of the fence.  Even in their triumph, the newly-announced winners tried their best to minimize the disappointment of the others, by being more subdued in their acceptance of the award than what would be normally expected. They didn’t gloat over the losing team. This was confirmed by free-lance photographer, Matt Sayles, who has photographed five Academy Awards from backstage, and who knows exactly how jubilant the winners of the Best-Picture Award normally are.  That, in itself, was really a sign of respect towards the feelings of their fellow film-makers, who in spite of the fiasco, still came out with the honour of winning six other awards.

In life, we all make mistakes, some with devastating consequences, but we can apologise, and where possible make amends, as well as learn from them.  The accounting firm PWC, which is responsible for the integrity of the Academy Awards, shouldered the blame and humbly admitted that their staff did not move quickly enough to retrieve the wrong envelope which was handed by the partners of the firm to the presenters of the award.  They took full responsibility and came out with a declaration and an apology for the way in which they had failed the Academy.  On top of that, they acknowledged that no matter how much care is normally taken, there is always a risk of something going wrong on the night.  I reflected upon how often this happens in our life – we plan, we prepare, we take steps to ensure that all will go well, but in the end, we have no control over what actually ensues.  All we can do is pray and hope for the best!

One last reflection is upon the virtue of trust.  Apparently only two people (senior partners in the firm) ever have access to the envelopes which contain the names of the winners of the different categories. They tote briefcases containing an identical set of envelopes in full view of the public as they cross the red carpet leading to the awards venue and hand one of these envelopes to the presenters just before they go on stage.  They also memorize the names of the winners.  It’s very easy to hand over one envelope instead of another, but they could have easily covered up their mistake, since they were the only two people who knew the name of the real winner.  But they didn’t.  As Brian Cullinan, one of the senior partners responsible stated, “There’s a huge trust factor here”.  The real reason why PWC are hired is because they are so well-trusted by the Academy, so they “don’t even kid around about that stuff”.  Before the error was committed, Cullinan had described the procedure as a time-tested process but afterwards, he admitted that they learnt from their mistake.

So, I think that there’s thing or two to be learnt from this event: to be gracious, both in our losses and in our victories; by all means, we should always be well-prepared, but we need to accept that we all make mistakes sometimes, so let’s apologise for them, try to make amends and learn from them; the priority of holding to a position of trust over being right; and last but not least, dream on, our dreams may be just a corner away.  If we succeed to live like this, then we are all worthy of an Oscar!



Christine Galea studied at the University of Malta, where she obtained a Master of Arts in Family Ministry in 2012. She is the Secretary-General of the Cana Movement and teaches Theology of Marriage and the Family at the Institute of Pastoral Formation. Christine is also a Board member of Genesis2 – Institute for Marriage and the Family, which promotes reflection about the person, marriage and family from several perspectives, through training, witness and peer support.

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