CLOSE

We may wish we could forget last year's painful best-picture flub, but these Oscars moments will be burned in our memories. USA TODAY

LINKEDIN 2 COMMENTMORE

Hollywood calls it "Envelopegate" and promises — cross their hearts — it won't happen again. Ever!

Instead, Oscar vows to get the "envelope ritual" right at the 2018 Academy Awards on Sunday, including a new procedure to make sure celebrity presenters confirm that they've been given the correct envelope for the category they are about to present.

Sounds obvious? Well, yes, but there was that...unpleasantness at last year's Oscars. 

In case you forgot (how could you possibly?), the most embarrassing Oscars flub of all time marred the closing minutes of the 2017 Academy Awards telecast, when backstage bedlam led to the wrong envelope being sent out with Warren Beatty and Faye Dunaway, the presenters of the best-picture award.

The result: La La Land was announced as the winner when Moonlight was the actual winner, and it took a shambolic two-plus minutes to correct the mistake. The glittery Oscars audience, not to mention millions watching at home, was stunned into momentary silence, mouths agape as chaos erupted on stage.

Incredulity and ignominy instantly followed. Reputations were ruined, people were fired, apologies gushed, and the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences scrambled to repair its damaged image and its clearly broken stage-management arrangements.

This year, Envelopegate has not been forgotten — in fact, it's been embraced as fabulous, make-lemonade publicity for the show at the Dolby Theatre in Los Angeles.

Returning host Jimmy Kimmel is featuring the flub as a self-deprecating theme in promos for the telecast, and promises his opening monologue will include plenty of jibes about it. 

Think of it this way: The famous Oscars catchphrase might now have to be slightly altered: "May we have the correct envelope, please!"

At least some people watching Sunday will be waiting to see if lightning strikes again but the academy insists it won't because it "fixed" the problems that led to the debacle to begin with. 

PricewaterhouseCoopers, the venerable accounting firm that has tabulated Oscar ballots for more than 80 years, is still on the job even though it got the lion's share of the blame for the snafu. Brian Cullinan, a PwC partner backstage (who was tweeting during the show), handed the wrong envelope (for the best-actress category, which went to Emma Stone in La La Land), to Beatty. 

Neither Cullinan nor Beatty noticed the blood-red envelope said BEST ACTRESS instead of BEST PICTURE until Beatty opened it and appeared flummoxed by the contents.

The problem, declared PwC U.S. chairman Tim Ryan, wasn't in the complicated accounting challenges (balloting and tabulating), it was in something that should have been relatively straightforward. 

"One of the most disappointing things to me was all the great work that had been done, not only last year but over the last 83 years, around accuracy, confidentiality, integrity of the process," Ryan said in an interview with The Associated Press. "And where we got it wrong was on the handing over of the envelope."

Our plan to bar repeat of Envelopegate: How to prevent another Oscar flub? We have ideas

To prevent another mistake, PwC met with the academy to craft new protocols and safeguards, some announced soon after last year's show and some announced last month

► First, neither Cullinan nor the other PwC partner on duty last year, Martha Ruiz, are coming back to the show, though both still work for PwC. The new onstage partners overseeing the envelopes will include Rick Rosas, who previously worked in that post for 14 years, and colleague Kimberly Bourdon from the company's Los Angeles office.

► No digital distractions: The PwC partners backstage are barred from using their cellphones or social media during the show.

► A third PwC partner will be on duty, sitting with Oscar producers in the show's control room. Just like the two partners stationed on either side of the Dolby Theatre stage, the third partner will have a complete set of winners' envelopes and commit the winners to memory. 

►A new formal ritual for handing over the envelopes, with both the presenter and a stage manager confirming they have the correct envelope. 

►All three balloting partners will attend show rehearsals and practice what to do if something goes wrong.

Last year, USA TODAY came up with a list of its own suggestions (because that's how we roll) for preventing repeat catastrophe, and at least one was incorporated in the new procedures: the all-important "correct envelope" check. 

We suggested "the Oscar whisperers:" The accountants, who have already memorized every name in each winner's envelope, can whisper it to the presenters as they all double-check they have the correct envelope before going on stage. Adding the stage manager to the confirmation circle further ensures no more mistakes.   

Contributing: The Associated Press

Autoplay
Show Thumbnails
Show Captions

 

 

 

 

LINKEDIN 2 COMMENTMORE
Read or Share this story: https://usat.ly/2oCxI0L