When I expressed a wish in last week’s column that someone would say something outrageous at the Oscars so that I would have something fun to write about this week, I didn’t have any idea it would come true in such a spectacular way.
Gosh, if I’d known the universe was going to grant me a wish, I’d have picked the Powerball numbers instead.
But when a colossal fail occurs, it is rarely the result of just one thing going wrong. Take the story of Grey Gardens. It took two women, Big Edie and Little Edie, making a series of bad decisions over a number of years to reach the point where we met them in the 1976 documentary.
As someone said, we may all be three bad decisions from finding ourselves living in Grey Gardens. (Some may look at me and say, “Two down, one to go.”)
Let’s go back to this Oscar night debacle. First up, Brian Cullinan, the accountant with PricewaterhouseCoopers who looks like Matt Damon’s older brother, famously gave Warren Beatty the wrong envelope. Variety published a minute-by-minute breakdown, with exhaustive detail about the need for duplicate envelopes as well as suggesting that Mr. Cullinan might have been distracted by all the celebrity tweeting he was doing during the broadcast. Seems he posted a picture of freshly anointed Oscar winner Emma Stone three minutes before Faye Dunaway called out La La Land.
Maybe that was the problem, but I fault whoever chose red envelopes with gold lettering. Nobody can read that. No wonder he mixed them up.
Now, as for Mr. Beatty. Full disclosure here—I’ve had a crush on him since, well, forever. And everything he’s done and everything I’ve read about him indicates he is a deliberative, thoughtful and measured person. Which may be the reason he’s only made nine movies in the last forty years.
That said, it would seem to me that, when one is announcing the winner of the Best Picture award and pulls out a card that says that Emma Stone has won Best Actress, deliberation is unnecessary. The obvious, appropriate and non-deliberative response would be to turn to Mr. Cullinan and say, “Hey, genius, you gave me the wrong envelope.” Second bad decision.
And the third and fatal mistake was showing Faye Dunaway the card. It seems to me the cause is already lost when Ms. Dunaway is your go-to person. I think she may have wished that she would have one more great moment at the Oscars after Mommie Dearest shut down her career. Well, you got it, Faye, but you should have wished for the lottery numbers instead.
Looking back, there were several bad decisions that caused the sinking of the Titanic. The Watergate break-in didn’t bring down the Nixon presidency; it was what happened afterward that did. Hillary Clinton’s failed presidential bid will have political scientists analyzing for years which events, both internal to the campaign and external, caused her to lose the Electoral College. Sports enthusiasts could outline the series of mistakes made by the Atlanta Falcons to allow the Patriots to score 31 points and take the Super Bowl win. And many are watching the current Republican administration to see if enough wrong moves will be (or already have been) made to create another epic fail. (Jeff Sessions is looking more like John Mitchell every day.)
As for me, I was a bit disappointed that the Academy ignored both Mr. Beatty’s most recent movie (his first in 15 years) as well Mrs. Beatty’s performance in 20th Century Women. But then, Annette Bening is younger than I am (not by much) and she’s been married to Warren Beatty for 25 years.
So, Annette, before you wish for your own Oscar moment, be sure you negotiate the terms carefully with the universe. Whoever is running this computer simulation has a wicked sense of humor.