2017 Oscars or: How I Learned to Start Worrying and Doubt the Auditors

I can’t recall the last time accountancy was at the media forefront like this.

You’ve no doubt heard of the fiasco happening late Sunday evening/early Monday morning at the Oscars.  La La Land was mistakenly announced as the Best Picture winner, and as producer Fred Berger was giving his thank-yous, stage managers with headphones were bustling about the throng of people with envelopes.  You know how it ends, right?

Moonlight was named the real Best Picture winner.

Over these past few days, there’s been a barrage of finger-pointing as to who should be held accountable for the mishap.  Emma Stone?  No, she had her envelope with her after she won.  Warren Beatty?  Possibly, he should’ve been able to read that it wasn’t the Best Picture card and make an announcement as such.  But he showed it to Faye Dunaway – she should’ve recognized it, too.

And yet…they wouldn’t have gotten confused if the correct envelope had originally been placed in their hands.  Which led the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences and their auditing firm, PwC, to trace the blame to one person.  Brian Cullinan is the chairman of PwC’s Board, and the Managing Partner of the firm’s Southern California, Nevada and Arizona practices.  Apparently Cullinan was so starstruck over the course of the evening that he neglected to pay attention to handing the correct envelope one final time to Warren Beatty.


A photo Cullinan took of Emma Stone moments before the gaffe.

This led to the onstage confusion, culminating in the most ghastly mishap in the 89-year history of the Academy Awards, and a deeper look on the part of the Academy as to the result of this entire ordeal.

First of all, what’s going to happen to Brian Cullinan?  Will he lose his position within PwC, or will he be allowed to stay?  As Tim Ryan, U.S. chairman and senior partner of PwC told USA Today on Monday, “At the end of the day, we made a human error.”  Pretty big human error, though, if you ask me.  And it’s not like it happened with one of the smaller awards, no, it was the biggest award of the night.  Definitely no bueno.

And yet, there are those that would argue that it was an honest mistake.  But how could it have been a mistake when the award was printed right on the envelope?


See “Actress in a Leading Role” printed right on the envelope?

Further, I can only speculate what this will mean for the reputation of PwC moving forward.  PwC has counted Oscar ballots for 83 years.  That’s a long time to go without a single blemish on their part.  But this incident, a rather large incident, at that, may very well provide grounds for reconsideration.  Would this mean the Academy goes with another firm moving forward?

The crystal ball is a bit fuzzy at this point, but as I see it, big changes are coming to next year’s ceremony to ensure not just the security of the Academy Awards, but their integrity as well.  Maybe a decade or so down the road, they’ll make a movie about this.  Going off resemblance alone, Matt Damon would be a perfect choice to play Cullinan.  I mean, look at those eyes!


In closing, as I’m a theater buff by heart, a particular set of lyrics from Rodgers & Hammerstein’s Oklahoma! comes to mind:

It’s a scandal. It’s an outrage.
It’s a problem we must solve.
We gotta start a revolution!
All right, boys. Revolve!

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