Here's how it supposedly happened: "Someone" (as yet unnamed according to my searches) appeared to have handed the presenters of the award, Faye Dunaway and Warren Beatty (presenting on the 50th anniversary of their roles as "Bonnie and Clyde" in that 1967 film), a sealed envelope which should have been for Best Picture but was actually a duplicate of the envelope that had just been used for Emma Stone as Best Actress.
Every year, according to the Price-Waterhouse rep who commented on this flub, the awards are printed on two sets of cards in envelopes in two separate suitcases. This is as a precaution should something happen to one set, a "fail-safe" redundancy. Makes sense. But somehow, "someone" used the set that was supposed to be the reserve, first mistake, then, proceeded to give the wrong award from that set (Best Actress rather than Best Picture), second mistake.
And, in what I consider the third and most egregious mistake of all, the presenters, Beatty primarily since he first read the card then Dunaway who also read it, either failed to notice the small print which said "Best Actress" on the bottom of the card designating this as the Best Actress award, as well as misunderstanding the format of the card which read Emma Stone in larger font first then La La Land in smaller font underneath being the title of the film of her awarded portrayal.
It's funny but as Faye Dunaway and Warren Beatty came out on stage, my first thought was "Wow, they look really old." Not out of meanness, just noticing the facts. They are old. And they both looked and acted a bit "out of it" like many old people do. Sorry, just stating my observations. Faye looked like she was squinting a bit, since it's been years since she's been familiar with the bright lights of the stage and Warren was making these weird little mouth movements like he had cotton mouth, or was he mouthing his or Faye's lines for the presentation? Maybe he couldn't quite read the TelePrompter and had to go on memory?
They said their little scripted lines and then Warren opened the envelope. He saw what I'd described already and I'm sure a big part of him was screaming out inside "This doesn't look right!" I mean, I do believe he's presented at awards shows before including the Oscars. I'd bet money on it. But even though he hesitated in what the audience and even Faye thought was a comedic way he must have reassured himself that there'd be no way someone would screw up so much. So he did what any doddering old fool would do I suppose and handed it over to the woman. Faye didn't even bat an eye. She saw La La Land on the card, ignored the actress name and the fine print and read out the wrong winner.
Sadly, the cast and production team for La La Land came up and grabbed "their" golden Oscars and three dudes got to the mic making heartfelt teary-eyed acceptance speeches while people in headsets and the shivering old Beatty were milling about behind them trying to tactfully break the news to the group. One dude even went to the mic and started thanking his maw maw, paw paw or whatever and then blurted out "We lost by the way!" Jimmy Kimmel, the host, never looked so awkward as he ambled towards the mic.
Jimmy jokingly blamed Steve Harvey in reference to a similar fuck up a couple of years ago at the Miss Universe pageant when Harvey announced the wrong winner and the same super-awkward exchange took place minutes later as the the crown was removed from the wrong girl to the right one. On stage. Ouch!
Gotta hand it to the La La Land guys though, unlike in the Miss Universe mistake where the wrong woman just stood in disbelief and did nothing, the La la Land folks were happy to give over their 2-minute Oscar-hood to the folks with the real win, Moonlight.
This presentation went very long this year, not wrapping up until well after midnight and I'm sure millions of viewers who were struggling to stay awake on a Sunday night switched off their sets once the Best Picture winner was first announced.
Like many who may have done the same thing on election night when all the media outlets were still anticipating a Clinton victory, they'll be waking up to a bit of a surprise this morning I'm sure.