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A Scientific Ranking of the Winners and Losers of the La La Land/Moonlight Best Picture Fiasco

What a mess.

Mark Ralston/AFP/Getty Images

On Sunday night, La La Land became the first movie in the history of the Academy Awards to both win and lose the Oscar for Best Picture. Thanks to some envelope-related chicanery, Faye Dunaway announced the wrong movie, the wrong guys gave the wrong victory speeches, and a lot of people got very frazzled. After a couple of minutes’ worth of happy La La Land producer talk about joy and hope, Moonlight was revealed as the real winner, the statuettes changed hands, and everyone was extremely confused.

Given that such a thing had never happened before, we shouldn’t be too hard on any of the presenters, producers, and broadcasters for how they reacted in the moment. Actually, forget that: Let’s grade the presenters, producers, and broadcasters for how they reacted in the moment. Below, we’ve ranked the leading figures in the La La Land/Moonlight Best Picture fiasco, starting with those who acquitted themselves the best and ending with the poor individuals who performed the worst under pressure.

14. Barry Jenkins

Of everyone involved, the Moonlight cast and crew were probably the most wronged by the academy’s mistake. Not only did Jenkins have to face the disappointment of losing Best Picture, he then had to quickly process the shock of learning that his film had actually won instead, which he did gracefully. Most were probably too stunned to take in his whole acceptance speech, which is a shame, because it was full of good humor about the whole thing: “Very clearly, even in my dreams this could not be true.” He even sent love to La La Land.

13. Adele Romanski

Moonlight’s producer was pretty shocked and unsure that the victory was really happening. Like Jenkins, she tried to acknowledge the lingering La La Land crew onstage, though they had already slipped away. She was also the first to move past the surprise, getting at the heart of what made Moonlight’s win so important, hoping that “little black boys and brown girls” would be inspired to see marginalized groups represented and recognized on screen and on the Oscars stage.

12. Mahershala Ali

The classiest act.

11. Jordan Horowitz

Horowitz had the unenviable task of interrupting one of his fellow producers to explain to the world that the movie he had worked so hard on had not, in fact, won Hollywood’s biggest honor. It was Horowitz who firmly explained that Moonlight had won and that it wasn’t a joke, waving Barry Jenkins and co. up onstage where they belonged. “I’m gonna be really proud to hand this to my friends from Moonlight” was Horowitz’s reply when Kimmel suggested that maybe everybody should get Oscars. Also very classy.

10. The stage managers who ran out wearing headsets

It wasn’t a fun job, but someone had to do it. Kudos to the stage managers who sprinted onstage to correct the biggest error in the academy’s history, live, in front of millions of people and a handful of heartbroken dreamers.

9. Ryan Gosling

He may have been the only person on that stage whose reaction to losing was, apparently, to chuckle sagely to himself.

8. Emma Stone

Stone, who already won the Oscar for Best Actress, couldn’t seem to believe any of this was actually happening. Backstage, she then became, intentionally or otherwise, the first Best Picture–gate truther, claiming that she had been holding the Best Actress envelope so how could Beatty have been reading off it? (Turns out there were two.) She was typically charming and gracious in postgame interviews.

7. Meryl Streep

Took the opportunity to deliver one of the evening’s best reaction shots.

6. Warren Beatty

You could tell Beatty knew something was wrong when he first opened the Best Picture envelope, but co-presenter Faye Dunaway—and the rest of us, to be honest—thought he was playing games. Nope. Beatty was right to be skeptical, as we later found out, because the card read “Emma Stone, La La Land,” which is why this whole mess even started. Afterward, Beatty made sure to explain exactly what had happened to quell the understandable confusion. Probably should have done that before a winner was announced, though.

5. Panicked backstage stagehands

Frankly, we’d react exactly the same way. Still sucks though.

4. Jimmy Kimmel

“Personally, I blame Steve Harvey for this” was Kimmel’s first reaction, alluding to the Miss Universe pageant host’s famous flub. Kimmel then expressed sympathy for the La La Land folks, suggesting they should get Oscars too. But that’s not how it works, Jimmy. He did cut the tension pretty smoothly, though.

3. Fred Berger

It seems like Berger, a La La Land producer, had already been informed that his movie had lost when another crew member, who hadn’t yet heard the news, urged him to make an acceptance speech. He did, thanking his family and Damien Chazelle before tossing in a “We lost, by the way.” The news must have been a shock, and thanking his family anyway was kind of nice, but that was still an awkward way to drop a bombshell.

2. Faye Dunaway

When Beatty hesitated after first opening the envelope, Dunaway promptly took control so that we could all get this over with and finally go to bed. The ceremony was running way over time, so it’s hard to blame Dunaway for hastily announcing the winner as La La Land, especially since it was written right there on the card! But in retrospect, she really should have realized something was up, since that card also said “Emma Stone” and “Best Actress.”

1. Everyone who used this mess as an opportunity to make references to the election, but mostly this guy


Read more in Slate about this year’s Oscars.