Movies

The Oscars’ Real Surprise Winner

This time the disaster at the end vindicated the venerable accounting firm.

Two PricewaterhouseCoopers employees on the Academy Awards red carpet, holding briefcases with the winners.
Heroes. Chris Pizzello-Pool/Getty Images

This year’s Academy Awards ceremony was co-produced by director Steven Soderbergh, who seems to have made a valiant attempt to give the show some dramatic structure. Instead, he ended up proving definitively that PricewaterhouseCoopers, the accounting firm in charge of Oscar balloting, doesn’t tell the producers who won in advance. Traditionally, the Academy Awards end with the presentation of Best Picture, but Soderbergh and coproducers Stacey Sher and Jesse Collins shuffled things around in order to close out with Best Actress and Best Actor. The producers were presumably gambling that Chadwick Boseman, heavily favored to win for Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom, would take home a posthumous Oscar, ending the evening on a cathartic note. (Boseman’s win, and the acceptance speech his widow Taylor Simone Ledward gave on his behalf, were highlights of the Golden Globes.) Instead, Anthony Hopkins won for The Father. It was extremely anticlimactic:

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The last award of the night is usually followed by a mad celebratory rush on stage by everyone connected with the winning film, but there’s only one Anthony Hopkins, and he was not at the ceremony. That makes the producers’ bet on Boseman the worst kind of Oscar disaster imaginable: the kind that produces worse television. PricewaterhouseCooper’s envelope mix-up back in 2017 was a complete catastrophe, but it was mesmerizing to watch. This was not, and in the immediate aftermath, social media was full of people attempting to provide the finale the Oscars ceremony lacked by retweeting videos from Hopkins’ delightful Twitter account:

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If anyone involved with the award ceremony knew the winners in advance, they would surely have ended the show with Best Picture, and we’d have seen Frances McDormand and company howling like wolves as the credits rolled. So congratulations to everyone at PricewaterhouseCoopers, who bounced back after their 2017 debacle to demonstrate professionalism, discretion, and integrity this Oscar season, becoming the night’s biggest surprise winner in the process. Too bad about that ceremony, though!

Read more in Slate about the Oscars.

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