Minor Mystery Solved

The Drump administration (I’m going with “Drump” for now) and its various sympathizers and enablers are doing their worst, but that didn’t stop the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences from handing out Oscars last night. Mostly to the winners.

So how did it come about that famous actor Warren Beatty was given the Best Actress envelope before walking on stage to present the Best Picture award, which was followed by famous actor Faye Dunaway announcing the wrong winner?

The accounting firm that handles the envelopes backstage claims the incident is still “under investigation”. It’s now obvious, however, what happened. This paragraph from a Washington Post story provides the answer:

According to Mike Davies, [PriceWaterhouseCoopers] director of global communications, both Cullinan and Ruiz would have had a briefcase on either side of the auditorium to hand out the envelope for the category to be announced. Each briefcase would have had one envelope of [i.e. “for”] each category winner.

So, there were two accountants, Cullinan and Ruiz, backstage. Cullinan was on one side of the stage. Ruiz was on the other. Their job was to hand out the envelopes. But apparently nobody knows which side of the stage the presenters (the people who open the envelopes) will enter from (they’re actors, so who knows where they’ll turn up). That’s why each accountant has an envelope for each award. In other words, there are duplicate envelopes backstage.

That means, of course, that if Cullinan gives out the Best Actress envelope, Ruiz has to put her Best Actress envelope aside. And if Ruiz gives it out, Cullinan has to put his copy aside.

What happened last night, therefore, is that one of the accountants forgot to put the duplicate Best Actress envelope aside. Unfortunately, the forgetful (?) accountant was then called on to hand out the envelope for the next award (Best Picture). Without looking at the envelope to verify that it was indeed for Best Picture, he or she handed the duplicate Best Actress award to Warren Beatty. 

In a better world, Mr. Beatty would have halted the proceedings when he realized he was given the wrong envelope. Or Faye Dunaway would have halted the proceedings when she realized the same thing. But this isn’t a perfect world (as we all know by now), so neither Mr. Beatty nor Ms. Dunaway fixed the problem.

In conclusion: 

Any system in which there are two or more copies of something that should only be processed once has to guard against that thing being processed more than once. In other words, the procedure backstage wasn’t foolproof. It was going to fail eventually. Last night it did.

Nebraska in Black, White and Gray

Since I recently expressed great disappointment with Gravity, one of the movies nominated for Best Picture last year, it’s only fair that I express great appreciation for one of the others: Nebraska. That’s the one in which Bruce Dern plays a cantankerous, confused old man who thinks he’s won a million dollars from an outfit that’s pushing magazine subscriptions.

It’s an old-fashioned picture, beautifully filmed in black and white, with some wonderful performances, especially by Dern (a healthy 77-year old runner in real life) and June Squibb as his extremely outspoken wife. Their performances were both nominated for Oscars, as were the screenplay, directing and cinematography. 

I had a little problem with the premise of the movie — hadn’t Dern’s character ever gotten one of those “We are authorized to award you one million dollars!” notices in the mail before? And when his wife and sons try to convince him he hasn’t really won anything, don’t they point out the very big “if” in the small print?

Putting that quibble aside, Nebraska is the most consistently enjoyable movie I’ve seen in months. I don’t know how a young person would respond to it (a lot of old people, plus black and white?), but the characters and relationships in the movie resonated with me. My parents didn’t age gracefully, I had an uncle who wouldn’t stay put, and I’m wondering what kind of old man I’m turning into. Contented, grumpy, quiet, outspoken, wise, befuddled? Probably all of the above.