Barry Jenkins and the cast and crew of Moonlight celebrated after winning the Oscar for Best Picture during the 89th Academy Awards at the Dolby Theatre in Los Angeles. Moments earlier, the film La La Land was incorrectly announced as the winner. 

Barry Jenkins and the cast and crew of Moonlight celebrated after winning the Oscar for Best Picture during the 89th Academy Awards at the Dolby Theatre in Los Angeles. Moments earlier, the film La La Land was incorrectly announced as the winner. 

Patrick T. Fallon/The New York Times

"This is not a joke."

It had to be repeated. Because it was that weird.

Just as the producers of La La Land were reaching the high point of speechifying, one of them, Fred Berger, said it almost casually: "We lost, by the way." 

Huh? What? Yes, Moonlight — the film I wanted to win for best picture — did in fact win for best picture. The whole spectacle was surreal. Warren Beatty and Faye Dunaway looked uncertain as they opened the envelope. There was a long pause. Dunaway made the announcement: La La Land

Once the dust cleared, a chagrined Beatty explained that when he opened the envelope it said "Emma Stone, La La Land." He seems to have been handed the best actress envelope. Hence his epic pause.

Investigative reporters, start your engines. Everyone else, realize you have seen the strangest moment in major awards show history, especially considering the stakes. The silver lining isn't hard to find: An often predictable awards show flew off the rails in real time, and the results were raw, spontaneous and actually rather gracious, on everyone's part, at least publicly. In short, it was good TV.

It was weird. And the Oscars so rarely are.   

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