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Thursday, March 2, 2017

Oscar Awards ~ (presumptive) celebrations and professional bungling !!

To the Indian Cricket fans, KapilDev holding aloft the Prudential World Cup at Lords in  June 1983 was the most recognized event.  Globally, the most recognized trophy could be the ‘Oscar Statuette’ that has stood on the mantles of filmmakers since 1929.   

PricewaterhouseCoopers-  is a multinational professional services network headquartered in London, United Kingdom. The firm along with  Deloitte, EY and KPMG are among the most prestigious accounting firms on which many Corporates rely upon for correcting their processes and on setting up their business goals too.   The firm was formed in 1998 by a merger between Coopers &Lybrand and Price Waterhouse. The trading name was shortened to PwC in September 2010 as part of a rebranding.

They are seen elsewhere too – in one of Hollywood’s most secretive and unusual jobs: Brian Cullinan, a partner at the accounting firm PwC, and a colleague, Martha Ruiz,  were tasked with making sure the statuettes at the annual Academy Awards are correctly distributed. The man was to stand in the wings of the Dolby Theater in a tuxedo and pull sealed envelopes out of a briefcase, giving the correct one to presenters as they walk onto the stage. -  -  -  


-  This is the one night a year when the buttoned-down PwC really gets to shine. The firm’s chief executive sits with stars in the audience. Mr.Cullinan walks the red carpet; reportedly told one TV crew that he had no nerves. “We’ve done this a few times,” he is quoted as saying  before Sunday night’s show, “and we prepare a lot.” He was so at ease, he even found time to tweet from backstage about Emma Stone as the show neared its climax.

The grand Occasion – the 89thAcademy Awards ceremony, presented by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences (AMPAS), honouringthe best films of 2016, and took place on February 26, 2017, at the Dolby Theatre in Hollywood, Los Angeles, California, at 5:30 p.m. PST. During the ceremony, AMPAS presented Academy Awards (commonly referred to as Oscars) in 24 categories. The ceremony, televised in the United States by ABC, was produced by Michael De Luca and Jennifer Todd and directed by Glenn Weiss. Comedian Jimmy Kimmel hosted the ceremony for the first time.

Moonlight won three awards, including Best Picture, and La La Land won the most awards of the ceremony with six after receiving a record-tying 14 nominations.  They were in news more for that one award that did not belong to them, yet they walked the aisle to receive.  Yes, in a monumental blunder,  LaLa Land was incorrectly announced as the Best Picture, before Moonlight was announced as the actual winner.

As said earlier, nothing is new – done and rehearsed many a times; PwC has overseen ballots for 83 Oscar ceremonies. The two key executives in charge of the Academy account, Martha Ruiz and Brian Cullinan, hold briefcases containing names of the winners in the 24 categories. They also carry duplicates – supposedly to avoid confusion should any issue arise – but the lapse did leave people devastated. Emma Stone told of the devastation she felt when her chance of further Oscar glory was snatched by the biggest fiasco in the ceremony’s 88-year history.

Miss Stone, 28, was celebrating being named Best Actress for her lead role in La La Land when Warren Beatty and Faye Dunaway announced that the musical had won Best Picture.The audience at the Hollywood theatre erupted and Miss Stone joined the film’s producers and co-star Ryan Gosling on stage to receive the statuette.   Acceptance speeches began – but within seconds panicked backstage officials from accountancy giant Price Waterhouse Cooper cottoned on to the error and told Beatty and the La La Land team that Moonlight was the real winner.

Soon the media and World were deliberating on whether it was Beatty’s fault or Miss Dunaway’s !Beatty, 76, said he had been confused when handed a card that read ‘Emma Stone, La La Land’ – and held on to it for some time afterwards so no-one could accuse him of the mistake; his wife Annette Bening phoned him, urging him to come home and not become embroiled any further in the shambles;       Miss Dunaway, 79, shrugged off the furore, insisting: ‘It wasn’t my fault’;          PwC, which helps to run the Oscars, issued a humiliating apology;

The two stars bungled their entrance because Miss Dunaway was unable to walk up a specially created staircase.She read the words ‘La La Land’ and the producers and cast of the musical trooped on to the stage, clearly deliriously happy.   TV viewers could later see that it read ‘Actress In A Leading Role’ – but neither star appeared to have spotted this.Indeed, Miss Dunaway mistakenly thought he was being gracious in allowing her to make the announcement. Two of the producers, Marc Platt and Jordan Horowitz, made passionate speeches. But by the time a third, Fred Berger, took the microphone there were rumblings and mumbling in the wings  ~ then there was pandemonium on stage, and in the auditorium and more on the social media and Press.

Martha Ruiz and Brian Cullinan of PricewaterhouseCoopers were tasked with tabulating the votes made by over 7,000 Academy members in each of the 24 categories at this year's Academy Awards, and then handing out the envelope for each category to the celebrity presenter just before they took the stage on Sunday. Since there were two entrances, Ruiz and Cullinan stood at opposite sides, each with a matching briefcase that contained an envelope for each of the 24 categories. Ruiz was on stage left handing out envelopes during the show while Cullinan was on stage right.This system backfired spectacularly however when actor Warren Beatty was handed the duplicate envelope for Best Actress in a Leading Role rather than the one for Best Picture before entering from stage right to present the final award of the evening.  

Beatty made things worse by then opening that envelope, despite the fact that the category was clearly written across the front in block letters, and then asking a confused Dunaway to read what she saw, resulting in her declaring La La Land the winner.Within moments, the stage manager, a stagehand, host Jimmy Kimmel and the two accountants had run out on stage to try and fix the untenable mishap, but it was too late.

La La Land star Emma Stone could be seen on stage at the moment she realized what had occurred, looking completely stunned while repeatedly saying, 'Oh my god.'Just moments before that, Cullinan had taken a photo of Stone and posted it to his Twitter account with the caption: 'Best Actress Emma Stone backstage!'

Brian Cullinan, 57, lives  in a 4,100 square feet Malibu home with Pacific views worth an estimated $2.9 million. A partner in PWC, he is a graduate of Cornell University in New York, where he majored in psychology, and also holds a master's degree in accounting from Northeastern University.  The other, Martha Ruiz,  44, was just named to the balloting team in 2015, making this her third Oscar ceremony.She is just the second woman and the first Latina to hold the Oscar position, which comes in addition to her role working with entertainment clients.  She had spent a decade as part of the group who tabulated the votes before making the leap to her current position. A PwC veteran of nearly 18 years, Ruiz specializes in providing tax compliance and advisory services to a variety of entertainment clients throughout Southern California.  Some media reports state that  Ruiz and Cullinan were supposed to be stationed at opposite stage entrances, but were photographed standing together just before the Best Picture category. 

Leonardo Di Caprio entered from stage left to present the award for Best Actress in a Leading Role, and Ruiz was in the wings waiting to hand him the envelope for that category.The correct envelope was given and after Di Caprio announced that the winner was Stone, she took the stage and gave her speech before exiting stage left with both her Oscar and the envelope.After Stone's win, Beatty and Dunaway were announced to present the final award of the night, Best Picture.

Beatty entered from stage right however, and instead of being given the Best Picture envelope was given the duplicate envelope for Best Actress in a Leading Role.Brie Larson had also entered from stage right two categories prior when she presented Casey Affleck with the Actor in a Leading Role award, so it is likely that Beatty was just handed the next envelope in order, which would have been Actress.  Perhaps all that caused the confusion – but all those are explanations that would put any professional set-up to shame.

PricewaterhouseCoopers released a statement at the request of the Academy on Monday stating: 'We sincerely apologize to Moonlight, La La Land, Warren Beatty, Faye Dunaway, and Oscar viewers for the error that was made during the award announcement for Best Picture. 'The presenters had mistakenly been given the wrong category envelope and when discovered, was immediately corrected. We are currently investigating how this could have happened, and deeply regret that this occurred.'We appreciate the grace with which the nominees, the Academy, ABC, and Jimmy Kimmel handled the situation.'

So no prize is won until actually, it is given away – and perhaps rechecking that it was indeed given right !! ~ and no quality audit is fully qualitative !!

With regards – S. Sampathkumar

1st Mar 2017.

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