Oscar conspiracy theorists who think Sunday’s “Best Picture” mix-up was a deliberate slight towards Moonlight now have more fuel to add to their fire. Long-time Oscar stage manager Gary Natori revealed to The Wrap that the two employees entrusted with the winning envelopes froze for over a minute after their mistake became clear.
Brian Cullinan, who is responsible for passing on the incorrect envelope, and Martha Ruiz, who was on the opposite end of the stage, holding its twin, were supposed to memorize the night’s winners so they could respond quickly if a mistake was made. But Natoli, who watched the regretful episode unfold from the side of the stage, said they did not even attempt to alert him or another manager after Warren Beatty and Faye Dunaway incorrectly invited the La La Land team on stage.
Moonlight is a Black film about LGBT issues starring a Muslim man. After #OscarsSoWhite and Trump, everyone who doesn’t own a red MAGA hat desperately needed this win. An unprecedented number of think pieces were penned in the weeks leading up to the Oscars detailing how deserving, and historic, Moonlight winning Best Picture would be. At a time when the wounds of minority communities — especially the Black community — are so fresh, the utmost care should’ve been taken to ensure the big moment went off without a hitch.
But a white man like Cullinan was blinded by his own privilege — and his need to get a selfie with Emma Stone — to recognize that. And it appears that either Cullinan and Ruiz didn’t realize La La Land lost (perhaps they subconsciously figured it made sense that it won), or they didn’t care (for two whole minutes), while the stage dissolved into melee, that the first-ever Black LGBT movie to win Best Picture was being robbed of its hard-fought win.
There’s no arguing that their mistake has deflected attention from Moonlight‘s historic win in the days following Sunday’s show. La La Land now has its name forever tied to the mix-up in the pages of Hollywood history. Meanwhile, Moonlight‘s shining moment will always be overshadowed by the unforgettable snafu.
“I’m sure they’re very lovely people, but they just didn’t have the disposition for this,” Natoli said of Cullinan and Ruiz. “You need somebody who’s going to be confident and unafraid.”
Was it their disposition that got in the way, or their privilege?