We finally have an explanation for how the Oscars went so, so wrong.

For most of its run, you’d have been forgiven for thinking the 2017 Academy Awards was the blandest to date.

The red carpet action was tasteful but forgettable, host Jimmy Kimmel didn’t manage to offend anyone (though he was accused of stealing a joke), and as far as we know none of the stars got drunk and raucous.

However, the ceremony fell into chaos in its final moments when the night’s biggest award, for Best Picture, was presented to the wrong winner.

Oh, calamity.

By now, you’re probably familiar with the excruciatingly awkward series of events: screen legends Faye Dunaway and Warren Beatty announcing La La Land as the winner; the film’s crew making their emotional acceptance speeches; the look on producer Jordan Horowitz’s face as he took the microphone to state there had been a mistake, that Moonlight had in fact won.


It was, frankly, a mess.

moonlight oscars gaffe
Image via Channel 9.

Although the Moonlight cast and crew were eventually handed their rightful awards, the victory had already been overshadowed by the question on everyone's lips:

How could this possibly happen? At the Oscars, of all occasions?

Well, thanks to one zoomed-in photograph, we could now have our answer. Kinda.

Listen: The Recap team debriefs on the drama of the 2017 Oscars. (Post continues after audio.)

If you've watched the footage of tonight's calamity, you'll have seen a clearly bemused Warren Beatty offering an explanation for why La La Land was the title called out.

"I opened the envelope, and it said Emma Stone, La La Land," the actor told the flabbergasted audience.

"That's why I took such a long look at Faye and at you. I wasn't trying to be funny."

Anyone else feel the urge to give him a big ol' cuddle? Poor guy.

Beatty's explanation sounded perfectly plausible, but when Emma Stone was interviewed backstage after the ceremony, she cast some doubt over it.

The actress told journalists she had been holding the card announcing her Best Actress in a Leading Role win in her hand "the entire time."

"So whatever story — I don't mean to start stuff, but whatever story that was, I had that card. So I'm not sure what happened," Stone said.

A rep for Leonardo DiCaprio, who presented the Best Actress in a Leading Role award, corroborated this story, telling People the actor had handed Stone the card and said, "You are going to want to keep this."

So, who's telling the truth here? Well, as it turns out, both Beatty and Stone had a copy of the same ballot. Take a look at this screenshot:

Actress in a Leading Role. No wonder Beatty looked so confused when he opened it.

Two representatives from PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC), the accounting firm in charge of the Oscars balloting, told Market Watch there are two copies of each winning ballot made for the ceremony.

"From a security perspective, we double up everything. That’s why there’s two of us. We have two briefcases, that are identical, and we have two entire sets of winning envelopes," Brian Cullinan and Martha L. Ruiz explained.

So, onto the next question: how did the second Best Actress envelope end up in Warren Beatty's hand as he walked on stage to present Best Picture?

According to a statement that's since been released by PwC, it was simple human error. (Post continues after gallery.)

"We sincerely apologise 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 statement began.

"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."

Spare a thought for the poor soul who handed Dunaway and Beatty the wrong envelope.