I think at this point everybody has heard over and over again about the major event of the Oscars this year: the slap. Immediately following the event televised across the world, the internet blew up with videos, opinions, and memes… so many memes, and while we will be talking about the slap there were so many more iconic moments coming from the 94th Academy Award ceremony ranging from historic wins to just some incredibly poor decisions.
Addressing the elephant in the room, everybody has heard about the slap Will Smith dealt to Chris Rock following a shallow joke about his wife Jada Pinkett Smith during the comedians roast session of several celebrity couples including Javier Burdem and Penelope Cruz. Specifically, Chris Rock poked at Jada Pinkett Smith’s shaved head telling her that he’s excited “for G.I. Jane 2,” making reference to the 1997 fictional action movie about a woman attempting to earn the first female position in the US Navy Seals.
What Chris Rock reportedly didn’t know at the time was that Jada Smith’s shaved head is a result of her condition named alopecia that causes patched hair loss, something that she has talked about extensively in various interviews over the past few years. Whether Rock knew about her condition or not, the joke was received rather poorly by the audience, with Will Smith coming on stage, walking over to the comedian and smacking him straight across the face before sitting back down and stating “keep my wife’s name out of your f***ing mouth.”
The televised video of the slap made national news with people arguing over Smith’s actions and while Rock has reportedly decided not to press charges, this act falls in poor taste for the American actor who has historically argued against violence.
The 2022 Oscars was bound to be a pivotal moment for the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences as the first live event post-COVID and following large criticism over its inclusion of BIPOC movies, actors, directors, etc. While there were some huge wins for minority communities this year, there were also some very awkward moments and decisions throughout.
The biggest wins come from Ariana Debose’s Oscar win for Best Supporting Actress for her role in Spielberg’s Westside Story as Anita and CODA’s two victories in Best Motion Picture and Supporting Actor. Ariana Debose’s win marks the first Oscar won by an openly-queer woman of color and is another milestone in her career, appearing in several other works including as an original member of the Hamilton ensemble and in the Donna Summer Musical in 2017. Debose made her speech commemorating the struggles she faced as a woman of color as well as an openly queer woman, noting her loving relationship to costume designer Sue Makkoo.
CODA’s victory in Best Motion Picture comes to upset many as they expected the Benedict Cumberbatch starring film The Power Of the Dog to take home the prize and is the first time that a movie from a streaming service takes home the prize for Best Picture. CODA supporting actor Troy Kotsur also made history as the first deaf man to take home an Oscar and the second deaf person in general to win, preceded by his co-star Marlee Matlin who won an Oscar in 1987.
Kotsur’s reception was notably wholesome with Youn Yuh-jung announcing the actor’s win in sign language, leading to Kotsur receiving the win with tears in his mind as the audience celebrated in applause by way of Jazz hands instead of clapping. CODA’s victory brings a new meaning to Bong Joon Ho’s remark years ago about crossing the 1-inch tall barrier of subtitles not just in terms of international films, but also when it comes to distinct languages and forms of communication such as sign language. This is a new step towards inclusivity and dismantling the ableism within the entertainment industry, which still continues to plague us.
Another notable victory came for Sci-Fi fans with the 6 awards given to last year’s remake of Dune for Best Visual Effects, Cinematography, Film Editing, Production Design, and Best Sound. Basically every technical award was given to the Villenueve directed book adaptation except for costume design which was awarded to Disney’s live action film Cruella.
Best international feature was given to Ryusuke Hamaguchi’s film Drive My Car featuring a widowed actor who builds a unique if often difficult relationship with his new young chauffeur (highly recommended).
Best Animated feature was given to Disney’s Encanto, winning over Disney’s Luca and Columbia Picture’s The Mitchells vs. the Machines (another top recommendation) marking a big win for the critically acclaimed film beautifully depicting Columbian culture.
Lastly, Best Original Song was given to Billie Eilish and her brother Finneas for their work in the titular bond song No Time To Die. Notably, Billie and Finneas’s first Oscar win also marks the first time an Oscar has been awarded to somebody born after the year 2000, leading a new decade of celebrities into the limelight.
Overall, the Oscars were a wild ride for everyone involved. There were unexpected loses, aggressive slaps on stage, and most importantly, well deserved wins for marginalized communities. The Oscars seemingly listened to the public and attempted to be more inclusive; whether they failed or succeeded is up to the public to decide. For now, social media will continue buzzing about the Chris Rock and Will Smith altercation.