The Oscars came roaring back after two years of COVID-19 lockdown under the direction of uber-producer Will Packer and from the very start, he promised us a memorable show, jump-starting the excitement when he engaged three female comedians to host—Regina Hall, Amy Schumer, and Wanda Sykes—who kept the show moving using their own comedic stamp.
The big winner of the night was the little indie film “Coda” (Apple) which consisted of a mostly deaf cast and won the best picture which surprised some insiders who suggested that the quality of the film was just a few bars away from a made-for-television movie. It also won the adapted screenplay prize for its writer-director, Sian Heder, and the supporting actor award for Troy Kotsur. There is an opportunity to read the screenplay courtesy of Indie Film Hustle.
But nothing moved the evening as much as the “slap” heard around the world—literally when Oscar winner Will Smith slapped comic Chris Rock after he made a joke about Smith’s wife, Jada Pinkett Smith’s, bald head. Smith later went on to accept his Oscar for Best Actor in a dramatic speech for the Best Picture nominated film, “King Richard.” Tears flowing, Smith apologized to the Academy.
“Richard Williams was a fierce defender of his family,” Smith said in a tearful speech following his win for portraying the Williams sisters’ father in “King Richard.” “In this time of my life, in this moment, I am overwhelmed by what God is calling on me to do and be in this world.
“I know to do what we do, you’ve got to be able to take abuse,” he said. “You gotta be able to have people talk crazy about you. In this business, you gotta be able to have people disrespecting you, and you gotta smile, and you gotta pretend like that’s OK. … I want to apologize to the Academy; I want to apologize to all my fellow nominees.”
Later in the evening—via Twitter immediately following the telecast—the Academy said it “does not condone violence of any form” and made the point that the night is to celebrate the winners who “deserve this moment of recognition from their peers and movie lovers around the world.”
The LAPD confirmed that Rock declined to file a police report about the slapping, offering in a statement, “If the involved party desires a police report at a later date, LAPD will be available to complete an investigative report.”
Jane Campion became just the third woman to win Best Director, which is the only prize of the night to be won by “The Power of the Dog;” Kenneth Branagh won original screenplay for “Belfast,” and Jessica Chastain won best actress for “The Eyes of Tammy Faye.”
In keeping the eye firmly on the issues of diversity and inclusion Chastain brought up the issue, tip-toeing around the proposed laws targeting the LGBTQ community.
One of the most heartfelt wins was for Ariana DeBose, the first Oscar of the night for Supporting Actress for her role as Anita in “West Side Story” making her the first Afro Latina and openly queer woman making sure to bring this important subject up in her acceptance speech —“An openly queer woman of color, an Afro Latina who found her strength in art…There is indeed a place for us.”
Despite delivering an amazing performance for her nominated Best Original Song entry “Be Alive,” Beyoncé, 40, who opened the show with a bang with her 10-year-old daughter, Blue Ivy Carter, lost the Oscar to Billie Eilish and Finneas for their original song “No Time to Die.”
As predicted, Japan’s “Drive My Car” won the award for international feature, directed by Ryusuke Hamaguchi.
Producer Packer stepped into a nest of controversy when they chose to award eight categories before the live telecast inside the Dolby Theatre where “Dune” won editing, score, and production design. The production team did air an edited-down version of those eight categories, with sound bites from the winners’ speeches, such as “Queen of Basketball” (best documentary short winner) director Ben Proudfoot, who used his moment to call for the return of WNBA player Brittney Griner, currently jailed in Russia.
This year’s Oscars, the 94th, arrived as the Academy was attempting to reverse a years-long decline in ratings with some controversial changes, including omitting the eight categories and introducing a “fan favorite” Oscar and “Cheer Moment” prize voted on by Twitter users.
Despite Netflix’s “The Power of the Dog” leading with 12 nominations, in the end, it only won one Oscar—for Campion’s direction. But here’s the really interesting question to ponder, what does Apple’s win for Best Picture before Netflix mean in the streaming space and world of feature films? Netflix paved the way for the streamers to get into the Oscar conversations and they made substantial investments in the award campaigns, expecting to win.
Here is the full list of 2022 Academy Award winners.