Academy Awards stun audiences with chaotic ceremony


Photo courtesy of Rolling Stone.

Thomas Hartill, Former Editor in Chief

This previously ran in our April 2022 print issue. 

With the height of the pandemic finally behind us (hopefully), the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences invited the film industry to Hollywood’s Dolby Theatre for the most star-studded awards show of the year. 

Featuring countless surprises and twist results throughout the night, this year’s ceremony is certainly one of the most memorable in recent years, yet for all the wrong reasons. To address the elephant in the room, in a stunning moment as Chris Rock attempted to present the award for Best Documentary Feature, Will Smith marched on stage and hit the comedian after he made a rather distasteful joke at the expense of Smith’s wife’s hair loss condition, alopecia. He then returned to his seat where he shouted profane remarks at Rock. 

“Keep my wife’s name out of your f—— mouth,” Smith shouted twice. 

Just moments after this, the room fell silent as attendees scrambled to figure out whether it was scripted or not. Rock soon gained his composure and went on to present the award for Best Documentary Feature to Ahmir “Questlove” Thompson, Joseph Patel, Robert Fyvolent, and David Dinerstein for their film Summer of Soul. Despite this, the feeling in the room was undeniably and irrevocably altered, as even in his press room interview Questlove deflected a question regarding the altercation. 

“I’m not talking about that,” Thompson said. “This is about the Harlem cultural festival.”

Going against normal Academy Awards tradition, Smith was omitted from the promotional picture featuring the four acting Oscar winners. The picture only featured Best Actress Jessica Chastain, Best Supporting Actor Troy Kotsur, and Best Supporting Actress Ariana DeBose. Since the night of the ceremony, Smith has resigned from The Academy and has also been banned from attending the Academy Awards for 10 years. 

Unfortunately, the winners of the night were almost entirely overshadowed by this Will Smith incident, so it’s important to now recognize the hard work of these artists. 

The previously mentioned acting wins were all expected by most media outlets, but it’s still wonderful to see two people of color win awards along with the first deaf man to win an Oscar, Troy Kotsur for CODA. In addition, the winners for Best Live Action Short Film and Best Documentary Feature included two of the few South Asians to win an Academy Award, Riz Ahmed and Joseph Patel. Other expected winners include Encanto for Best Animated Feature and Drive My Car for Best International Feature Film, two films which also show a greater push for diversity in the ceremony. Best Director went to Jane Campion for her work on The Power of the Dog, which despite being a frontrunner for Best Picture for much of the awards season, did not take home the prize. The winner of Best Picture ended up being CODA, the first film of primarily deaf actors and the first film to have premiered at Sundance Film Festival to win the award. However, on a somewhat more ominous note, CODA’s win marks the first Best Picture win for Apple and the first win for a streaming service in general. It seems as though massive strides have been made for diversity yet also the homogenization of the industry into streaming giants. 

Aside from CODA earning the top prize, the biggest winner of the night was Denis Villeneuve’s Dune, a film which, to the chagrin of many, did not earn its director a nomination for Best Director. Mostly sweeping the craft awards, Dune won for its cinematography, editing, original score, production design, sound, and visual effects. And as many may know, a majority of these awards were controversially presented off the air, enraging countless famous figures in cinema. Some celebrities chose to skip the red carpet in order to watch these awards presented including Best Actress winner Jessica Chastain and acclaimed director Guillermo del Toro. 

So with countless ups and downs, 2022’s ceremony has certainly been one of the most simultaneously interesting and boring. While Will Smith did slap Chris Rock, nearly every winner was entirely expected by pundits. Nonetheless, the Oscars this year provided much needed recognition to countless marginalized communities in Hollywood, something which will hopefully continue for years to come.