After two desensitizing years of “unprecedented times,” who knew it would be the Academy Awards, of all things, that would remind me what it felt like to be shocked?
The 2022 Oscars had some historic wins and moments, yet one infamous incident overshadowed the entire ceremony and its coverage thereafter. I am referring, of course, to the mind-boggling and reality-defying fact that the movie Cruella was honored with an Oscar.
In fairness, it did win Best Costume Design, but I am generally of the opinion that movies that feature evil Dalmatians who murder a woman by pushing her off a waterfall should not win Academy Awards. The only thing I can think would be remotely as ridiculous as this is if one of the greatest actors of all time walked up on stage at the Oscars and slapped one of the greatest comedians of all time in the face and then yelled expletives at him from his seat.
The night was filled with even more surprises, because I eventually learned that Cruella had not been nominated in one, but two categories! That punch in the gut felt like if the same actor from my previous scenario went on to win the Best Actor award 10 minutes after slapping the comedian.
Nevertheless, I shall now put aside my misgivings about this, because other notable things did happen this year and should not be forgotten to the moment that overshadowed everything. My favorite moment was to see veteran Jane Campion win Best Director for her neo-Western The Power of the Dog. She had lost the award for The Piano to Steven Spielberg in 1993, who won for Schindler’s List, an indisputable winner if there ever was one.
It was also a delight to see the great Francis Ford Coppola alongside Al Pacino and Robert De Niro on stage to talk about The Godfather on its 50th anniversary. Coppola kept the moment “sincere and brief” as he intended to and ended with a “Viva Ukraine.” However, I felt that the segment was marred by the awful electronic version of the Godfather theme that played during it.
Another memorable cast reunion was John Travolta, Samuel L. Jackson and Uma Thurman for Pulp Fiction’s 28th anniversary. Thurman and Travolta delightfully recreated their iconic dance and repeated their famous lines from the movie, and the three went on to finally reveal what was actually inside the mysterious briefcase in Pulp Fiction. In style, it was the envelope for the Best Actor award, the category they were there to present!
It was an especially eventful Oscars for Jackson. He was awarded the Honorary Governors Award for his lifetime body of work. The other recipients of the prestigious award were industry veteran, comedian and director Elaine May and legendary Norwegian actress Liv Ullmann, who was a frequent collaborator with Ingmar Bergman.
These Oscars also featured a new “Fan Favorite” award, which went to a popular movie and was voted on by the public. Zack Snyder’s Army of the Dead won the first-ever Fan Favorite Academy Award, so now I must write a sentence I never thought I would have to: The director of Justice League has won an Oscar.
A lot of history was made in the acting categories, as Ariana DeBose became the first Afro-Latina and openly queer woman to win Best Supporting Actress for her role in Spielberg’s West Side Story. On the other hand, Troy Kotsur became the first deaf male actor to win Best Supporting Actor for his role in the Best Picture-winning film CODA.
Will Smith finally won Best Actor for his role in King Richard after two previous nominations, and now I must stop pretending that Cruella winning an Oscar was the most shocking incident of the night. As you probably know and are unable to forget because every new meme on the internet is about this, Smith walked onstage and slapped Chris Rock right across the face after Rock made a joke about Smith’s wife’s hair loss due to alopecia. Smith then proceeded to shout, “Keep my wife’s name out of your fucking mouth!”
Rock has my full respect for the way he handled the incident. He didn’t flinch or break down but just carried on to present the Best Documentary Feature award! Smith was awarded an Oscar and a standing ovation a while later, delivering a long speech filled with tears and apologies for everyone except Rock. I love Smith, but his actions disappointed me immensely.
A controversial decision this year was to not broadcast the awards for the technical categories. I found this quite appalling, but with falling viewership, the network is trying everything to get ratings up. However, things do seem to be looking up for the Academy, as it had three hosts to make up for the past three host-less Oscars. All the Academy needs to do now is invite Smith back next year and let Rock host, because such opportunities do not present themselves every day!
This year’s Academy Awards were notable for many reasons but will likely be remembered for only one. Nevertheless, it’s refreshing to see that announcing the wrong Best Picture winner (which happened in 2017) is only the second-most-shocking thing to happen during the Academy Awards. After all, after the past few years, it does seem like the world is going to collapse on itself if something “unprecedented” doesn’t happen every now and then.