On the red carpet in front of The Dolby Theater before Hollywood’s most celebrated awards were to be given out at the 94th Academy Awards Oscars ceremony, this year’s producer of the show, Will Packer, teased audiences by stating they should expect to see a show that would be full of “surprises.”
Beyonce opened the show with a performance from Compton, California. That was a surprise. Co-host Regina Hall’s pat-down of Josh Brolin and Jason Momoa. That was a surprise. Megan Thee Stallion taking part in the performance of “We Don’t Talk About Bruno,” that was a surprise. Then, there was co-host Amy Schumer hanging from the ceiling in a Spiderman costume. Also a surprise. But, the biggest surprise of the night is what viewers are still buzzing about. It was when Oscar nominated actor (who later won) Will Smith slapped comedian and Oscars presenter Chris Rock after an offensive joke targeted at his wife Jada Pinkett Smith.
Seconds after comedian, and Will’s friend Chris Rock made that joke, Will Smith reacted to seeing Jada’s hurtful reaction by slapping Rock in a very public forum which consisted of their colleagues, bosses and fans. Not a very smart move. Unless, he was roped into it by Oscar producers?
This year’s Oscars producer Will Packer had his circle nearby. Regina Hall, Will Smith, Jada Pinkett Smith, Tiffany Haddish and Wanda Sykes. It’s feasible that they could have concocted that event to get people talking about the Oscars ceremony once again just like in the glory days of the show.
However, in the days of the aftermath, highly unlikely. The Academy came out with the following statement: “Things unfolded in a way we could not have anticipated. While we would like to clarify that Mr. Smith was asked to leave the ceremony and refused, we also recognize we could have handled the situation differently.” Chris Rock stated that he is currently “still kind of processing what happened,” and he will “talk about that s***t. And it will be serious and funny.” (Courtesy of “Access”).
According to Whoopi Goldberg who is a host on “The View” and also a member of the Academy stated that “there are big consequences” that includes Will Smith possibly having his Academy membership suspended as well as not being invited to next year’s Oscars ceremony. Basically banned for a while. Traditionally, as the winner of Best Actor, he would have presented the Oscar to next year’s Best Actress winner.
Unfortunately, the act of violence by Will Smith has overshadowed a major milestone that was made in movie history when Apple became the first streaming service to win the Best Picture Oscar. The running theme in the awards show throughout the night was celebrating worthy movie’s anniversaries by bringing back some of the movies’ stars. Some of these were: The Godfather, Pulp Fiction, Juno, and White Men Can’t Jump. Chris Rock and Will Smith had a reunion of sorts from working together on “The Fresh Prince of Bel Air” in one episode.
Venus and Serena Williams opened the show at the Dolby Theater. They introduced Beyonce’s performance of “Be Alive” featuring Dixson from “King Richard,” nominated for Best Picture. They performed from Compton, California in a makeshift neon green tennis court.
The second surprise of the night, after Beyonce, was when DJ Khaled stepped-in during the Oscars introduction of the three hosts, Amy Schumer, Wanda Sykes, and Regina Hall. They addressed the controversy of the non-airing of the Technical Awards as the lights started to flicker. Amy took a jab at the Golden Globe Awards when she said they were in the Memoriam portion of the Oscars.
John Travolta was in attendance with former co-star Uma Thurman from “Pulp Fiction.” Schumer encouraged the room full of industry people to give themselves a hand, “during a raging pandemic, you made a movie.”
The first Award of the night was for Best Supporting Actress. Ariana Dubose of “West Side Story” beat out Judy Dench from “Belfast,” Kristen Dunst from “The Power of the Dog,” and Aunjanue Ellis from “King Richard.” A former “So You Think You Can Dance” contestant, it was her first Oscar nomination and win. In her acceptance speech she said “dreams do come true.” And, it’s “the summer of a lifetime.” She called Rita Moreno a divine inspiration who paved the way for herself and others. She said “there is indeed a place for us,” when addressing that she is a queer woman of Latino and Afro descent.
Regina Hall came out onto the stage to pull up as many handsome single guys as possible, along with trying to coerce some who were not so single and said they had to take a Covid Test backstage with her using her tongue down their throats! Then she proceeded to pat-down the next two presenters Josh Brolin and Jason Momoa who opened the envelope for Best Achievement in Sound. “Dune” was the winner.
To celebrate the 30th anniversary of “White Men Can’t Jump,” Wesley Snipes, Woody Harrelson, and Rosie Perez were welcomed to the stage with a standing ovation from the room. They presented Best Achievement in Cinematography. The award went to Greig Fraser for “Dune.” “Dune” also won for Best Visual Effects.
Lily James (“Cinderella”), Halle Bailey (soon to be “The Little Mermaid” Ariel), and Naomi Scott (Princess Jasmine in “Aladdin”) presented Best Animated Feature Film. The Oscar went to “Encanto.” The nominees for the Best Animated Film were next. “The Windshield Wiper” won the Oscar.
It wouldn’t be a proper Oscars ceremony without acknowledging the major milestone of the newly opened Academy Museum. There was a fun skit shown that had Wanda Sykes taking a tour of the museum by its director. Last year’s winner of Best Supporting Actress presented the Oscar for Best Actor in a Supporting role. The nominees were: Jesse Pelmons, “The Power of the Dog,” Ciaran Hinds in “Belfast,” Troy Kotsur from Coda, J.K. Simmons from “Being the Ricardos,” Kodi Smit-McPhee from “Power of the Dog.” Troy Kotsur from “Coda” brought home the Oscar. The presenter was worried about the mispronunciation of his name. Ironically, Troy was the second deaf actor to ever win an Oscar.
Kostur revealed that the cast of “Coda” was invited to the White House. He gave credit to the stage that allowed him to develop his craft as an actor. He dedicated the award to the deaf community, along with the Coda community and his family.
In a pre-Oscars ceremony interview, Best Supporting Actor winner Troy Kostur from “Coda” talked about the “colorful” language in the movie. He said “Coda” went from an R-rating to PG-13. Kostur added some language to the film. He said “Coda” is so wonderful to show how colorful our language can be. It was so fun to play Frank Rossy. The actor, who plays a fisherman in the film, said he doesn’t eat seafood. He had to go through a two-week boot camp on fishing.
Tiffany Haddish presented with a Marvel actor the category Best International Feature Film. The nominees were: “Drive My Car,” “Flee,” “The Hand of God,” “Lunana: A Yak in the Classroom,” and “The Worst Person in the World.” The winner was “Drive My Car” from Japan. It was the fifth Oscar and 15 nominations for Japan. The Academy tried to cut his time really short. Luckily, he stayed on stage and finished his acceptance speech.
Country Queen Reba McEntire took to the stage to perform “Somehow You Do,” followed by a moment of silence dedicated to support Ukraine during the current war. “The Long Goodbye” won for Best Live Action Short Film. Actress Lupita Nyong’o and Costumer Ruby Carter presented the next award for achievement in Costume Design. Ruby was the first black costume designer to win an Oscar. This year’s winner of the award went to Jenny Beavan for “Cruella.” Her previous Oscar wins were “Mad Max Fury Road” and “A Room with a View.” John Leguizamo was there to introduce a live performance of “We Don’t Talk About Bruno” with a surprise collaboration with rapper Megan Thee Stallion.
Celebrating its 15th anniversary, the cast of “Juno,” Jennifer Garner, Elliot Page, and J.K. Simmons presented Best Original Screenplay. The Oscar went to Kenneth Branagh for “Belfast” who accepted his first Oscar. Then, Shawn Mendes, and Tracy Ellis Ross followed him by presenting Best Adapted Screenplay. The nominees were Coda, Drive My Car, Dune, The Lost Daughter, and The Power of the Dog. The award went to Sian Heder for “Coda.” During her speech, Heder stated, “it’s hard to be a director, and a mom,” and her family makes it possible.
The Oscar winner for Best Original score went to Hans Zimmer for “Dune.” Rami Malek introduced the “No Time To Die” nominated song called “No Time to Die” written and performed by Billie Eilish and Finneas live performance of the song. The award for Best Film Editing went to Joe Walker for “Dune.”
In a pre-Oscars ceremony interview, winners of Best Original Song for “No Time to Die” Billie Eilish and brother Finneas said for their original song, they did a marrying of the two. Their own style and what feels like a ‘Bond song. Billie said she wanted it to feel “authentic.” On performing on the Oscars stage, they said it’s “nerve wracking.” Billie said it will be hard to sing, both technically and hard to sing with everyone watching.
Comedian Chris Rock came out on stage to present Best Documentary. But, before announcing the nominees and winner, he decided to roast some of the celebrities seated in the front row. Those celebrities included Penelope Cruz and her husband Javier Bardem, both nominated for Oscars. Then he made a comment to Will Smith’s wife Jada Pinkett Smith that her shaved head reminded him that he can’t wait to see “G.I. Jane 2.” That’s when Will Smith got onto the stage to give Rock a heavy handed slap on his cheek.
A little shaken after the biggest surprise of the night, Chris Rock continued with announcing the nominees for Best Documentary film. They were “Ascension,” “Attica,” “Flee,” “Summer of Soul,” and “Writing with Fire.” The golden statuette went to Ahmir “Questlove” Thompson for “Summer of Soul.”
Artist Musician Sean Diddy Combs came out and told “Will and Chris we’re going to solve that like family at the Gold Party.” He presented Francis Ford Coppola’s “The Godfather” trilogy to pay tribute to its 50th anniversary. Francis Ford Coppola, Robert Deniro, and Al Pacino entered the stage to celebrate the movie. Coppola said there were many collaborators on the film..too many to name. He said one he’s never thanked, “it was his participation and his decisions at the end that made it possible, Robert Evans.”
During the In Memoriam segment, which was backed by a talented gospel choir, special stand-out dedications were given to Ivan Rietman (“Ghostbusters”) by Bill Murray, and Betty White (“Golden Girls”) by Jamie Lee Curtis.
The next Oscar awarded was for Best Production Set design which went to “Dune.” Zoe Kravitz and Jake Gyllenhaal presented the Oscar award for Best Original Song to Billie Eilish and Finneas for “No Time to Die” in the James Bond film. Actor Kevin Costner presented next and shared his first grown-up movie experience at age seven at the Cinerama Dome in Hollywood watching “How the West was Won.” He was there to present the Best Director award.
The nominees for Best Director were Kenneth Branagh “Belfast,” Rysuke Hamaguchi “Drive My Car”, Paul Thomas Anderson “Licorice Pizza”, Jane Campion “The Power of the Dog,” and Steven Spielberg “Westside Story.” The award went to Jane Campion for her second Oscar and fifth nomination. She was also the first woman director to be nominated twice.
Next, it was a “Pulp Fiction” reunion on the Dolby stage. Uma Thurman, Samuel L. Jackson, and John Travolta came out on stage to a roaring standing ovation. While Samuel L. Jackson began to present, Travolta and Thurman did their famous dance together from the movie. The trio brought along with them a mysterious black suitcase.
Inside their suitcase revealed the Best Actor in a leading role. The winner was Will Smith for his portrayal of the real-life father of tennis champions Venus and Serena Williams in “King Richard.” Smith beat out his other contenders: Javier Bardem, Denzel Washington, Andrew Garfield, Benedict Cumberbatch.
Smith gave a tearful, long-winded and sometimes fumbling acceptance speech where he got very emotional. He stated “at this moment I am overwhelmed by what God is calling me to do and be in this world.” He said in making this film he got to protect Saniyya and Demi (the two actresses that play Venus and Serena).” Smith also talked about love and protection of his people. He acknowledged the earlier event between him and Chris Rock, by stating, ” you got to be able to take abuse. You got to be able to have people talk crazy about you. You got to be able to have people disrespect you. You got to smile and pretend like that’s okay.”
Before ending his speech, Smith apologized to the Academy and his fellow nominees. But, not to Chris Rock whom he slapped earlier. “This is a beautiful moment. I’m not crying for winning an award. It’s about being able to shine light on all of the people…and the entire cast and crew of King Richard and the entire Williams family” Finally ending with “love will make you do crazy things.” He said “I hope the Academy invites me back.”
The Makeup and Hair styling award went to “The Eyes of Tammy Faye.” Then, Anthony Hopkins came out onto the stage and said “Will Smith said it all. What more can be said? Let’s have peace, and love and quiet.” Hopkins presented the nominees for Best Actress in a leading role. It was Jessica Chastain who won the Oscar for her portrayal of Tammy Faye Baker in “The Eyes of Tammy Faye.” She beat out Olivia Colman (“The Lost Daughter”), Penelope Cruz (“Parallel Mothers”), Nicole Kidman (“Being the Ricardos”), Kristen Stewart (“Spencer”).
After receiving her Oscar statue, Chastain was humbled by a standing ovation. In her speech, Chastain said she is inspired by Tammy Faye’s radical acts of love. “We talked about love a lot tonight.” She said everyone is connected for their desire to be accepted of who we are and to live a life without violence or terror.
The last award of the night was presented by legendary songstresses Lady Gaga and Liza Minnelli. Minnelli was celebrating the 50th anniversary of “Cabaret.” The nominees for Best Picture were: “Belfast,” “Don’t Look Up,” “Drive My Car,” “Dune,” “King Richard,” “Coda,” “Licorice Pizza,” “Nightmare Alley,” “The Power of the Dog,” “Westside Story.” The Best Picture winner was “Coda”! The movie won all three Oscars that it was nominated for – Best Adapted Screenplay, Supporting Actor, and the final Oscar, Best Picture.
They thanked the incredible team at Apple. The movie’s win is a milestone in being the first streaming movie to win the Best Picture Oscar award.