In the words of Ron Burgundy, “That escalated quickly!”.
The 94th Academy Awards had more than its fair share of failures (one we will get to), but it is important to remember that it had some good moments as well. Great moments, in fact, that are worth remembering.
In no particular order…
- On a personal note, I had one of my best years at predictions, going 21/23 (missing only film editing and animated short.)
- Some of the speeches were heartwarming (particularly Troy Kotsur, aided by an equally lovable Youn Yuh-Jung). Also, from what I remember, only two or so were being played off by music.
- Regardless of what you thought of the hosts, there was at least some proof that the show does need a host of some kind.
- The idea of (certain) movie reunions, most notably that of the 50th anniversary of The Godfather.
- A few firsts for winners, like Ariana Dubose as the first openly gay latina and Jane Campion as only the third female director.
- CODA, which I never get tired of saying was my favorite of 2021, wins Best Picture, the first time my favorite of the year has done so in over a decade.
- Lady Gaga presenting the final award with a rather frail looking Liza Minelli. Hearing Gaga praise Minelli (who got a deserved standing ovation) and say “I got you” made me smile in a big way.
- DJ Khaled
- Thought I did not notice it at the time, when presenters Daniel Kaluuya and musician H.E.R. where walking on stage, the music being played was Toto’s “Africa”. Need I explain more?
- The reveals of the Twitter Oscar fan favorite poll. It was ludicrous from the moment it was revealed on twitter, and the results proved it. Granted, I was laughing out loud when I saw them reveal Army of the Dead.
- The cutting of the eight categories was supposed to shorten the ceremony, but ended up only having the show going over the three hour mark by 30 plus minutes.
- While some of the jokes from the hosts worked (especially Amy Schumer), some dragged on, especially when Regina Hall had to pat down Josh Brolin and Jason Mamoa.
- The Oscar broadcast does tend to have a bit too many montages, and this year was no exception. I like James Bond a lot, but they did a 50th ten years ago, and I don’t think I am entirely alone in remembering that.
- Speaking of montages, the in memoriam (the only montage I think everyone agrees needs to be shown). This year, it seemed rather off, to say the least. At least three celebrities got extended shout outs (Sidney Poiter, Ivan Reitman, and Betty White), but no one else. Yet the music choice was somehow upbeat. Also, the dancers are talented and what not, but NOT WHEN THEY ARE IN FRONT OF THE SCREEN! To their credit, at least they showed clips.
- Some people did drone on too long, most notably Kevin Costner (who I have as much admiration for as any celebrity I can think of) when he was announcing Best Director.
- The performance of “We don’t talk about Bruno” was superfluous in the long run. We should not talk about that version.
but mainly…the slap.
Sadly, nearly everything I said so far will be forgotten to all but the most die hard fan. This will be the Oscar ceremony known for one thing: When Chris Rock told a joke about Jada Pinkett Smith (who suffers from alopecia) and her husband, mega superstar Will Smith, walked on stage and slapped him across the face.
Like many, I thought this was staged. Then the sound went out, and I saw the reactions of Will and Chris. I basically yelled to my friends upstairs “GET DOWN HERE!” because I knew this was huge. If you have not seen it yet somehow, it is everywhere.
I don’t know the full story behind all of it (Rock and Smith have a foggy past, to say the least), but it was clear that Smith knew he messed up, as evidenced in his Best Actor speech (had this happened at an award show before the Oscars, there is no way he would have won). He did apologize to the Academy, although did not mention Rock by name (who, as of this writing, has decided to not press charges).
I have a friend named Bill, who was never a big fan of Will Smith. A few days before the Oscars, I told him he had to live in a world where Will Smith is an Oscar winner. He told me that, in a decade or so, Smith will go down as one of the worst Best Actor winners. Well, Bill did have a point.
At the moment, it does seem some in Hollywood are split on who was in the right and who the wrong. Personally, I did think at the time Rock’s joke went too far, but that was before I found out that Jada had alopecia and there was a rocky (no pun intended) past between Rock and the Smiths. While I don’t think I need to say it, I also feel that Smith obviously went too far.
Video surfaced during the commercial breaks of Smith being comforted by certain celebs like Tyler Perry, Bradley Cooper, and (perhaps most importantly) Denzel Washington. It was Denzel who (as Smith said in his speech) offered this sagely advice:
“At your highest moment, be careful, that’s when the devil comes for you.”
Simply put, what happened was unfortunate, and is indeed a dark mark on the history of the Oscars (my mom equated it to the moment in the 70s when a streaker came on stage behind actor David Niven). Time will tell how Smith (one of the biggest stars on earth) will recover. I choose not to partake in the hate towards him or Rock (nor in the meme making of the incident, and that says a lot coming from me). I choose to remember the good over the bad (despite what little there may have been), and to improve on the bad.