In the atmosphere of a scandal surrounding the eventual Best Actor winner Will Smith, the 94th Oscars took place on Sunday March 27th. The biggest winner of the night was CODA, a feel-good coming-of-age movie about a hearing girl growing up in a deaf family. In a face-off between a highly acclaimed critical darling, The Power of the Dog, and a simple feel good story, the Academy opted for the latter.
CODA’s win broke a number of long-lasting statistics, highlighting the peculiarity of this Best Picture win. It is the first film since 1981’s Ordinary People to win without any below-the-line nominations, and the first one in history to win while lacking both Best Director and Best Editing nominations, stats once considered necessary to grab the top prize. Moreover, with only 3 nominations, CODA is the least nominated Best Picture winner since the 1932’s Grand Hotel.
The Power of the Dog, on the other hand, led the Oscars nominations with a staggering 12, but after winning the BAFTA for Best Film, ended up winning only one Oscar – for Jane Campion in the Best Director category. This makes her the third woman in history (and second in a row) to win that prize.
The film that won the most Oscars was, as predicted, Denis Villeneuve’s Dune. Sweeping the technical categories with 6 wins, Dune became the most awarded film since La La Land. This is a great sign for Dune: Part 2, set for a 2023 release. Most categories were resolved without major surprises. After a long and intense campaign, Jessica Chastain deservedly won her first Oscar for her portrayal of a televangelist-turned-LGBT-activist in The Eyes of Tammy Faye.
In the Best Actor category, Will Smith’s win for playing the Williams sisters’ father in King Richard was overshadowed by scandal. Presenter Chris Rock made a joke at the expense of Will Smith’s wife, who suffers from a disease causing hair loss, comparing her shaved hair to the main character in the film G.I. Jane. Although initially seen laughing, Smith’s temper quickly changed, walking up to Rock and punching him, followed by an outburst of “Keep my wife’s name out of your f***king mouth!”. Taking place approximately halfway through the ceremony, it set the tone for the remainder of the evening.
While accepting the award for Best Actor later on, Smith tried to clumsily explain himself by saying how he’s “overwhelmed by what God is calling on him to do” and that “love will make you do crazy things”. It’s ironic then, that during a ceremony that passed over a film deconstructing toxic masculinity (The Power of the Dog), we saw the largest outburst of toxic masculinity in Oscars’ history. With calls to remove Will Smith from the Academy circulating around social media, it is too early to predict how this situation will develop and how it will harm Smith’s future career. It is undeniable, however, that this disgraceful behaviour will leave a stain on his reputation.
The ceremony, replete with questionable decisions from the production team, a plethora of distasteful jokes, and disrespect towards artists, was far from successful. Although the ratings increased by about 50% from last year’s historic low, this year’s Oscars are still the second least popular show in the history of the televised ceremony.
Yet, the amount of traction they have been getting in the days following the ceremony feels significantly bigger than in the years before. Paradoxically, it’s not because of any of the rewarded films, but because of one man’s shocking behaviour. And with such a forgettable Best Picture winner as CODA, it is safe to say that the 2022 Oscar winners will not make much of a mark on cinema history.
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