The 94th Academy Awards, overshadowed by the extraordinary Smith moment that stunned millions of viewers watching the event on their screens and those gathered at the Dolby Theatre, returned to glitz, glamour and spectacle for the first time since the pandemic
CODA, a heartwarming film exploring the world of the deaf, won the Academy Award for best picture in a ceremony that will go down in Oscar history for best actor winner Will Smith slapping Chris Rock on stage for making a joke about his wife Jada Pinkett-Smith.
The 94th Academy Awards, overshadowed by the extraordinary Smith moment that stunned millions of viewers watching the event on their screens and those gathered at the Dolby Theatre, returned to glitz, glamour and spectacle for the first time since the pandemic.
Denis Villeneuve's sci-fi spectacle 'Dune' registered six wins in technical categories, 'CODA' was the big winner of the night with three Oscars -- adapted screenplay for director Sian Heder and supporting actor for Troy Kotsur.
Kotsur, a first-time Academy Award winner, became the second deaf person to win the best supporting actor trophy. His co-star Marlee Matlin was the first when she bagged an Oscar for actress in a leading role for Children of a Lesser God (1986).
“It is amazing to be here. I cannot believe that I am here.Thank you to the Academy for recognising my work,” an emotional Kotsur said through an American sign language interpreter in his acceptance speech.
'CODA', a term for Child of Deaf Adults, centres around a deaf family with the exception of the daughter who aspires to be a singer. It is the first film with a cast of predominantly deaf actors, and backed by a streamer (Apple TV Plus), to scoop the coveted best picture award, leaving frontrunner “The Power of The Dog” behind in the Oscars race.
Jane Campion won the best director trophy for 'The Power of The Dog'. She is the first woman to be nominated twice in the category and only the third woman to win it after Chloe Zhao's win last year for “Nomadland” and Kathryn Bigelow's Oscar for “Hurt Locker” in 2010.
Jessica Chastain, not viewed as a frontrunner in the best actress in a leading role category, won the Oscar for the biopic “The Eyes of Tammy Faye”.
The best actor title went to Smith for King Richard.
Minutes before his win was announced, the actor grabbed centrestage and the meticulously planned event, amongst the most watched in the world, took a turn for the dramatic.
It was the last half-hour. Actor-comic Rock came on stage to announce the winners for best documentary feature award and made a tasteless joke at Pinkett-Smith's expense, saying she could star in the sequel to “GI Jane”. It was an apparent reference to her shaved head because of the autoimmune disorder alopecia.
An enraged Smith went up and hit Rock on the face, leaving millions dumbstruck.
Smith alluded to the incident in his acceptance speech, saying “love will make you do crazy things”.
“I want to apologise to the academy. I want to apologise to all my fellow nominees... Art imitates life. I look like the crazy father just like they said about Richard Williams. But love will make you do crazy things,” a tearful Smith said.
However, he did not apologise to Rock.
The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences (AMPAS), the institution behind the Oscars, distanced itself from the incident with a statement declaring it “does not condone violence of any form”.
The Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) took note, saying Rock had declined to file a police report.
The organisers as well as several stars used the Oscar stage to shine a spotlight on the ongoing Russia-Ukraine conflict.
The ceremony observed a moment of silence to show its support for “the people of Ukraine currently facing invasion, conflict and prejudice within their own borders”.
Actor Mila Kunis referenced the Russian invasion of her native country Ukraine while introducing a musical performance by Reba McEntire, without mentioning Ukraine by name.
“Viva Ukraine,” said legendary director Francis Ford Coppola, wearing a pin of the US and Ukrainian flags, when he appeared on stage to mark the 50th anniversary of his film “The Godfather”.
In other awards, Japanese drama “Drive My Car” won the best international film trophy. The film is an adaptation of celebrated writer Haruki Murakami's short story by director Ryusuke Hamaguchi.
The 2022 edition of the Oscars was also a night of many firsts.
For his semi biographical black-and-white drama “Belfast”, Kenneth Branagh earned his first Oscar for best original screenplay. Musician siblings Billie Eilish and FINNEAS collected their maiden golden statuette for the title song of the Bond film “No Time To Die”.
The Academy this year decided to pre-tape eight of this year's Oscars categories, also including documentary short, makeup/hairstyling, production design, animated short, and live-action short.
In another first, the awards ceremony was formally hosted for the first time in three years. And this time they were three of them -- Wanda Sykes, Regina Hall, and Amy Schumer.
In their opening monologue, the trio tackled a range of issues, including pay disparity and the 'Don't Say Gay' bill recently passed by the Florida Senate.
Schumer said this year the Academy hired three women to host because “it's cheaper than hiring one man”.
Sykes, who came out as a lesbian in 2008, called out Florida from the dais and said “we are going to have a gay night”.
Veteran designer Jenny Beaven won her third costume design Oscar for “Cruella”.
While the best animated short winner prize went to “The Windshield Wiper”, “The Long Goodbye”, backed by Aneil Karia and Riz Ahmed, was adjudged the best live-action short.
“Encanto” was named the best animated film and “The Queen of Basketball” emerged victorious in the documentary short category.