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Will Smith, Chris Rock confrontation steals show at subpar Oscars

Controversial Oscars ceremony culminates in row between Will Smith and Chris Rock after tasteless joke. 

There was no shortage of controversy at this year’s Oscars. Questionable production decisions, unlikely winners and an array of awkward moments, including Will Smith assaulting Chris Rock on stage, made for one of the most bizarre ceremonies in recent memory. 

As tradition dictates, the red carpet rolled out on the Dolby Theatre in Los Angeles on the evening of the 27th to celebrate the year’s biggest achievements in filmmaking. But, the ceremony was already under heat before it had even started. A decision to cut 8 categories from live broadcast in an attempt to reduce airtime, as well as the introduction of fan-voted awards to lure in more viewers, had been fuelling criticism against the Academy for months. Animosities were only made worse when, weeks prior to the Oscars, Best Picture contender West Side Story’s star Rachel Zegler shared online that she had not been invited to attend the ceremony, leaving film fans perplexed, and the Academy scrambling for a last-minute invitation.

To top off this already wobbly scenario, a surprising change in the betting pool saw CODA overtake sure-winner The Power Of The Dog as Best Picture champion. A prediction that did indeed come true, to the dismay of a lot of viewers, who contested the Oscars tendency towards awarding tearjerker films over other more complex works. Other categories, however, played out as expected. Dune swept technical categories, Belfast secured a win for its Screenplay, Jane Campion received the Best Director nod and Jessica Chastain, Ariana DeBose and Troy Kotsur went home with Oscars for their acting. 

Will Smith confronts Chris Rock
Oscars, Will Smith, Christ Rock

Will Smith strikes Chris Rock at the Oscars stage | © Robyn Beck / Afp

Also in the acting category, one of the most unanimous wins suddenly became uncertain when King Richard lead actor Will Smith physically assaulted presenter Chris Rock. Rock, who was on stage to give out the award for Best Documentary, made an offensive joke about Jada Pinkett Smith’s shaved head. Pinkett Smith, who has been vocal about her struggle with health-related hair-loss issues in the recent past, was visibly annoyed, prompting her husband to go up on stage and slap Rock across the face. Smith then repeatedly shouted the phrase, “Keep my wife’s name out of your f######  mouth,” at Rock from his seat. To make matters worse, the broadcast was then cut in a panic, just as musician Questlove was dedicating his Best Documentary win to his deceased father. 

Considering the ceremony’s long list of cringe-worthy moments staged by presenters Amy Schumer, Regina Hall and Wanda Sykes, viewers were left wondering whether the altercation was in fact real. Doubts were cleared when, not even 30 minutes after the fact, Will Smith won the Oscar for Best Actor. During an intense, uncomfortable speech, Smith stated that “love will make you do crazy things” and apologised to the Academy and his fellow nominees, but not Chris Rock.  

The Academy has since released an official statement regarding the altercation.

A series of unfortunate events

Other poor moments from the 2022 Oscars, which many have called the worst in a long time, include rude interruptions to Drive My Car director Ryūsuke Hamaguchi as he accepted the award for Best International Film, a couple of badly-rehearsed musical numbers and Amy Schumer’s failed attempts at being funny. The fan-favourite categories were the laughing-stock of the internet with “The Flash Enters the Speed Force in Zack Snyder’s Justice League” becoming an instant meme.

Oscars, Robert De Niro, Al Pacino, Francis Ford Coppola

Al Pacino, Francis Ford Coppola and Robert De Niro reunite in The Godfather 50 year tribute | © Robyn Beck / Afp

It’s safe to say the list of films up for Oscars this year deserved better, and with all the fodder around basically unimportant events, the supposed protagonist of the night – cinema – was left overlooked. The few highlights include The Godfather 50 year tribute between director Francis Ford Coppola and film legends Robert De Niro and Al Pacino, as well as a Pulp Fiction reunion with cast members Samuel L. Jackson, Uma Thurman and John Travolta reenacting iconic scenes from the cult classic on the Oscars stage. Troy Kotsur’s Best Supporting Actor speech, made entirely in sign language, to a completely silenced and focused Dolby Theatre, was likewise one of the more positive moments of the evening. 

Ultimately, though, the Academy’s attempts to increase viewership through forced viral moments or a shorter ceremony failed, making for a subpar evening of television. Granted, the Oscars haven’t had this much media buzz since the Moonlight vs. La La Land debacle, even if it is for all the wrong reasons. 

P.S. If you’re curious to know which films most deserve your attention, check out this list of 5 essential watches of the 2022 Oscars. You can find the full list of winners here.

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