Oscars

The 94th Academy Awards were held Sunday, March 27. Highlights from the night include Will Smith slapping Chris Rock, “Dune” winning six awards, “CODA” winning Best Picture and controversy over the Academy’s choice to cut eight award presentations from the broadcast in favor of shorter, more ratings-friendly presentations.

The ratings increased by over 50% from 2021 with 15.4 million viewers, and the show aired for 3 hours and 40 minutes, the longest Oscars ceremony since 2018.

Many people attribute the bump in ratings to Will Smith’s sudden open-hand slap of Chris Rock halfway through the show.

Rock joked about Jada Pinkett Smith’s shaved head by calling her “G.I. Jane,” a reference to a 90s war movie starring Demi Moore sporting a shaved haircut. Jada Pinkett Smith has alopecia, resulting in her hair loss.

Will Smith initially laughed at the joke, but moments later, he walked onto the stage, approached Rock and smacked him in the face.

Rock initially tried to lighten up the situation by exclaiming, “Will Smith just smacked the sh** out of me.” Smith sat back down and yelled, “Keep my wife’s name out your f*****g mouth.”

Rock tried to calm the situation down by saying it was just a G.I. Jane joke, but Will Smith repeated what he said. Rock responded he would stop talking before pausing and saying, “That was the greatest night in the history of television.” He then continued to present the award for Best Documentary Feature.

Will Smith later won his first Oscar ever for Best Actor for his role as Richard Williams in “King Richard,” a biographical sports film about Venus and Serena Williams’ father.

In a teary-eyed acceptance speech, Smith apologized to the Academy and thanked the cast and crew of “King Richard.” He said, “Love will make you do crazy things… I hope the Academy invites me back,” during the speech.

The Academy denounced the slap and announced a further investigation while Rock said he would not press charges on Will Smith.

Think-pieces and memes popped up throughout social media on whether Will Smith was justified in slapping Chris Rock for joking about Jada Pinkett Smith. 

While the slap stole much of the spotlight of the show, other notable events did take place. “Dune” won the most awards of the night with six Oscars for original score, sound, editing, cinematography, production design and visual effects.

“CODA,” a coming-of-age film on Apple TV+ about a hearing child of deaf adults, won Best Picture and Best Adapted Screenplay since it’s a remake of the French film “La Famille Bélier.” Troy Kotsur, who won Best Supporting Actor, became the first deaf man to win an acting Oscar for his role in the film.

Ariana DeBose became the second Latina ever to win an Oscar with her Best Supporting Actress win. The only other Latina to win was Rita Moreno in 1962, who starred in the same role as DeBose: Anita in the original “West Side Story.”

DeBose is also the first openly queer woman of color to win an acting Oscar.

Jane Campion won the Best Director honor for “The Power of the Dog." This is the first time a Best Director award has gone to a woman twice in a row.

Controversy over the Academy’s practices also sprung up since the Academy cut the presentations for editing, original score, sound, production design, makeup and hairstyling, animated short, documentary short and live action short. This was in an attempt to shorten the show and increase ratings.

Critics of the decision said cutting out their presentations minimizes the achievements of artists and workers integral to the film industry. People also mentioned how the Oscars are an industry event and should be more about celebrating art than appealing to ratings.

The Academy also added “Oscars Fan Favorites” and “Oscars Cheer Moment” to celebrate blockbuster films and appeal to popular audiences. Fans could vote for the winners online, so two Zack Snyder movies, “Army of the Dead” and “Zack Snyder’s Justice League,” took both awards.

This led to further criticism since the Academy made room for popular content while neglecting the awards for other artists. The Oscars also ran for almost four hours so cutting out the awards failed to make the show shorter.

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