WTF happened at the 2022 Oscars? (Opinion Piece)

A couple weeks ago,  the 95th annual Academy Awards were held. The multiverse picture Everything, Everywhere, All at Once dominated an evening that featured touching speeches, worthy winners, and less tomfoolery than usual. In spite of Jimmy Kimmel’s presence, the show was significantly less cringeworthy and more streamlined than usual. This comes in stark contrast to last year’s ceremony. My thoughts have been on the cutting-room floor for over a year now. Here’s WTF happened at the 2022 Oscars.

As per usual, the three-hour broadcast was filled with boring acceptance speeches, lacklustre hosting, and hammy interactions between Hollywood’s glitterati. The viewing figures for the Academy Awards have been on a steady decline for the past few years. The ceremony has clearly had a hard time gripping people and giving them a reason to watch. This is due to a combination of poor decisions, as well as a wider disillusionment with Hollywood’s elite over the last decade. 

Amy Schumer, Wanda Sykes, and Regina Hall were last year’s hosts, a sure-fire way of turning younger generations away. Schumer recycled tired jokes off Twitter, while Sykes seemed to forget half of her dialogue. Hall’s moment suprême was a bout of unfunny sexual harassment where she frisked Josh Brolin and Jason Momoa. It blended in perfectly with the equally humourless acceptance speeches which are an American classic.

The only speech I could stand was when Troy Kotsur became the first deaf actor to win Best Supporting Actor for his role in CODA. It was a heart-warming moment where even Kotsur’s interpreter was audibly emotional. CODA, a movie about the children of deaf adults, also took home Best Picture after an awards season dominated by Jane Campion’s The Power of the Dog.

I was also delighted to see Ariana Debose win Best Supporting Actress for West Side Story and Riz Ahmed win Best Live Action Short Film for The Long Goodbye. Ahmed’s win wasn’t part of the live broadcast, but recorded during the pre-show. Because as we all know, if you’re not nominated in an acting category, you don’t matter. 

I was glad to see Encanto win Best Animated Feature, even if it was paired with a terrible rendition of “We Don’t Talk About Bruno” that pandered to young audiences. It substituted the voice actors for Megan Thee Stallion, Luis Fonsi, and Becky G in parts of the song. Why? 

Questlove was the recipient of the Best Documentary Feature Oscar for the fantastic Summer of Soul (…Or, When The Revolution Could Not Be Televised). It showcases never-before-seen footage of an incredible concert in Harlem, the very same summer of Woodstock ’69, which featured African-American greats like Stevie Wonder, Nina Simone, B.B. King, Mahalia Jackson, Sly Stone, and Mavis Staples.

It’s an incredible but forgotten piece of Black history that also ties in the political climate of the time by bringing in people like Jesse Jackson. Unfortunately, Questlove’s moment got trampled all over by a petulant man-child throwing a temper tantrum.

The award was presented by comedian Chris Rock, who hosted the Oscars in both 2005 and 2016. Rock, whose job is literally to tell jokes, began taking jabs at some of the nominees. He made a remark about Jada Pinkett-Smith, Will Smith’s wife, saying “Jada, I love ya, G.I. Jane 2, can’t wait to see it”, alluding to her recent hair loss as a result of alopecia. 

Although a relatively tame joke, the notoriously uptight Hollywood elite always have a hard time laughing at themselves, which was noticeable on Pinkett-Smith’s face. Her husband shockingly proceeded to walk onto the stage, slap Rock across the face, and return to his seat before angrily shouting “keep my wife’s name out of your fucking mouth”. On live television. In front of hundreds of celebrities. At the Oscars. Over a joke.

The Academy’s response was most reasonable. They let the aforementioned toddler remain seated and actually awarded him with an Oscar for Best Actor later on, accompanied by a much-deserved standing ovation. 

This is of course nothing out of the ordinary for the Oscars, as they’ve awarded people who’ve done much worse! Roman Polanski, Woody Allen, Harvey Weinstein, it really is a prestigious club of individuals. In 2002, Polanski literally could not accept his award for Best Director in person because he would’ve been arrested for the sexual assault of 13-year-old Samantha Gailey. But in 2022, you’d imagine a little more pushback when it comes to onstage physical assault.

Regardless, Will Smith has shed his charismatic, ‘nicest guy in Hollywood’ image, to reveal the much more authentic entitled, bridezilla nutjob that he really is. He peddled this disingenuous “I wanna be a vessel for love” narrative during his acceptance speech later that night. It’s Hollywood’s hypocrisy at its finest, backed by thunderous applause. They act like untouchable royalty, illegal to be mocked, embraced by one another incestuously.

Rock made a bland, off-the-cuff remark about his Madagascar co-star and got slapped in the face for it. I can only imagine what Smith would’ve done had Ricky Gervais been there. Hollywood’s most treasured star getting away with something like this scot-free sets a dangerous precedent. It normalises the same behaviour in less prestigious settings as many comedians have since noted.

Unlike many others, I don’t believe the Academy should rescind Smith’s award. He won it fair and square. I do think that as punishment, Smith should be required to attend each following Oscars. I also think that Rock should be the permanent host of the ceremony until he dies, à la a Supreme Court Justice. This way we can relive this iconic moment in Oscars history every year, as well as boosting the show’s ratings. 

Jokes aside, I think going forward this kind of conduct should not be permitted. Rather than listening to the hollow love Smith was droning on about in his endless acceptance speech, redirect your gaze to the purest example of kindness that night. Lady Gaga took the stage with a wheelchair-bound Liza Minnelli to announce Best Picture. Gaga’s treatment of Minnelli, who has been suffering from viral encephalitis, was incredibly moving. I also implore you to watch the Best Picture winner CODA and all the other fantastic films nominated and awarded last week. Go out and celebrate cinema, not the spoiled celebrities that occasionally figure into it.