“Will Smith just slapped the shit out of me.” The video posted by the Guardian has over 77 million views on YouTube, the already iconic image has spawned thousands of memes, and countless remixes have already dropped on TikTok. But the Oscars 2022 was more than a viral punch; there is a lot to unpack.
Coda, I’ve not heard that as a suggestion: a surprise win
Many critics had assumed the race for Best Picture this year lay between Dune and The Power of the Dog. Denis Villeneuve had shown immense skill turning the “unfilmable” novel into a very watchable sci-fi movie. Jane Campion’s neo-western had scooped up the Best Picture award at both the Golden Globes and the Baftas. Yet, it was Coda, the American adaptation of the beloved French film La Famille Bélier, with its heart-warming tale of the only hearing member of a deaf family who follows her dreams to go to music school, that took the top prize home at the end of the day. Was it a worthy winner? It is definitely nice that for the second year in a row Best Picture was won by a female directed film, Chloe Zhao’s Nomadland of course won last year. Nevertheless, many have argued that Coda’s presentation of deaf characters is problematic as they are only there to prop up the struggle of the abled-bodied member of the family. The reaction has been similar to when Green Book won Best Picture, for understandable reasons. Nevertheless, Jane Campion was still smiling as she took home Best Director, and Dune was awarded many technical Oscars as expected.
Tenseness around the technical Oscars: should they have been part of the ceremony?
As part of an effort to cut down on the long, and frankly boring, ceremony, the presentations of the technical awards were pre-recorded. Despite Dune receiving the highest number of awards, none were televised live, only snippets of the speeches were dropped in to give time for the stagehands to do a changeover. The change in layout did not improve the ceremony, but simply did a disservice to those that work behind the scenes. As Steven Spielberg said: “one craft is just as indispensable as the next.” When the world of film is so often fixated on the actors that walk down the red carpet, awards season is a chance to highlight the incredible work of the sound designers, product designers, and cinematographers. All the Academy Awards demonstrated in their format change was that it cares much more about the glitz and glamour than recognising achievement in the industry.
The Smith Slap: the most memorable moment?
The shallowness of the ceremony is why the only thing most people took away from awards show was that almighty slap. Some argued the moment was staged, but Smith’s rage was all too real, even for a now Academy Award winning actor. What happened afterwards seemed puppet like, with the hosts almost pretending it didn’t happen and an unnerved Chris Rock trying to spit out the rest of his tele-prompt. In recent days it has come out that Smith was asked to leave the ceremony after the incident but refused. His speech, when collecting his Oscar for Best Actor, was tearful and incoherent, blabbering away about the importance of family. Is it right that this act of toxic masculinity is the thing that everyone took away from the ceremony? Especially on the night where women did historically very well. Yet, there is something so satisfying to us when celebrities, especially of Smith’s calibre, so publicly lose their shit. For the Academy, they can always argue “there’s no such thing as bad publicity.”
Image courtesy of Martin Vorel via Wikimedia Commons