OSCARS 2022 – The Day After: The Slap Seen Around The World

Academy Awards Slap
Image via AMPAS

I have been watching the Oscars since around 1983. Well, at least that’s the first ceremony I remember watching. My mom was a film buff and passed that love onto me. We would watch the Oscars together. It became a bonding experience for us. The reason I remember that ceremony is because 11-year old me was rooting for E.T. the Extraterrestrial to win Best Picture, and was upset when the statue went to Gandhi.

Over the next 40 years, I have watched part, if not all, of every Oscar telecast. I had thought I had seen it all. I thought I could predict it all.

Then, last night, I saw one of the most popular and beloved movie stars walk up on stage and slap one of the world’s most preeminent comedians across the face, and I, like Chris Rock, never saw it coming.

In case you missed it, Chris Rock came out during the last hour of the show to give away the award for Best Documentary. Second joke in, he made a reference to Jada Pinkett Smith’s closely shorn hairdo, saying that he couldn’t wait to see her in G.I. Jane 2. Pinkett Smith’s husband Will Smith took umbrage to this. So much so, that he strode up to the stage and open hand slapped Rock.

At first, it seemed like the begin of a comedy bit. But all illusions of that ended after Smith returned to his seat, shouting at Rock from the audience not once but twice, “Keep my wife’s name out of your fucking mouth!”

For a while, the incident cast a pall over the proceedings. A rattled Rock struggled through presenting the Best Documentary award to Questlove and his partners for “Summer of Soul (…or When the Revolution Was Not Televised).” The audience looked shell shocked.

Then what was the weirdest Oscar telecast ever took a turn for the absolute bizarre as Smith won the Oscar for Best Performance by an Actor for his role as Richard Williams in King Richard. Still struggling with his emotions, Smith’s acceptance speech danced around his actions from a few minutes before, seemingly trying to compare his protection of his wife with Richard Williams’ protection of his kids. He made apologies to his fellow nominees and the Academy. He made none to Rock nor, more importantly, Questlove, whose victory was overshadowed by Smith’s shenanigans.

Naturally, social media was set ablaze by the attack. Initial tweets asking what had just happened shifted into the usual Internet tactic of the taking of sides. Some showed disdain for Smith using violence. Others said Rock had it coming for making fun of Pinkett Smith’s struggles with the hair-loss disease alopecia. Terms such as toxic masculinity and punching down were bandied about. And then there were the jokes. Many, many jokes, more than a few a play on “Paper beating Rock” or the violence that sent Smith’s “Fresh Prince” character to Bel-Air in his famous TV series.

I don’t think this will go away anytime soon. Usually, winning an Oscar is a boon for the career of an actor of Smith’s caliber. However, in the span of second, Smith’s public persona has gone in the eyes of some people from being as jovial, happy-go-lucky nice guy to a hair-trigger tempered, violent loose cannon. How will this affect his career? I’m sure his publicist, who started working on damage control with Smith during the telecast’s commercials, will have to come up with a battle plan to put out these fires. But considering the acceptance speech they quickly threw together seem to be a battle between what Smith was willing to say and what his publicist wanted him to say, that battle plan might not be that easy to come up with.

But other than that how did I like the telecast? Well…

Let me address the most infuriating fact first. In case you didn’t know, in this year’s ceremony eight awards awards–documentary short, film editing, makeup/hairstyling, original score, production design, animated short, live action short and sound–were given out during an unaired pre-show ceremony, with a heavily edited clip of the winners and their speeches airing during the telecast. The reason behind this was to pare down the run time of the ceremony in an attempt to lure viewers back.

The result? A telecast that ran well over three hours, making one of the longest shows in recent history.

How can a ceremony that cut out eight categories still be longer than most of the ones that came before? That’s easy to explain. It’s because the Academy is completely incompetent.

Because if the Academy was really serious about culling run time, there is plenty more fat they could have cut while keeping the pre-show awards in the main presentations. Like, all the comedy bits such as host Amy Schumer hanging from the rafters in a Spider-Man costume or host Regina Hall trying to give away a copy of The Last Duel as a door prize.

Or maybe not include a full performance of the not-Oscar nominated song “We Don’t Talk About Bruno?” from Encanto in the show. Yes, the Academy put on a full performance of the song even though it wasn’t the song nominated from the film. Why would they do this? Well, the song is inexplicably popular and they thought viewers would rush to watch the telecast when they amounted the song would be performed three days ago.

But most unctuous was the skit featuring Wanda Sykes touring the newly completed Oscar museum. It was essentially one long ad for the installation.  Yes, go to museum to honor all the nominees that the Academy couldn’t be bother to honor during the actual show.

Another attempt to garner interest in the show was two online fan polls. This idea backfired spectacularly thanks to Zack Snyder.

The first poll was the vague sounding “Best Cheer Moment.” This is honoring the film moment that caused audiences to cheer the most. It was in trouble stating with the first entry, which was the bullet-time sequence from The Matrix. This will be as far in the past the poll will go. Anyone who was looking for the singing of “La Marseillaise” in Casablanca or Han coming back to rescue Luke in Star Wars need to look elsewhere.

But where it really goes off the rails in the number one pick of the “Best Cheer” moment, which was “Flash Entering the Speed Force” from Zack Snyder’s Justice League. Yes, you read that right.

I don’t know about you, but I certainly didn’t cheer during that moment. I didn’t even know I was supposed to. The event just happened in the plot of the film. I barely remember it.

The second poll was “Fan-Favorite Movie of 2021.” If you recall, the Academy was floating the idea of adding a category like this to the ceremony. Thank god they didn’t because this year’s poll shows that their selection process is seriously flawed.

You’d expect box-office champ Spider-Man: No Way Home to walk away with this award in a shutout. It only ranked fourth. How about Shang Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings, F9: Fate of the Furious or No Time to Die? This might have been in the Top Ten when it came to grosses, but not when it came to this poll.

What did make the list? At five, Tick, Tick…Boom. At three, the Johnny Depp drama Minamata. Second was Cinderella.

And what was number one? Army of the Dead. Not what you expected, right?

Obviously, there was ballot box stuffing the both of these categories. I mean, just look at that top three. I’m not sure who the Snyder Bros thought they were fooling, but it’s obvious that the only reason his films garnered the top spots was because they spent hours voting multiple times for the films.

Hopefully, the Academy does away with this silly thing, or fixes the process so it can’t be hijacked by a star or director’s rabid fan base.

If I was going to end on something good, let me give kudos to the hosts. On paper, Wanda Sykes, Amy Schumer and Regina Hall didn’t seem like a grouping that would work out. But they had great chemistry, and, more importantly, they were funny. They kept the proceedings moving along as a good pace. I wouldn’t mind seeing them host again.

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About William Gatevackes 1983 Articles
William is cursed with the shared love of comic books and of films. Luckily, this is a great time for him to be alive. His writing has been featured on Broken Frontier.com, PopMatters.com and in Comics Foundry magazine.
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