There will be one story about the 2022 Oscars: Will Smith, reacting to a joke about his wife Jada Pinkett Smith, climbed up on stage and slapped presenter Chris Rock. Then, a short while later, he won the trophy for Best Actor. It’s a story that will dominate this ceremony, even more so than CODA’s Best Picture win or Jane Campion becoming the third woman ever to win Best Director.
Before the night began, the most controversial element of the ceremony was the fact that eight technical categories were being presented off-air. Those wins were awkwardly edited into the ceremony, later on, to make room for a tribute to the winner of the Twitter-sourced Oscars Cheer Moment poll that went to—check notes—Zack Snyder’s Justice League.
There were some spectacular moments too. Beyoncé opened the show with a stirring performance of her nominated song from King Richard; Ariana DeBose and Troy Kotsur both gave fantastic speeches accepting the Best Supporting Actress and Actor awards; Billie Eilish got halfway to an EGOT; and hosts Amy Schumer, Regina Hall, and Wanda Sykes killed with some solid bits. But this ceremony will be remembered for Smith more than anything else. Here’s a recap of everything that went down at the 94th Oscars.
After last year’s fairly subdued COVID Oscars, fashion was back in a big way. There were looks. Ariana DeBose decided she’s taking home Best Supporting Actress in pants with a Valentino ensemble featuring a flowing red cape. The Power of the Dog’s Kodi Smit-McPhee gave us a baby blue Bottega Veneta suit. Jessica Chastain looked ready for her statue in a bronze and lilac Gucci dress. But the looks that seemed destined to go down in Oscars fashion history belonged to Timothée Chalamet and Kristen Stewart, both with spins on classic menswear that was daring and surprising.
Chalamet showed up in a Louis Vuitton ensemble with a sparkly jacket and zero-zero!!!—shirt that made it into the opening monologue. Meanwhile, Stewart also went for a low-cut tuxedo look from Chanel on top—she did have a shirt but it was open wide, and shorts. Shorts!.
The most controversial decision about this year’s ceremony was shunting eight technical categories into a pre-show to be edited into the broadcast later. It was a move that, unsurprisingly, backfired. Dune, a big box office hit and one of the most populist nominees, nearly swept those categories, including editing, score, sound, and production design. The Eyes of Tammy Faye won makeup and hairstyling, and the camera cut to star Jessica Chastain with an emotional reaction. Riz Ahmed won for the live-action short The Long Goodbye (so we missed out on that moment), the incredibly cool The Windshield Wiper claimed animated shorts, and the heartfelt The Queen of Basketball had the doc short trophy. Though celebrities like Guillermo Del Toro and Chastain were in the room to cheer on their collaborators, ABC pretended as if nothing was going on, airing a “live” interview with the Best Actress nominee when the early awards wrapped up that had been clearly filmed earlier.
When Nicole Kidman and Keith Urban were captured inside by photographers, they were apparently also chatting up hosts. But apparently, clips of Mean Girls were more important than celebrating hardworking craftspeople.
What’s one way to quiet some of the skepticism about the Oscars telecast? Open with an incredible number from Beyoncé. After an introduction from Serena and Venus Williams, cameras cut to a (probably pre-recorded, but who cares) performance from Bey. Dressed in tennis-ball green and surrounded by dancers with Venus and Serena-style beads in their hair, Beyoncé sang her nominated song from King Richard “Be Alive” on the Compton courts where the greats honed their skills. The number featured everything you would want from a Beyoncé performance: fabulous choreography and a meticulously curated aesthetic.
It was surprising that DJ Khaled, a professional goofball and celebrated jet ski rider, was announced as one of the special guests for this year’s telecast. But he did appear in Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping, one of the best movies of all time, so he’s basically Hollywood royalty. When the show started, hosts Regina Hall, Amy Schumer, and Wanda Sykes took the stage only to be interrupted by the “We the Best” producer, who emerged from the wings shouting “Hold up, hold up, hold up!” The whole thing was about as odd as you’d expect, but at least it was quick, and the actual DJing for the evening was handled by DJ D-Nice, a less boisterous presence behind the boards. —Dan Jackson.
After an opening with the three hosts trading some banter, including a dig from Sykes about not being able to finish The Power of the Dog, Amy Schumer was brought back on stage to basically do another mini-monologue. From a production standpoint, it was an awkward choice, but Schumer brought some strong, barbed material, including an extended bit about Aaron Sorkin’s Lucile Ball drama Being the Ricardos, which she dinged for not having any jokes in it. “It’s like making a biopic about Michael Jordan and just showing the bus trips between games,” she said. Honestly, that sounds like an interesting movie, but we get her point. —DJ.
If you saw West Side Story, despite the plethora of incredible supporting actress performances this year, it was hard to not immediately gravitate to Ariana DeBose’s divine performance as Anita, which was a mixture of vulnerability, strength, and showstopping vocals and dancing. Her supporting win was in the bag the minute she walked the carpet in that fabulous red pantsuit. Accepting her gold, she thanked Rita Moreno for paving the way for Anitas like her, and she ended on a high note. “You see an openly queer woman of color, an Afro-Latina, who found her strength and life through art. And that is, I think, what we’re here to celebrate. So if anyone has ever questioned your identity, I promise you this: There is indeed a place for us.” And as an openly queer woman of color, I got chills and I thank Ariana DeBose for paving the way for us all. —Kerensa Cadenas.
After summoning Bradley Cooper, Simu Liu, Timothée Chalamet, and Tyler Perry to the stage to offer her tongue as a viable COVID swab, Regina Hall introduced the evening’s next presenters: Dune co-stars Jason Momoa and Josh Brolin, who became the recipients of what Hall called a “COVID pat-down.” (Shoutout to the great joke about Will Smith and Jada Pinkett Smith’s open marriage, with Hall insisting Jada would be perfectly fine with Will joining Cooper and company onstage if he so chooses. He declined.) The whole bit was one of the Oscars’ all-time horniest moments, with the host taking an extra few seconds to make sure the men’s buttocks had been sufficiently inspected. This pandemic requires extreme measures! —Matthew Jacobs.
A bit of excitement for those of us who keep up with movie scores: Hans Zimmer, whose composing prowess has turned him into something of a soundtrack celebrity in recent years, won his second Oscar tonight for Best Original Score for his incredible work on Denis Villeneuve’s space opera Dune. (His first was for The Lion King in 1995.) This is his 12th nomination in the category, following recognition for his work on Rain Man, The Prince of Egypt, Gladiator, Inception, Interstellar, and Dunkirk, among others. For Dune’s score, Zimmer and his orchestra created notes and instruments that don’t technically exist to create the cinematic sounds of a faraway intergalactic future, splicing in drums and woodwinds from countries in our own planet and using already existing instruments to create the sounds of others—Those bagpipes?? An electric guitar. Because he’s kind of a rockstar, Zimmer is on tour right now, and couldn’t accept his award in person at the controversial prerecorded part of the ceremony, so he posted some robe selfies from a swanky Amsterdam hotel while holding a mini-Oscar in celebration. —Emma Stefansky.
This low point is likely to become the most infamous moment in Oscar history. While presenting Best Documentary Feature, Chris Rock made a crack at Jada Pinkett Smith’s bald head, saying he can’t wait for G.I. Jane 2, an allusion to the 1997 movie for which Demi Moore shaved off all her hair. Will Smith didn’t take kindly to the joke, marching to the stage, slapping Rock across the face, and yelling, “Get my wife’s name out of your fucking mouth.” Rock and the Smiths have known each other for years, but Jada was diagnosed with the hair-loss condition alopecia in 2018. (The American telecast went silent, but you can watch the uncensored footage as captured abroad.) After the jarring moment, Questlove had to deliver an acceptance speech, winning Best Documentary Feature for Summer of Soul, and everyone else in the room had to pretend to move on. When Will later won Best Actor for King Richard, he gave a tearful speech in which he apologized to the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences and said he felt called to “protect” his family. —MJ
When everyone in the room had their fill of surprises for the night, it felt like a relief when the very charming duo of Lady Gaga and Liza Minnelli presented the final award of the night to Sîan Heder’s coming-of-age story about a young singer and her deaf parents. In the weeks leading up to the Oscars, CODA, the Sundance indie backed by the marketing muscle of Apple TV+, became the smart pick for winning Best Picture. At a more typical ceremony, the CODA win would have been the shock of the night: a relatively small movie without big-name stars and backed by the relatively new-on-the-scene streaming behemoth Apple conquering Netflix (The Power of the Dog, Don’t Look Up) and Hollywood royalty (Steven Spielberg’s West Side Story, Kenneth Branagh’s Belfast). After actor Troy Kotsur’s moving Best Supporting Actor speech and Heder’s speech for Best Adapted Screenplay, the CODA Best Picture win felt almost deservedly inevitable. —DJ