Will Smith’s slap, Beyoncé‘s slay, and more provided the wildest night in the award show’s history.
In years past, the Academy Awards have built a reputation as being a little boring and uptight compared to other award shows, resulting in record-low ratings for 2021. While the ratings for Sunday’s show still have yet to add out-of-home viewing to get a total picture of this year’s viewership, one thing is for sure — the 2022 Oscars certainly weren’t run-of-the-mill. Between Will Smith slapping Chris Rock on stage, performances by two of the biggest pop stars in the world, the first deaf actor to win an Oscar, and some puzzling new additions to the lineup, Sunday’s show was the oddest yet. Below are some of the standout moments.
Will Smith slaps Chris Rock
Has there ever been an incident that has caused the internet to go through all the stages of the hot take-arc so quickly and fully (i.e. the takes, the takes on the takes, the takes on the takes on the takes)? In brief: Chris Rock’s joke, about Jada Pinkett-Smith’s shaved head (Pinkett-Smith suffers from alopecia), was in poor taste; but violence is never okay; but also maybe defending your wife, who suffers from an auto-immune disease and as a Black woman is thoughtlessly tarred in the public eye, is admirable; but also enacting this kind of patriarchal aggression on such a global stage of all places isn’t good; but can all the white people using this as a dog-whistle and pearl-clutching moment just not say anything?; and also Will likely has some tragic family baggage behind all this that we can’t even begin to unpack; but also that speech about love making you do crazy things and casting himself as a martyr for his family was a bit yikes, right?; and also, and also…. One thing we can all agree on: it was instantly the wildest moment in Oscars history. Somewhere in L.A., Warren Beatty slept soundly last night with the slightest grin on his face. — Brandon Yu
The comedic brilliance of Amy Schumer, Wanda Sykes, and Regina Hall
The comedy of Oscar night didn’t disappoint. It was historic to have three women — Amy Schumer, Wanda Sykes, and Regina Hall — hosting for the first time. With no awkward male counterpart, it felt like they were allowed full freedom to flaunt their own brands of feminist funniness. Schumer opened the trio’s monologue by remarking that the Academy hired “three women for the job because it’s still cheaper than hiring one man.” She also got a good zinger in at Aaron Sorkin for “the innovation to make a movie about Lucille Ball without even a moment that’s funny.” Hall had her time to shine when she called some of the room’s most lusted after men onto the stage for a Covid test that she joked would be done with her tongue, and continued her horny-themed hosting by patting down Josh Brolin and Jason Mamoa to make sure they were “safe” — a bit that could have been tacky, but read as genuinely funny satire because of her gusto, turning the objectification of women on its head. Sykes got in her more deadpan, absurdist jokes on a pre-taped tour segment of the new Academy Museum of Motion Pictures. She comically misidentifies all of the memorabilia, most hilariously quipping “Oh, Harvey Weinstein!” at a goblin head from Lord of the Rings. Overall, the three carried the night, which needed a successful year after the last two shows Saw the worst ratings in Oscars history. The only bit that felt lame was the trio coming out in pajamas at the end, a closing that felt phoned in. — Chloe Stillwell
Ariana DeBose’s acceptance speech for her role in West Side Story
For all of the controversy that made this perhaps the strangest Oscars ever, Ariana DeBose kicked off the night with exactly what we expect and enjoy from the Academy Awards every year: a root-worthy nominee winning, and in a star-making moment of triumph, giving a moving and poignant speech. DeBose, who won Best Supporting Actress for her enthralling performance in West Side Story, gracefully and tearfully thanked Steven Spielberg, Rita Moreno, and her mother. And in a less self-serious and grandiose manner than most winners tend to offer, she paid tribute to the power of art in providing solace for her as a queer Afro-Latina. She hit all the right marks and gave us an early and honest tear-jerker before the shitshow really kicked into gear. — BY
Billie Eilish and Finneas’s performance of “No Time To Die”
Billie Eilish and Finneas seem to turn everything they touch into gold. Already darlings of the Grammys, it was exciting to see the pair take on film’s biggest night with just as much of their mysteriously successful sparkle. They proved in their performance of their theme song for the latest James Bond film, No Time to Die, that performances don’t necessarily need theatrics to be mesmerizing. The pop stars opted for an understated production, with Finneas accompanying Billie on piano alongside a small orchestra; aside from some noir lighting and visuals, there wasn’t much to distract from the song itself. The pair nailed the cinematic, haunting quality of a good Bond song, and proved that they can take on scoring just as easily as they can take on radio hits. It was gratifying to see the pair go on to win the award for Best Original Song after taking the stage so flawlessly. — Chloe Stillwell
Beyoncé’s performance of “Be Alive”
If Beyoncé is doing anything, she’s doing it in an epic way. And that’s exactly the flavor we got for her show-opening performance of “Be Alive.” The superstar was introduced by Venus and Serena Williams, the real-life tennis stars whose upbringing in Compton is the focus of the multi-nominated film King Richard for which Beyoncé co-wrote the song with Dixon. This was no run-of-the-mill performance, though: the show immediately transported viewers to tennis courts in Compton, where the Williams sisters got their hard-won start. In a swirl of “optic yellow” — on the outfits of the backup dancers, adorning the floor and walls, and hueing the instruments that Bey’s accompanying band was playing — the performance rhythmically paraded with pride. It was a celebration of Black achievement, an embodiment of the song itself. Beyoncé ending with a two-finger salute felt apropos. And even though “Be Alive” did not win Best Original Song, the performance alone was a triumph, and arguably one of the best Oscar musical moments in recent memory. — CS
Troy Kotsur’s Oscar for Best Supporting Actor, and his sign language acceptance speech
Winning for his performance in CODA, Kotsur gave one of the most instantly memorable moments not only of the night, but perhaps in Oscars history. After becoming the first deaf man to win an Oscar, Kotsur signed a speech that dedicated his win to the deaf community and the deaf theater stages that have allowed him to develop his craft. And with the actress and presenter Youn Yuh-jung looking at him like a proud grandmother and Kotsur’s interpreter choking up, the actor spoke of his father, who he called his hero and who was the best signer in his family before a car accident paralyzed him from the neck down. “To my mom, my dad, and my brother, Mark, they’re not here today, but look at me now,” Kotsur signed. “I did it.” — BY
Kevin Costner’s speech
In a night that went on too long and that had an elephant crash through that nobody could look past, Kevin Costner strolled on stage toward the end of the night and delivered a long and dramatic monologue about movies and the directors that make them. It was over-indulgent, far too long, nevertheless somewhat affecting, and also oddly a bit calming in its bland inoffensiveness. In other words, it was a distillation of the Oscars itself, on a night that was conversely unlike any in the history of the ceremony. — BY
Questlove’s acceptance speech and gratitude to his mother
One of the smaller consequences of the fallout after the wild Will Smith-Chris Rock debacle was that the satisfying win for Summer of Soul and Questlove’s emotional acceptance speech that came immediately after were largely drowned out. Yet, if you were able to pay attention, a choked-up Questlove referenced his mother and late father and spoke of the film’s relevance in 2022. “This is not just a 1969 story about marginalized people in Harlem, this is a story of…” he said before trailing off and unable to finish his sentence, swept up in his big Oscars moment. — BY
Flash...entering the Speed Force?
While the Oscars has very publicly struggled to tweak its show in order to correct for its recently low ratings, surely this was not the way. Apparently, the Academy’s controversial move to relegate a slate of awards to a pre-show section of the night (which was then clumsily edited into the live show in pared-down segments) was to make room, in part, for things like fan-voted awards meant to appeal more to the masses. That included the award for the best “Cheer Moment” in movies, including Neo’s bullet-dodging slo-mo in The Matrix, some Marvel stuff, Jennifer Hudson belting in Dreamgirls, and for the number one pick, Flash entering the Speed Force. It was cringe-inducing, bizarre, and hilariously out-of-place. Luckily, the producers likely got their boosted ratings elsewhere. — BY