Award Show Review: The 94th Annual Oscars

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Photo Courtesy Allen Schaben / Los Angeles Times via Getty Images

The cast and creative team of Best Picture “Coda” signs “I love you.”

Kyle Gerstel, Staff Writer

The Oscars slapped. It was funny, heartwarming and diverse in both its content and the identities of presenters and nominees. However, there is plenty of room for improvement for next year’s event.

This is the first year in which awards for eight categories such as film editing and production design were distributed before the telecast, with clips of speeches played during the show. Many industry professionals were upset by this; according to a Washington Post article released before the ceremony, Alan Heim, President of the Motion Picture Editors Guild, referred to it as a “slap in the face.”

I completely agree— while I understand that the intention was to boost ratings, it’s disrespectful and makes the Academy Awards a celebration of celebrity rather than filmmaking.

The Academy also attempted to make the event more inclusive than in previous years. In the 2015 and 2016 ceremonies, all 20 acting nominations were awarded to white actors, inspiring the hashtag #OscarsSoWhite. In 2021, Nomadland director Chloe Zhao became the first woman of color to win Best Director as well as only the third female-identifying winner in history.

While this year showcased more racial diversity and featured three female hosts, some aspects of the awards remain problematic. For example, acting awards are still gendered and each country can only submit one nominee for Best International Feature Film, creating an America-centric view of the film industry.

Hosts Amy Schumer, Wanda Sykes and Regina Hall were enjoyable to watch, but not nearly as funny as previous hosts such as Billy Crystal and Ellen DeGeneres. The wittiest line of the night was Schumer’s commentary on the large number of nominations for the film Don’t Look Up despite its poor critical reception (“I guess the Academy members ‘don’t look up’ reviews”).

My favorite speech was that of Best Supporting Actor Troy Kostur from Coda, the second deaf actor in history to win an Academy Award. It was heartwarming and meaningful, addressing social justice issues that aligned with his personal story as well as the film’s themes.

As for the infamous slap, I believe Chris Rock’s joke was in poor taste and it would have been justified for Will Smith to interrupt him. However, Smith’s use of violence was unacceptable, and his comparison to Richard Williams in his Best Actor speech was a weak substitute for an apology.

The Academy’s sloppy treatment of Smith illustrates their lack of willingness to preserve morality if it means facing controversy. By allowing Smith to stay at the event, they set a dangerous precedent that the standards people are held to are determined by fame.

The 2022 Oscars will likely be remembered for Smith’s behavior, but I believe it should instead be thought of as the year in which the Academy failed to take action. Hopefully, next year’s event will capture the Academy’s original intent and value achievement over stardom.