The 94th Annual Academy Awards Ceremony Was The Worst Broadcast In Living Memory
For as long as I can remember, I've had a love-hate relationship with The Oscars. The live awards ceremony was a way to cap off my feelings about a year of movies, and whether the show was great, terrible, or a compelling mix of the two, it was always fun. But there was nothing fun about the 94th Annual Academy Awards, where everyone seemed uncomfortable, the jokes were tasteless, and despite pre-recording eight of the acceptance speeches to save time, the show still ran 40 minutes overlong. The Oscars are supposed to be a celebration of the year in film. In past years, the folks at the Academy and at ABC have tried desperately to boost ratings with a variety of bad ideas, and every show has had at least one major flub, but the love for movies was clearly still there. This year, the focus was so much on celebrity, creating meme-worthy moments, and trying (and failing) to be funny that the movies got lost in the chaos.
The day after the ceremony, everyone usually shares their feelings over the biggest wins or snubs, but the 94th Annual Academy Awards are only being discussed because of the many scandalous moments, all of which hurt people involved and overshadowed the awards themselves. Everyone loves a messy live awards show, but not like this. Not like this.
Poor Taste, Bad Choices, And Neatly Manicured Chaos
The first of many bad decisions made for the ceremony involved cutting eight of the more technical awards from the broadcast, pre-recording them during the red carpet show. Then, inexplicably, these awards were cut in throughout the ceremony, quickly playing without giving the recipients the chance to actually get their awards in front of their peers. If presenting the awards was cut for time, then why did you still present them, just in a less satisfying format? Worse, the award for Best Makeup and Hairstyling had a vital part of the speech cut from the telecast — one that pointed out the importance of all of the below-the-line workers in the film industry. The Oscars feel hopelessly out of touch, forgetting the very people who they're supposed to be celebrating, and having the gall to censor a winner for saying as much is pretty awful.
Instead of presenting those awards live, the show instead lingered on some incredibly bad bits. The ceremony always has some cringe-inducing moments, like Jennifer Lawrence tripping and falling up the stairs or someone accidentally announcing the wrong winner for Best Picture, but at least those moments weren't scripted. Unfortunately, some of the worst moments of the 2022 ceremony were read directly off of the teleprompter.
Who Wrote These Jokes?
After three years without a host, the Academy decided to bring along one for each missed year, with three hosts: Wanda Sykes, Regina Hall, and Amy Schumer. The three funny ladies each have their own style of comedy, but while hosting the Oscars, they're all equal kinds of terrible. The jokes were flippant about all of the wrong things, trying to let out a little of the ceremony's hot air, but failing miserably. Whether it's Sykes calling an orc mask "Harvey Weinstein" or Schumer making a joke about being the kind of white woman who would call the cops on her co-hosts, many of the gags seemed as if they were trying to make the whole show feel more down-to-earth. There's a real "See? We're just like you!" vibe to much of the scripted humor, despite the fact that most people tune into the Oscars to indulge in the opulence of it all. The Oscars are supposed to be classy, fancy affairs, but the writing turned them into the worst parts of the afterparty.
Instead of the charming, silly crowd work provided by Lil Rel at the 2021 Oscars (remember Glenn Close doing "Da Butt"?), viewers were instead treated to Hall objectifying and groping male stars under the premise of "lost COVID test results," Schumer moving Kirsten Dunst out of the way and calling her a "seat warmer" in order to flirt with a very un-amused Jesse Plemons, and presenter Tiffany Haddish making fun of Canada at length to Canadian co-presenter Simu Liu. There's a big difference between some friendly ribbing and being cruel, and the show crossed that boundary more than once.
The Musical Numbers Were A Highlight
The musical numbers representing the nominees for Best Original Song at this year's ceremony were a welcome reprieve from the uncomfortable humor and bad vibes in the Dolby Theatre. The show opened with Beyoncé performing "Be Alive" from the film "King Richard," streamed live from the Compton, CA tennis courts where Venus and Serena Williams honed their craft. It was a cool moment that was a tiny bit over-lit, but displayed Beyoncé's understanding of cinema, as the whole performance featured elaborate camera movement and choreographed edits. It was impressive, but almost expected given Queen Be's track record.
Billie Eilish and Finneas performed Bond theme "No Time to Die," which eventually took home the award for Best Original Song, and their performance was nice and understated. They provided a moment of quiet contemplation to contrast Reba McEntire's "Somehow You Do" from the movie "Four Good Days," featuring Blink 182 drummer Travis Barker on drums. It was fine, though most of the Twitter reaction was people asking if "Four Good Days" was even a real movie. (It is, in fact, an inspirational drama about a young woman played by Mila Kunis who struggles through addiction and recovery, and it's streaming on Hulu.)
There were two performances from "Encanto," because the nominated song, "Dos Oruguitas," was not the fan favorite. The performance was beautiful, with a tropical stage setting and traditional Colombian dancers. It hearkened back to the old days of the Oscars, if only for a moment, and reminded me of the magic of cinema. The other, more popular song from "Encanto," "We Don't Talk About Bruno," also got a fully-choreographed, intensely fun musical sequence, though it definitely felt more modern than "Dos Oruguitas." Both were a lot of fun, and John Leguizamo's introduction to "We Don't Talk About Bruno" (he played Bruno) was a major highlight of an otherwise disastrous evening.
Thank Goodness For Some Of The Winners
While the presenters and hosts weren't exactly knocking it out of the park, many of the awards winners gave moving acceptance speeches that managed to make something profound out of the mess. Ariana DeBose took home the award for Best Supporting Actress for her role in "West Side Story" and gave a brilliant speech about representation and her joy at feeling seen:
"Imagine this little girl in the back seat of a white Ford Focus, look into her eyes. You see an openly queer woman of color, an Afro-Latina, who found her strength in life through art. And that is, I think, what we're here to celebrate."
"CODA" star Troy Kotsur gave an incredible speech about his own experiences with marginalization, the source of his inspiration, and the importance of this moment for deaf people. "CODA" went on to win Best Picture, making his excitement all the more poignant. He teared up and even the sign-language translator began to cry while speaking his words aloud, reminding us at least momentarily what these awards are supposed to be about. Jessica Chastain, who won Best Actress for "The Eyes of Tammy Faye," also gave an impassioned speech about the importance of love, empathy, and protecting the defenseless. She managed to bring a bit of calm and kindness after the awfulness of the Will Smith and Chris Rock debacle, which cast a terrible shadow over the entire evening.
One Shocking Moment Overshadows All
In a night full of poor taste and uncomfortable moments, one stands out above the rest. While Chris Rock was onstage presenting the nominees for Best Documentary Feature, he made a joke at the expense of Jada Pinkett-Smith, making fun of her shaved head. Pinkett-Smith suffers from alopecia, which causes hair loss, and was clearly hurt by the joke. Her husband, Will Smith, who would later win the Best Actor award for his role in "King Richard," stormed onto the stage and slapped Rock, then screamed at him. The words were muted on the broadcast in the U.S., but the anger was extremely clear. Both men seriously crossed lines that shouldn't have been crossed, and Smith shouldn't have been allowed onto the stage in the first place. The Oscars are a huge event, so where was security? Did they let him on stage because they knew the moment would go viral, not caring that it was shocking, offensive, and would cast a pall over the rest of the evening?
The rest of the ceremony following this outburst felt incredibly tense, and some of the award winners, like Questlove, seemed saddened that their moments were forever tainted by something so negative. Regardless of how you feel about Rock's comments or Smith's reaction, someone working on the ceremony should have stepped in before things got as wild as they did.
A Travesty From Start To Finish
Even if you put the Smith/Rock altercation out of your mind, the 2022 Oscars were the worst the show has ever been. The chaos felt intentional, an attempt to shock viewers into talking about the show on social media since putting on a decent awards ceremony just wasn't in the books. The awards are always a little wild, a little weird, and entirely too self-congratulatory, but this year was just too much. The movies and people who make them took a backseat to trashy jokes and worse behavior, and it's a disappointment all around. I'm well used to being disappointed by the Oscars by now, but this is a surprising, and truly depressing new low.
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