The 94th Oscars recap through tweets …

Move over Warren Beatty and Faye Dunaway, toxic masculinity has entered the chat. I don’t know how the 94th Annual Academy Awards doesn’t go down as the most memorable, awkward, scary show of its lifespan. Heck, I wouldn’t be surprised if it’s the last telecast of the Oscars that we get because of just how fast and far things fell.

Things started going sideways a couple weeks ago when The Academy announced that they were going to give out eight awards while most of the night’s guests were doing their red-carpet duties in a bid to “conserve time” for “what audiences really want to see”—namely comedic skits. As anyone with a brain knows, ratings haven’t dwindled because Billy Crystal stopped hosting. The show tried to get people back by bringing old comedians onstage for another go-round (before getting rid of the host altogether the last couple years) and it did nothing to move the needle. Why? Because the viewers who left don’t actually care. So why should they care about them? Care about us instead. You know, the people who do love movies.

Jessica Chastain stated she’d make sure to be seated early to cheer on her Make-up and Hairstyling team (they won). Guillermo del Toro sat down early too to tweet all the pre-show winners. And, as everyone could have guessed, the promise that “nothing would be cut” sunk the maneuver from achieving its goals in two different ways. One: the first couple simply edited out the winners walking to the stage. What does that save? Twenty seconds each? Two: by the time Live Action Short came around, the show decided to trim Riz Ahmed’s acceptance speech. How do we know? Because the journalists in the balcony recorded it live and tweeted it before the show even began. Not a good look at all.

From there the chaos was relegated to tired jokes and wild attempts at appealing to Gen-Z. The Academy did invite Facebook influencers to come in and make content after all. We’re talking an opening (pre-recorded) music video with Beyoncé on the Compton tennis court where the Williams sisters played as kids. A monologue featuring all three hosts (Wanda Sykes, Regina Hall, and Amy Schumer) before cutting to another monologue where Schumer went solo. It took twenty minutes before Best Supporting Actress was finally awarded. So much for “making it all about the films.”

And by really dissecting the whole, can we truly say what came next was surprising? We’re in year three of a global pandemic. Below the line craft categories were relegated to second-class status. A COVID scare at the BAFTAs caused The Academy to strengthen their protocols despite saying performers were exempt from vaccine mandates (Van Morrison didn’t even come anyway). And, let’s face it, the kind of “good-natured” ribbing usually dripping in misogyny that we expect from these farces simply will not go over without pushback anymore. There has been a reckoning in society and specifically this industry that such abuse will not be tolerated. To think it would be is a gross miscalculation.

That brings us to “the slap.” Here’s some context. Jada Pinkett Smith has been vocal about her struggles with alopecia via the press and her Red Table Talk podcast. Will Smith has been vocal about his going to therapy and learning to accept his emotions and not bottle things up for the public anymore. Chris Rock made a joke about Jada in the past after she boycotted the 2016 ceremony that he hosted by using a crassly sexualized analogy to say, “she wasn’t invited.” So, when he got up on-stage and made a crack about her disability, it doesn’t really matter that Smith initially laughed. The nuance of that abuse isn’t something that registers instantly. Even Jada smirked before rolling her eyes with a big frown once clarity hit. Does that excuse Will from walking up, slapping Rock in the face with an open hand, and cursing at him before sitting down? No. But guess what? Actions have consequences.

Everyone has their opinion (as you’ll see in the tweets below). Assault. Retribution. Wife guy. Toxic overtones of possessiveness. It’s all there to unpack. And even if I honestly think Rock got what he deserved (Smith made a point to not slug him and/or knock him out), Will’s actions should have faced consequences too. But that’s tough to do when everyone in that room knew Best Actor was his. Could they remove him knowing he was probably going to be announced later? Could they risk not removing him considering they had no idea what he might say in his speech? It was a nightmare scenario surely triggering its fair share of PTSD just as its implausibility spreading like wildfire on social media surely created a massive ratings spike of people tuning in to see what happened next.

Nothing that followed could shake free of a heavy weight of uncertainty—least of all Questlove’s ruined Best Documentary win, the award Rock was presenting. And the fact that everyone just kept going like nothing happened (save a quick joke by Schumer) made it all very surreal. Rock wasn’t alone either. His jokes at Jada and Penelope Cruz’s expense were clearly in poor taste. A “Regina Hall is horny” sketch not only belittled COVID, but also objectified six men in ways that are just asking for cries of double-standard. That’s the problem with toeing the line between edgy and austere. You can’t. Especially not in such uncertain times with people who are sick and tired of simply turning the other cheek.

There was a lot of good, though. Troy Kotsur became the second deaf actor to win an Oscar and gave a wonderful speech. Ariana DeBose gave voice to the LGBTQ community upon winning one herself. There was petty fun too considering how hard Netflix and Amazon have tried to be the first streamer to win Best Picture only to watch Apple swoop in and beat them to it simply because they had deep enough pockets to buy an already-finished CODA and market the heck out of it. Clips came back for all the acting nominees. Every nominated song got a performance (even one that didn’t get nominated did too). And how can you not cheer for an out-of-left-field White Men Can’t Jump anniversary reunion?

Will anyone remember all that? Will this be the Oscars where Jane Campion finally won and where a woman-directed film took Best Picture two years in a row? No. It’ll be the year Chris Rock got what he deserved. And the year Will Smith did (a long overdue win) and didn’t (his own consequences) too.


Artistic goodness

Pre-game

It begins with Beyoncé

Monologuing

Best Supporting Actress

Horny Regina Hall

Best Sound

Best Cinematography

Best Documentary Short & Visual Effects

Best Animated Feature

Best Animated Short

Fan Cheer Moment

Academy Museum

Best Supporting Actor

Best International Feature

Best Live Action Short

Everyone talks about Bruno … and Disney

Best Costume Design

Best Original & Adapted Screenplays

Fan’s Choice

Best Score & Editing

The Slap

Photograph by Robyn Beck / Getty

Best Documentary Feature

Best Production Design & Original Song

Best Director

Best Lead Actor

Best Make-up & Hairstyling

Best Lead Actress

Best Picture

The Aftermath

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