If you count the one-hour unaired portion of the 94th Academy Awards that began at 7 p.m. EDT, this year’s return to the Dolby Theatre technically came in at a staggering 272 minutes when the usual legal disclaimers rolled at 11:42 p.m., beating the year A Beautiful Mind won by nine minutes. We already knew going into this evening that it couldn’t possibly beat the Shortest Oscars Ever record of 100 minutes, achieved in 1959 when an angry Jerry Lewis gave all the Oscars to The Geisha Boy, read his 90-minute doctoral thesis about muscular dystrophy, and called it a night. Just the same, these Oscars were a lot, even before the cruel insult and the on-stage assault.
ABC permitted the live feed onto their airwaves at 8 sharp. After Beyoncé’s outdoors performance of the nominated “Be Alive” from King Richard, the Spirograph-designed stage was handed over to co-hosts Regina Hall, Wanda Sykes, and Amy Schumer. As Oscars hosts, we’ve seen worse and we’ve seen better. Scoring cheap political larfs off Florida governance was sub-Twitter audience pandering, but Schumer (“or as they know me in Hollywood, ‘Melissa McCarthy said no'”) roasting Being the Ricardos rung my bell. After one last comedy bit around 10:22 that didn’t land (about Oscar consolation prizes) they faded into the woodwork as the time came to introduce Best Documentary Feature.
For those just joining us: onetime Oscar host Chris Rock took the stage and played the comedian/presenter game of “mock the audience” that’s old hat at these proceedings. Amid other gags everyone’s since forgotten, he turned his sights on Jada Pinkett Smith and her very close-cropped hairdo and joked about her upcoming role in G.I. Jane 2. Mrs. Smith has gone extremely public about dealing with alopecia in recent months. Rock either didn’t know, didn’t care, and/or assumed she would take it in stride because, like, tney’re all Hollywood Black community family or whatever.
Whether she did shrug it off or not was hard to tell, and instantly moot; her husband emphatically did not.
Academy Award Nominee Will Smith stormed the stage and, depending on which continent’s camera angle you were watching (there was a difference), Smith either slapped or punched Rock, returned to his seat, and shouted an F-bomb-starred threat to Rock, twice for emphasis. In America, ABC let the picture roll but shut down all sound and closed captions for a good 20-30 seconds. Viewers in the UK and Australia got the uncensored version, as did any Americans who could read Smith’s lips, which was not difficult.
Both versions ended with a visibly rattled Rock ceasing any and all further joking, possibly for the rest of the year, and handing Best Documentary Feature to Questlove, justly so for Summer of Soul. Questlove would become one of numerous Academy Award Winners to shed tears onstage this night, but it was extremely tough for anyone in the theater or at home to keep the focus on him. The pall cast over his moment in the spotlight would pervade the atmosphere well into the next segment — the In Memoriam, of all things — and throughout the back half of the long, long night. Elder statesmen Kevin Costner and Anthony Hopkins would each try to calm all us youngsters down and steer the world back on track with their respective award presentations. No one envied them that challenge.
…anyway, movie awards, then: 53 nominees across 23 categories, not counting the Honorary Oscars, which they stopped including in the telecast years ago because mere honor is not enough. Though barely noted in the telecast, completists will note this year’s extra-credit recipients were Samuel L. Jackson, writer/director Elaine May, and actress Liv Ullmann, while Danny Glover received the Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award for refusing to endorse Lethal Weapon 5.
Those 23 awards were divided amongst the following 15 works, all of which we’ve previously reviewed here on MCC, 13 of which I gave a thumbs-up:
- Dune: 6 – Cinematography, Editing, Original Score, Production Design, Sound, Visual Effects
- CODA: 3 – Picture, Supporting Actor (Troy Kotsur), Adapted Screenplay
- The Eyes of Tammy Faye: 2 – Actress (Jessica Chastain), Makeup and Hairstyling
- The Power of the Dog: Director (Jane Campion)
- King Richard: Actor (Will Smith)
- West Side Story: Supporting Actress (Ariana DeBose)
- Belfast: Original Screenplay
- Encanto: Animated Feature
- Summer of Soul: Documentary Feature
- Drive My Car: International Feature
- No Time to Die: Original Song (Billie Eilish’s eponymous theme)
- Cruella: Costume Design
- The Windshield Wiper: Animated Short Film
- The Long Goodbye: Live-Action Short Film
- The Queen of Basketball: Documentary Short Film
Nominees in the major categories that walked away empty-handed: Being the Ricardos; Don’t Look Up; Licorice Pizza; The Lost Daughter; Nightmare Alley; Parallel Mothers; Spencer; tick, tick…BOOM!; The Tragedy of Macbeth; The Worst Person in the World.
We pause here to present the only part my wife Anne ever cares to watch, the annual In Memoriam segment compiled by the good folks at Imaginary Forces. Count ten or more offensive omissions and win fabulous prizes! (If the embedding is denied, try here.) This clip is from oscars.org’s own site; in the telecast they lurched directly and inelegantly from commercial break into the first big name without preamble or pause for breath. This version is silent sans children’s choir and dancers, and omits the in-person commentaries from presenters Tyler Perry, Bill Murray, and Jamie Lee Curtis. And no, they did not insert Chris Rock at the last minute.
Per my wife Anne’s annual tradition, the deep-dive list of omissions from the role call of the dead includes but might not be limited to the following. Most were better known for TV stardom, but that didn’t stop the Academy from adding Lake Placid costar Betty White to their list.
- Ed Asner (Up; Elf; Fort Apache, the Bronx)
- Samuel E. Wright (the unforgettable Sebastian from The Little Mermaid)
- Tommy Kirk (Old Yeller, The Shaggy Dog, Swiss Family Robinson, The Absent-Minded Professor)
- Norm MacDonald (Dirty Work, Dr. Dolittle)
- Bob Saget (Dirty Work, Critical Condition)
- Jackie Mason (The Jerk, Caddyshack II)
- Arlene Golonka (The In-Laws, Airport ’77)
- Cara Williams (The Defiant Ones, The Helen Morgan Story)
- Robert Hogan (The Lady in Red, Hamburger: The Motion Picture)
- Jane Withers (Bright Eyes, Disney’s Hunchback of Notre Dame)
- Gloria Warren (Always in My Heart, Bells of an Fernando)
- Yvonne Wilder (one of the few actual Puerto Ricans in the original West Side Story, Seems Like Old Times)
Per my own annual tradition, I live-tweeted while watching, most densely during the 7-8 p.m. hour when all the real action was coming online from entertainment journalists live-tweeting from their Dolby Theatre seats. But before we slap all that into this recap as usual, a selection of other highlights I scribbled on paper instead of fumbling into my phone keyboard on the fly:
7:13 p.m.: Twitter learns the shamefully cloaked ceremony has begun when Best Sound goes to Dune.
8:31 p.m. The Best Sound awarding finally airs on tape-delay. Painful banter by Josh Brolin and Jason Momoa is kept in, but editors trimmed away any “fat” to speed things up.
8:34 p.m.: The first of several random cast reunions is held as Best Cinematography goes to Dune, courtesy of the lead trio from the now-30-year-old White Men Can’t Jump — Rosie Perez, Woody Harrelson, and Wesley Snipes wearing a RenFaire tunic under his suit. Harrelson takes a few extra seconds to open the envelope, remarking that despite three of his own previous nominations, this night is the most he’s ever been allowed to speak at the Oscars. (“Presenting is where it’s at.”)
9:15 p.m.: Youn Yuh-jung, the kindly lady who won Best Supporting Actress last year for Minari, jokes about struggling with pronouncing the five Supporting Actors’ names, then does fine and takes immense pleasure in ASL’ing the winner’s name, Troy Kotsur for CODA. Kotsur proceeds to give one of the most emotional speeches of the evening. There was much competition for that superlative.
9:37 p.m.: A moment of silence is held for Ukraine, followed by a plea for donations via a cryptocurrency website.
9:48 p.m.: “We Don’t Talk About Bruno”, which is from Encanto but not nominated, is performed live by popular demand because everyone likes it better than the film’s actual nominee, whose name I could go look up but I feel like my forgetting it just now proves my point.
9:57 p.m.: Spider-Amy. Don’t ask.
10:01 p.m.: Rising for Best Adapted Screenplay, CODA director/co-writer Sian Heder mocks her own dress at the mic: “I’m so glad I dressed as a disco ball!”
10:05: This year saw the introduction of two Twitter-poll populist-concession fake awards, much like those paper “Good Job!” certificates they give to schoolchildren for random happy deeds. After an earlier, uproarious segment in which “Best Cheer Moment” went to a Flash scene from Zack Snyder’s 4-hour Justice League director’s cut, the arguably less unimportant Fan Favorite Films of 2021 were announced. The five “winners”:
5. tick, tick…BOOM!, with which I’d concur
4. Spider-Man: No Way Home, the poor little rich film everyone thought was being bullied by all the other tiny films ganging up on it
3. Minamata, which I had never heard of, but it stars the canceled Johnny Depp and was just released somewhere in the U.S. back in February under witness protection
2. The Amazon Prime exclusive Cinderella starring Camila Cabelo, Adele Dazeem, and that guy from Pose everyone loves
1. Netflix’s Zack Snyder’s Army of the Dead, yes, really, I will not take any questions at this time because I cannot stop laughing while typing
10:20 p.m.: A tape-delayed zero-hour version of the Best Film Editing hand-off (for Dune) features a funny moment quoting the winner’s daughter, who once snottily retorted to him, “It’s all very well for YOU, Oscar-Nominated Joe Walker!”
10:24 p.m., give or take a minute: The One Punch.
10:31 p.m.: No one cares that Francis Ford Coppola, Al Pacino and Robert DeNiro are on stage for a 60th-anniversary tribute to The Godfather because everyone’s still debating whether or not it was a slap or a punch, whether it was real or staged, whether Will Smith should be brought up on assault charges or forgiven because he’s rich and famous.
11:04 p.m.: An arbitrary 28th-anniversary Pulp Fiction reunion is held with Samuel L. Jackson, John Travolta, and Uma Thurman, who together present Best Actor. When they announce Will Smith’s name, the entire world holds its breath awaiting what would come next.
Smith, a man who is clearly under Herculean pressures hard enough to turn an entire coal mine into diamonds, takes the stage and takes several minutes to work through a disastrously complicated moment. Many morning thinkpieces will no doubt rehash this and The One Punch at extreme length and struggle to agree on interpretations of any second of it, including his conceding that one needs thick skin to work and survive in Hollywood, the part where he goes on and on about “protecting” his family and “protecting” all the actresses he worked with on King Richard, some of which doesn’t quite connect to the preceding sentences. Here in America, the Oscars logo kept flashing on- and off-screen as folks in the control booth were clearly squabbling with each other over how to handle any of this.
The one piece I want to capture here more than any other is Smith telling the world that fellow nominee Denzel Washington had just told him prior to this segment (exact quote here), “At your highest moment, be careful. That’s when the Devil comes for you.”
Denzel isn’t wrong.
11:22 p.m.: Jessica Chastain, among the few audience members who’d been in her seat for the 7:00 hour (her, Guillermo del Toro, and an army of hired seat fillers) at long last takes the stage for Best Actress for The Eyes of Tammy Faye. Her speech goes on a bit, which is standard for this category and entirely permitted, charts a few different subjects including but not limited to high LGBTQ suicide rates.
11:30 p.m.: Best Picture is presented by The Lady Gaga and idol of millions Liza Minnelli in a wheelchair, celebrating 50 years of Cabaret.
11:42 p.m.: The End. And no, there was no slow-motion instant replay of The One Punch after the 94th Academy Awards end credits. But you can find that all over the internet…and in one of the following tweets. Once again we close with the results of my Oscars live-tweeting experience, no context provided other than what I just typed above. Apologies in advance if these take forever to load on some devices.
…and now, back to watching junk that’s bad for us all. Enjoy!