By Lara Eastaugh
And just like that, in a Will Smith-esque flash, this year’s awards season ended with the beloved Oscars on March 27. The annual Hollywood event is always the scene of some form of controversy, and this year certainly did not disappoint. The Will Smith and Chris Rock showdown, which saw Will Smith take the stage to slap Chris Rock over a joke about his wife Jada Pinkett-Smith, has taken the internet by storm. It’s arguably one of the most dramatic awards show moments we’ve seen in the past decade, bested only by the Best Picture of 2017 debacle. Whether you’re Team Rock or Team Smith, the night was certainly a night for the history books.
While other aspects of the night were wildly unpredictable, this year’s winners were far from it. Arguably the most surprising win of the night was winning Best Picture. CODASundance’s favorite dark horse based on the 2014 Franco-Belgian coming-of-age film The Aries Family. Although he was only nominated for three awards, CODA went home with all three wins, while making Oscar history. The film’s star, Troy Kutsur, is the first deaf man to win an Oscar for his acting role. His incredibly moving speech was deservedly greeted with a standing ovation from the stars of the Dolby Theatre, even causing his performer to choke mid-stage.
The Best Actress race was won by Jessica Chastain for her outstanding performance in Tammy Faye’s eyes, beating out crowd favorite Kristen Stewart. Unsurprisingly, Jane Campion won Best Director for her magnificent work on The power of the dog and Dunes won several of the more production-focused awards, such as Best Editing and Best Production Design (although, controversially, these were awarded off-air).
It was nice to see Kenneth Branagh land a long-awaited Oscar for his work on Belfast for Best Original Screenplay. After eight nominations in an iconic career spanning more than forty years, it was refreshing (and gratifying) for Branagh to walk away from Shakespeare in his semi-autobiographical article about his experience growing up in 1960s Northern Ireland. .
What was also surprising was the dexterity with which the three hosts of the evening, Regina Hall, Amy Schumer and Wanka Sykes, managed the room, both before and after “the slap”. The Oscars are an infamously difficult event to organise, with many previous stars having absolutely bombarded on stage – just remember the disaster that Anne Hathaway and James Franco threw the ceremony in 2011. However, the three women extremely well-acted, with the opening monologue striking the perfect balance between comedy and topicality. Credit must go to Schumer for his unscripted post-dust gag from Smith-Rock, joking “I’m stepping out of this Spider-Man suit. Did I miss something? There’s, like, a different vibe here. Although it was a relatively minor moment during the awards show, its comedic timing was well executed and definitely captured the “mood” of the play.
All in all, while there were plenty of small highlights throughout the night, there’s no doubt that this year’s Oscars will forever be defined by this slap. And if that alone wasn’t enough Will Smith-related mayhem for one night, moments later he was called to the stage to accept the Best Actor award for his performance in King Richard, in which he apologized to the Academy and his fellow nominees, proclaiming that “love will make you do crazy things”. Well, he wasn’t kidding. One can only hope that the time he desperately needs with his aunt and uncle in Bel-Air can get him through.
Image: De’Andre Bush via Unsplash