Words: Clotilde Chinnici
With Sunday’s Oscars, this year’s award season has officially come to an end. The 94th Academy Awards made history last night and will certainly influence the audience’s viewing choices in the weeks to come.
The 2022 ceremony also marked the Oscars’ return to their iconic and historical site, the Dolby Theatre in Los Angeles, where the first-ever ceremony happened in 1929, after taking place at Union Station in Downtown Los Angeles due to the COVID pandemic in 2021. After tonight’s festivities, it is safe to say that the smaller venue and limited guest list that characterized last year’s peculiar ceremony are only a memory of the past, with the 2022 Oscars looking as glamorous – but nonetheless unforgettable – as always.
In fact, this year’s Oscar night was still filled with many memorable moments, from heart-warming to shocking to record-breaking: the 94th Academy Awards had them all and I am here to recap everything you may have missed from the 2022 Oscar ceremony.
The night began with Dune (2021, Denis Villeneuve) taking home the very first award of this year’s ceremony, Best Sound, which turned out to be only the first of many awards the film received. In fact, Dune won most of the categories for which it was nominated: it became the film that won the most awards this year, most of which were in the technical categories. Dune scored six wins overall including Best Cinematography, Best Visual Effects, Best Film Editing, Best Production Design and Best Original Score to the one and only Hans Zimmer who accepted the award via social media in a bathrobe in the middle of the night as he too, like many of us, was watching the ceremony from Europe.
One of the first groundbreaking moments of this year’s Academy Award came within the first hour of the ceremony when the much anticipated Best Supporting Actress award went to Ariana DeBose for her critically acclaimed performance as Anita West Side Story (2021, Steven Spielberg). As of tonight, she became the first openly queer woman of colour to win best-supporting actress. Furthermore, it is worth pointing out that she is only the second Latina to ever win an acting Oscar, the first being Rita Moreno in the same role for the original West Side Story (1961, Wise and Robbins), who Ariana DeBsoe thanked in her speech for her portrayal of Anita which “paved the way for tons of Anitas” like herself.
In the short format categories, The Queen of Basketball (2021, Proudfoot) won Best Documentary Short Subject while The Long Goodbye (2021, Karia and Ahmen) won Best Live Action Short Film. Moreover, Best Animated Short Film went to The Windshield Wiper (2021, Mielgo and Sánchez) as the two directors shed a light on animation for adults in their acceptance speech, saying that “animations for adults is happening, let’s call it cinema,” a much necessary comment in a time in which the art of animation is oftentimes considered only for children by mainstream media.
And while we may not talk about Bruno, today we do talk about Encanto (2021, Bush and Howard), especially as we discuss the animation categories of the Oscars. The film did, in fact, win Best Animated Feature Film, as it was predicted by many. In a beautiful acceptance speech, the creators thanked everyone who worked on the film and expressed their gratitude to the Academy and the public for recognizing and loving a film that puts “beautiful diverse characters in front and centre,” which is something we very much needed to see and I certainly hope to see more of in the future so that everyone around the world can see themselves represented. If anyone thought that this would mean that Encanto had another win in the bag with the Best Original Song award, thus granting composer Lin-Manuel Miranda the prestigious status of EGOT winner, think again. The Oscar, in fact, ended up going to No Time to Die (2021, Cary Joji Fukunaga), thus marking Billie Eilish’s and her brother FINNEAS’s first Academy Award.
Another moment for the history books happened during the Best Supporting Actor category as the second hour of the Oscars kicked off. Troy Kotsur’s performance in CODA (2021, Sian Heder) moved all of us to tears and earned him a well-deserved Oscar, thus allowing Troy Kotsur to become the first deaf man to win an Oscar and the second actor to win after his CODA co-star Marlee Matlin who won an Academy Award for Best Actress in 1986. It was truly a moment that “brought the deaf world and hearing world together,” as the actor himself said in his heartfelt acceptance speech, when the entire theatre stood up to clap in American Sign Language to congratulate the actor on what truly was one of the most powerful moments of the nights.
The Best International Feature Film category was definitely a hard one to dispute, with excellent entries from all the countries involved, including Flee (2021, Jonas Poher Rasmussen) for Denmark and The Hand of God (2021, Paolo Sorrentino) for Italy just to name a few. However, in the end, it was the Japanese film Drive my Car (2021, Ryusuke Hamaguchi), as predicted by many, the one who prevailed and brought home the prestigious statuette. Similarly, Flee was a contender in the Best Documentary category as well, which was eventually won by Summer of Soul (2021, Questlove), a documentary about the Harlem Cultural Festival in 1969, where people came together to celebrate Black history, culture, music and fashion.
Although it did not win, I do think it is very relevant to mention the Danish documentary Flee: not only did it receive unanimous acclaimed from film festivals and critics and considered by many one of the best films of the year but it also deals with the extremely current and relevant topic of refugees. The latter was showcased throughout the Oscars by the hosts as well as guests in attendance who wore a blue ribbon with the hashtag #withrefugees to support all people who are forced to flee oppression and to raise awareness regarding the refugee crisis caused by the ongoing Russian invasion of Ukraine. Despite not winning any award, Flee made history with its nominations alone, as it is the first film to be simultaneously nominated in these three major categories, best documentary, best international film, and best animated feature.
In a world that seems hopeless at times, films can provide some comfort, as shown throughout the ceremony, and “give a bit of fun and joy in these terrible times.” These were the words of Jenny Beavan when she accepted the Best Costume Design Oscar for her stunning work on the film Cruella (2021, Craig Gillespie). The film was nominated for another category as well, Best Makeup and Hairstyling, and considered among the possible winners by Oscars fans but the award ultimately went to The Eyes of Tammy Faye (2021, Michael Showalter).
There was, however, some controversy around the makeup and hairstyling category as well as others, such as film editing, animated short film, and production design. In an effort to shorten the ceremony, the presentation and acceptance of eight awards were pre-filmed before the start of the show and not broadcasted live like every other category. This was met with a lot of backlash with prominent figures and professionals, such as Steven Spielberg, in the film industry speaking out against it, as many feared that this would relegate some nominees to a perceived lower rank when, in reality, everyone makes a movie together and every “craft is just as indispensable as the next”, as Spielberg himself said.
Ultimately, to echo Spielberg’s words, every department supports each other to depict these beautiful stories on screen. And how could we discuss these stories without the very element that makes them come alive? The screenplay awards are two of the ones I look forward to the most each year as we approach the Academy Awards. This year, the Best Original Screenplay Oscar went to the highly talented Kenneth Branagh for his film Belfast (2021, Kenneth Branagh). As of the 2022 Oscars, Branagh finally won his first Academy Award and to this day holds the record of being the first individual who has been nominated in seven categories throughout his career. For Best Adapted Screenplay, the Oscar went to Sian Heder for her touching, heartwarming, and hilarious writing in the film CODA.
As the Oscar night starts drawing to a close, the Award ceremony still manages to keep us on our feet as the Best Director category sees Jane Campion triumph for her critically acclaimed film, The Power of the Dog (2021, Jane Campion). With a win that had certainly been much discussed and predicted by film lovers, Jane Campion becomes only the third woman to ever win an Academy Award for Best Director and the only woman to be nominated for this award twice. And while I am sure we all look forward to the day these statistics are just a distant memory, the fact that this is the second year in a row that a woman wins the Best Director Oscar is perhaps a sign that things are changing in Hollywood.
But of course, I could not properly recap the Oscars without talking about the most shocking moment of the night and the one for which the 2022 Awards will most likely be remembered, given the abundance of memes on the event that have flooded social media the morning after the ceremony. About halfway through the ceremony, the comedian Chris Rock made a joke about Jada Pinkett Smith’s shaved head, calling her G.I. Jane 2, as part of his skit. The actress has been very vocal about her struggles with alopecia, an autoimmune disorder that causes her to lose hair, and appeared to be upset by the joke when the cameras showed her reaction to the comedian’s speech. Just a few seconds late, her husband Will Smith made his way to the stage and unexpectedly slapped Chris Rock before returning back to his seat and shouting “keep my wife’s name out of your f**king mouth.” Despite the shock of the moment and what admittedly was a tasteless joke, Chris Rock showed his professionalism and managed to finish his speech as if nothing happened before announcing the Best Documentary award.
Less than an hour after this event, the Best Actor Oscar went to none other than Will Smith for his performance in King Richard (2021, Reinaldo Marcus Green). In his tearful acceptance speech, Will Smith drew an analogy between his character’s love for his family and his need to protect them and his own actions during the night, saying that “life imitates art.” He also apologized to the Academy and his fellow nominees but not to the person who was most affected by this, Chris Rock who, as the world found out after the ceremony ended, decided not to press charges against the actor. In a time of widespread terror and brutality all over the world, should violence really be justified as an act of love? The Academy itself stated that they do not condone violence in any form and has started a review of the incident which may cost Will Smith his well-deserved Oscar.
Will Smith was not the only one to talk about love, right after his acceptance speech, Jessica Chastain won Best Actress for The Eyes of Tammy Faye. In her speech, the actress talked about “the radical acts of love” that defined her character, those of acceptance, empathy, and compassion. In doing so, Jessica Chastain used her time on the stage to call out the bigoted and discriminatory legislation that is being pushed in the United States as well as “violence and hate crimes perpetrated all over the world.”
And last but by no means least, perhaps the most anticipated award of the season: the Best Picture Academy Award. Perhaps unsurprisingly, the Oscar rightfully went to the masterpiece that is CODA, thus shaping another history-making moment. The movie has been praised by the deaf and CODA community for the sensibility with which it treats its subject without falling into stereotypes and truly honouring this community and this story. As it was said in the acceptance speech, during the 2022 Oscars, CODA truly made history by becoming the first film with a predominantly deaf cast to win Best Picture and allowing Apple to become the first streamer to win this prestigious statuette. And so this strange but still historically significant Oscar came to an end with all the attendees signing their applause to honour what may have been one of the best films of this award season.
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