Will Smith slaps Chris Rock after joke at the 2022 Oscars. photo: LA Times

The 94th Academy Awards returned on Mar. 27 2022 at the Dolby Theater in Hollywood, representing a sense of normalization amid the COVID-19 pandemic. Maskless celebrities strutted down a non-socially distanced red carpet, promoting fashion brands such as Louis Vuitton and Chanel. This sense of normalcy however, also came with a respected moment of silence to recognize those suffering in Ukraine. As stated in the New York Times, the telecast did so via three cards of gold text on black background, one reading, “While film is an important avenue for us to express our humanity in times of conflict, the reality is millions of families in Ukraine need food, medical care, clear water and emergency services.” 

Hosted by comedian and actor Chris Rock, the 2022 Oscars recognized talented filmmakers and actors along with a performance by American singer Beyoncé. Directed by Sian Herder and starring actress Emilia Jones, “CODA” made history, becoming the first movie from a major streaming service to win an Oscar for best picture. “CODA” follows 17-year old Ruby, as she navigates her deaf family and a latent passion for singing. This victory demonstrates a tectonic change tanking place in Hollywoods, as the disbursement of movies has altered during the pandemic. “CODA” continued to emerge victorious as it won best adapted screen play and best supporting actor for Troy Kotsur. But despite the success of “CODA,” it was director Denis Villeneuve’s sci-fi film “Dune,” starring actors Zendaya and Timothée Chalamet, that stole the show with a leading six wins. According to the Washington Post, “Dune” proceeded to be awarded with best original score, film editing, costume design, sound, cinematography and visual effects. 

As for major awards, best actor was awarded to Will Smith for King Richard in his impeccable depiction of tennis players Serena and Venus Williams’ father, Richard Williams. Jessica Chastain was awarded best actress for her role as American evangelist and television personality in “The Eyes of Tammy Faye.” Adriana DeBoe won best supporting actress in Steven Spielberg’s “West Side Story,” and Janie Campion was awarded best director for her leadership role the creation of “The Power of the Dog.” Additional hosts Amy Shumer, Regina Hall and Wanda Sykes executed witty comedy bits, including a costumed bonanza that featured Shumer-as-Spider-Man descending from Dolby’s rafters. Nevertheless, the uproar that surrounds this year’s Academy Awards is thanks to an unscripted brawl between Will Smith and Chris Rock. When presenting the best documentary award, Rock poked fun at Smith’s wife, Jada Pinkett Smith, claiming to look as if she could be in “G.I. Jane 2.” This reference to her short hair offensively ignored the fact that Pinkett Smith’s hair loss was due to a condition called alopecia. With the intent to defend his wife, Smith walks onto stage and slaps Rock, proceeding to yell and curse at Rock for his behavior. The theater was silenced as well as shocked, and Smith’s apologetic yet emotional best actor acceptance speech clarified that this slap was not a publicity stunt.

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