BY ASIA THOMPSON
Features Section Editor
The 94th Oscars took place on March 27, and it was nothing short of a disaster, which is a true shame for what the awards are supposed to be: an excellent night celebrating great films and movies globally. This should include the actors, editors, sound designers, background artists, editors, and the many other people behind great films. Although, this one, in particular, will seem to be in our memories for years to come. That night featured the notorious slap of Chris Rock by Will Smith, three women presenters, and many more mishaps throughout the night. The previously recorded award winners have also brought endless criticism to the Academy. In my opinion, the biggest night for movies and films had turned into a laughable nightmare.
For the first time in Academy history, the Oscars had three female presenters at the Oscars: Regina Hall, Amy Schumer, and Wanda Sykes. The reason why, according to Schumer, stating that ‘they could afford to hire one male, so they hired three women instead!’ This was to pinpoint the lack of female representation in the workforce, especially in Hollywood, but the way it was represented was disastrous. Hall had an entire skit on stage where she would do a ‘COVID-19 call’, where she called up male celebrities on stage, claiming that they were positive for COVID, and asked them to wait backstage when she had other ‘intentions’. Not only is this extremely inappropriate, but it counteracts how women are sexually harassed on stage or in public when the same thing occurs to men. Men are also susceptible to sexual harassment as much as women are, but it does not reside as such because of the social stereotype that surrounds the media that women are meek and submissive, and men are strong and leading. Then, she continues to pat down Jason Mamoa sexually, before he was supposed to announce the winner for ‘Best of Sound’ with Josh Brolin, which went to Denis Villeneuve’s Dune. The antics do not stop there either. When comedian Chris Rock took the stage to announce Best Documentary Feature, made some jokes to the audience. Most notably, he made an inappropriate jab at Will Smith’s wife, Jada Pinkett Smith on how he looks seeing her in G.I. Jane 2. The original G.I. Jane, played by Demi Moore, had her head shaved for the role and Pinkett had to shave her head due to a condition called Alopecia. Smith took this offensive on the behalf of his wife, got up from his seat in the audience, and walked up the stage to slap him in the face. The whole Doldy theater was in shock because no one knew if the act was staged or not. Smith later received an Oscar for Best Actor and apologized to the Academy for his behavior, tears streaming from his face. After the slap, when Schumer was referring to a joke about ‘seat fillers’, she walked down the stage and approached Jesse Plemons and Kirsten Dunst. She then called Dunst a seat filler, moved her from her seat, and sat in it, smiling at Plemons. As comedians, you do make jokes for a living, sometimes at the cost of doing something out of your comfort zone. However, there is a silver lining between when a joke is funny, and when it is flat-out offensive.
On the topic of the first time in history, the Academy thought it would be a great idea to have a prerecording of some of the awards that were supposed to be given out on live television with the rest of the awards that night. This was supposed to be cutting the running time of the show, which was supposed to be two hours but ended up being an egregious three and a half hours total. Awards like Best Sound, Best Animated-Short Film, Best Live-Action Short Film, and Best Editing are a few to be recorded before the show and to be revealed later. However, the transitions from live television to pre-recordings were not smooth at all.
Not only was there a lack of editing, but a lack of invites as well. In one of the most nominated movies of the night, Steven Spielberg’s West Side Story, one of their lead actresses, Rachel Zeleger, was not initially invited to the Oscars due to ‘not having room for her.’ After coming forward on social media, she was eventually invited just days before the event. The ironic thing is that West Side Story was nominated seven times in the show and at the very least they could do was give her a seat, instead of giving the seats to spectators.
Despite the number of cringe moments that occurred that night, the Academy did have two memorable wins. Ariana DeBose was the first queer woman of color to win Best Supporting Actress, and CODA, a film that has deaf characters played by deaf actors, won Best Picture. Big wins like these are what the Academy should be striving for: to beat the stigma of big Hollywood films. Consorting to the films that make you the most money, which also can be pretty awful films at times, maybe rewarding at first, but not in the long run. You have film festivals that truly cater to niche and unique films, but some of the biggest winners from those festivals don’t even get a single mention at the Oscars. At the 92nd Oscars, Bong Joon-ho’s Parasite won Best Picture and Best International Film. This was groundbreaking, especially for movies that are not from the U.S. Or when Chole Zhao won Best Director for her film Nomanland, being the first woman of color to do so. The Academy can get more international films or more representation if they wanted to, but money seems to speak more than uniqueness.
Representation not only for people of color but for people of all backgrounds and job aspects should be able to celebrate the accomplishments of great filmmakers that put their hearts and soul into their projects. The Oscars should not be a big bidding war for who can bring in the most money, or a celebrity roast fest, or a boxing ring of who can throw the most punches at each other, whether verbal or physical. Let the Academy, and other award shows in Hollywood, be a great celebration of an award show, celebrating the talent and capability that we can create. It should not be a laughing stock or a very expensive dumpster fire that was put on a glamoured stage.