The 94th edition of the Academy Awards was broadcasted live from Los Angeles’ Dolby Theater on March 27 — and the film industry’s biggest night of the year did not disappoint.
Denis Villeneuve’s science fiction epic “Dune” led the way with six awards — all of which came in technical categories. Jessica Chastain claimed the first Oscar of her illustrious career. Jane Campion’s win for Best Director made it the second year in a row the directing category has been spearheaded by a female moviemaker. And those are just the honorable mentions. Here are the winners and losers from a wild night in Hollywood.
Building off its recent wave of success at the Producers Guild Awards and Screen Actors Guild Awards, “CODA,” which stands for “Child of Deaf Adults,” took home the award for Best Picture in an upset fashion over “The Power of the Dog.”
The work follows a teenage girl who serves as the only person in her family with hearing capabilities. She is presented an opportunity to explore her musical passion, and she struggles with the idea of abandoning her parents to pursue her big dreams. This important film was the beloved darling at last year’s Sundance film festival, but it is rare to see an early-release film rediscover its momentum well after its release.
The win represents yet another curveball thrown in the Best Picture category in recent years, marking the second time in the last four years that a Best Picture winner failed to be nominated in the directing category. Overall, it is a historic win for a movie that spotlights deaf actors and actresses in Hollywood and the deaf community as a whole.
Winner: ABC (television)
There’s no denying that the Academy Awards has been struggling to retain viewership over the last several years. Just eight years ago, the Oscars program pulled in an average viewership of just over 40 million — making it one of the highest watched television programs of the year. But last year, viewership plunged to under 10 million.
Albeit it might have been for the wrong reasons (which will be addressed later), a viewership surge up to 14 million was a healthy uptick that suggests the movie industry could be back on the rise following a COVID-19 pandemic that left it crippled from the inside out.
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Loser: Will Smith
Never would have anybody thought a Best Actor winner would fall in the “losers” category when the curtain closed. A mid-show altercation took place between Will Smith and comedian Chris Rock following a joke of poor taste toward Smith’s wife Jada Pinkett Smith. The “King Richard” actor stormed the stage and open-hand slapped Chris Rock. What looked as if it were a staged moment at first quickly turned serious when Smith raised his voice, shouting vulgarities at the longtime comedian.
It was among the most stunning moments in the Oscars century long history. While the joke was undoubtedly below the belt, Smith’s actions put social media in a whirlwind, with some condemning his actions and even calling for his dismissal from the rest of the program. As a heavy favorite for the award, Smith did win Best Actor for his role of Richard Williams in “King Richard,” and he attempted to justify his actions in his acceptance speech, apologizing to the audience present and those watching from home. Smith released a more complete apology addressed to Rock and the public in a social media message Monday.
Whether one defends or condemns Smith’s actions, this unexpected moment stole the spotlight away from the remarkable achievements in film this year. Only time will tell whether the Academy welcomes Smith back to right his wrongs, but for now his actions loom over the industry.
Loser: “The Power of the Dog” and Netflix
All signs indicated that this was supposed to be the year that a Netflix original movie finally broke through, but it was not meant to be. After cleaning house at the Golden Globes, sweeping the British Academy Film Awards and racking up 12 nominations from the Academy, Jane Campion’s Western drama fell short of the major prize.
The film also failed to secure a victory in any of the major acting categories, putting a stamp on a rather disappointing performance. It is easy to attribute the film’s lack of success to its straight-to-Netflix release given the Academy’s favoritism of the brick-and-mortar movie theater experience and its desire to preserve cinema.
Academy bias aside, it was a rather poor showing from Netflix’s top contender as they move forward with a 2022 release schedule that will almost certainly lead to another shot at gold.