The 94th edition of the Oscars will be remembered for a punch that was not in the script. All the tension that Spanish viewers experienced until knowing if Penelope Cruz was going to win the statuette disappeared when Will Smith starred in the most embarrassing moment in the history of the Academy Awards. Comedian Chris Rock, famous for her foul-mouthed tone, made a joke about the actor’s wife sitting next to her, Jada Pinkett Smith, who has her head shaved due to alopecia. The joke about whether he could star in ‘Lieutenant O’Neill’, that Ridley Scott film with Demi Moore shaving her head, made the Prince of Bel-Air cross his wires. She got up from his seat, approached Rock in the middle of his monologue and gave him a loud punch that dislocated the comedian. Returning to her seat, Smith shouted, “Take my wife’s name out of your fucking mouth.”
The scene was so surreal that it was not known if it was part of the script. But the loud ‘fuck’ not censored by ABC heralded that the heat was real. The images of Denzel Washington and Tyler Perry comforting the actor during the commercial break confirmed that, indeed, Will Smith had an attack of anger that could cost him his career. The star’s publicist also came to his seat and the next presenter, rapper Sean Combs, tried to calm things down: “Will and Chris, we’re going to solve this as a family. “Right now we are going to move forward with love,” he pleaded before a Dolby theater immersed in bad vibes. Suddenly, the big movie party had become something like a wedding with relatives eating desserts.
The best thing was that, a few minutes later, Will Smith had to go up to collect the Oscar for best protagonist for ‘The Williams Method’, an award that was up for fifteen years after his last nomination. “At this moment in my life I am overwhelmed by what God is asking me to do and be,” he began in an erratic speech, typical of an enlightened person. «I have received a call to protect my people. In this business you have to put up with people disrespecting you and pretending nothing is happening. “I apologize to the Academy and to all the other nominees,” he said while crying and clinging to his first Oscar. Cruel paradox: his character Richard Williams, the father and coach of tennis players Venus and Serena Williams, rejects violence to the point that he is beaten and does not defend himself. On a night in which ‘The Power of the Dog’, which denounces toxic masculinity, was the most nominated film, Will Smith excused himself by stating that “love makes you do crazy things.” “I hope the Academy invites me again,” he said before leaving the stage. The Hollywood Academy expressed in a tweet that it “does not condone any form of violence.”
Becoming an involuntary protagonist, Will Smith eclipsed the rest of the awards. Jessica Chastain ended Penelope Cruz’s dream. Her histrionic and hyper-makeup composition as the televangelist Tammy Faye outweighed the character of Pedro Almodóvar’s ‘Parallel Mothers’. Javier Bardem also left empty-handed, as did the composer Alberto Iglesias. At least, the Spanish Alberto Mielgo did win the Oscar for the animated short ‘The Windshield Wiper’. Just as it has been smelling in recent weeks, ‘CODA. The Sounds of Silence’ beat ‘The Power of the Dog’ as best film. Netflix will have to wait another year. Academics have preferred the good vibes that this remake of the French comedy ‘The Bélier Family’ gives off, starring a singing girl with a deaf family. It is this year’s ‘Green Book’, a film discovered at the Sundance festival and for which Apple TV paid $25 million. Jane Campion was the best director for ‘The Power of the Dog’, a personal Western that challenges the clichés of the genre, and becomes the third woman to achieve it after Kathryn Bigelow and Chloé Zhao. The most awarded film was ‘Dune’, which took home awards for visual effects, photography, production design, editing, soundtrack and sound.
The show without masks, with the pandemic already the subject of jokes, began with a musical number by Beyoncé on the tennis court in the Los Angeles neighborhood of Compton where Venus and Serena Williams trained as children, perhaps a reminder that Will Smith was going to win the Oscar for ‘The Williams Method’. Then it gave way to a stage in the Dolby theater that was almost at the same level as the guests seated at islands of tables, as if it were a glamorous club. The three presenters, Amy Schumer, Regina Hall and Wanda Sykes, were not as bloody as a Ricky Gervais in front of the Golden Globes, although they did crack some funny jokes. “They have hired three women because it is cheaper than hiring a man,” they pointed out before launching a poisoned dart: “In this year’s In Memoriam (reserved for dead figures) the Golden Globes will appear.” Amy Schumer joked about her figure – “I’m not bad for having been a mother a year ago” – and made the still calm Will Smith, star of “the Williams sisters’ movie about a man,” smile.
The most diverse gala
The first moment of emotion of the night must have made Steven Spielberg very happy, who faced the eccentricity of filming a remake of ‘West Side Story’ so that the cast was made up of actors according to the race of the characters. Actress and dancer Ariana DeBose won an Oscar for playing Anita, the role played by Rita Moreno in the original 1961 film. A revolutionary statuette since this American is Afro-Latina and openly queer: «Even in this world we live in, dreams come true. This is the path for many Anitas. For anyone whose identity has been questioned, there is a place for all of us,” she said.
There was a lot of African American, Latino and Asian presence, a reminder of the effort that those “so white” Oscars are making to open themselves to the world (a quarter of the academics reside outside the United States). The nostalgia for the Hollywood that filled cinemas in this era of platforms and threatened theaters crystallized in reminders of the anniversaries of titles such as the 30th anniversary of ‘Los Blancos Don’t Know How to Put It In’, the 28th of ‘Pulp Fiction’ -with a little dance of Uma Thurman and John Travolta included – and the 60s of the James Bond saga.
Several of the nominees and presenters wore a blue ribbon, a symbol with which to show their support and solidarity with the people of Ukraine. After the appearance of actress Mila Kunis, Ukrainian by birth, there was a sort of minute of silence with a sign on the screen remembering the country’s tragedy and the need for humanitarian aid. There was no time to see the Oscars for best production or sound design live, but there was time to take a sightseeing tour of the newly inaugurated Film Academy Museum in Los Angeles, which Renzo Piano designed and cost 400 million dollars.
The best supporting performer was also announced: Troy Kotsur is the second deaf actor after Marlee Matlin (for ‘Children of a Lesser God’ in 1987) to win an Oscar thanks to his role as the father of the teenage singer protagonist of ‘CODA. The sounds of the silence’. His moving sign language thank you speech had a remembrance “to the deaf community, the CODA (Child of Deaf Adults) and disabled community.” The entire auditorium stood up to applaud in sign language, waving their arms at this 53-year-old veteran actor who usually works in plays for the deaf and who has appeared in series such as ‘Criminal Minds’ and ‘The Mandalorian’.
The Oscar for best animated film went to Disney with ‘Encanto’, a musical story set in a postcard-like Colombia with a tone of magical realism and songs by Lin-Manuel Miranda, who was forced to miss the gala due to COVID-19. . It competed with more substantial proposals, such as ‘The Mitchells against the machines’ and ‘Flee’. The best international film was ‘Drive My Car’, by Ryusuke Hamaguchi, a three-hour drama based on a story by Haruki Murakami in which a theater director devastated by a personal tragedy enters into a relationship that the chauffeur who takes him around streets of Hiroshima. A film that beat Sorrentino’s ‘It Was the Hand of God’ and the Norwegian ‘The Worst Person in the World’.
Kenneth Branagh settled for the Oscar for best original screenplay for the autobiographical ‘Belfast’, which at the beginning of the awards race seemed destined to be the winner of this 94th edition. The award for adapted screenplay went to director Sian Heder for ‘CODA. The Sounds of Silence’, which is still an insult since it is a remake of ‘The Bélier Family’. The gala featured many young faces and even the Korean pop group BTS appeared. For the first time, there was an Oscar for the most popular film voted by viewers, which went to Zack Snyder’s ‘Army of the Dead’. Meanwhile, the appearance of Francis Ford Coppola accompanied by Al Pacino and Robert De Niro to commemorate the half century since the premiere of ‘The Godfather’ was comforting, a reminder of the magic of classic cinema. The finale was sadder with Lady Gaga and Liza Minnelli in wheelchairs. Under other circumstances, the protagonist of ‘Cabaret’ would have gotten the guests out of their seats, but everyone was too affected by Will Smith.