With chaos overshadowing historic firsts, the Oscars provided no solace for viewers at home.
Opinion by Matthew Royer, News Editor
Leaving movie fans behind in hopes of the general public’s adoration, this year’s edition of cinema’s grandest night fell short (and aired too long), cementing a mess of a show that should have been anything but.
On Sunday night, ‘The Slap Heard Around the World’ took the world by storm, as Will Smith rushed the stage to ambush presenter Chris Rock, slapping him in retaliation for a poorly written joke at Smith’s wife, Jada Pinkett Smith’s expense. For anybody not already watching, this gave viewers a reason to turn on their television sets and tune in for the final hour of the 94th annual awards ceremony.
Those viewers would not have noticed the feel-good stories of the event, the driving forces behind what made the Oscars a must-watch event year after year. These even include the award that Rock presented shortly after the battery. Amir ‘Questlove’ Thompson, front man for hip-hop band The Roots, had just been gifted the achievement of Best Documentary for his film “Summer of Soul.” Eyes were instead glued to phones, browsing Twitter for the backstory and history between Rock and Smith and what led to the abrupt confrontation, rather than on Thompson as he accepted the award in a speech honoring his community.
What makes movies so great is the opportunity to escape into another world, getting to meet people and understand their experiences, even if just for a few hours. The supporting acting categories did just that. Troy Katsur and Ariana DeBose took home achievements in Supporting Actor and Supporting Actress categories, respectively. The former became the second-ever deaf actor to win an Academy Award after his “CODA” co-star Marlee Matlin won for “Children of a Lesser God” in 1986. DeBose, winning for her role as Anita in “West Side Story” (2021), became the first Afro-Latina to win an Oscar, as well as being the first openly-queer person of color to take home an award for acting. Both acceptance speeches were highlights of the first hour but just like Thompson’s win later in the show, they became drowned out by substandard pacing and segues into unnecessary montages.
Poor decisions by the Academy broadcast team were hard to miss throughout. Whether it was the focus on new popular-vote categories quickly taken over by online fandoms or anniversary segments for films that have already had their time to shine — oddly enough “Pulp Fiction” was recognized for its 28th anniversary — the broadcast never took a moment to acknowledge the reason the ceremony is held in the first place: celebrating the achievements in film for the past year.
Running longer than last year’s edition (which had the same eight categories cut for time), length was just one of the problems for the Academy.
The almost four-hour broadcast was riddled with moments that will soon be forgotten or live in infamy, with no in-between. For example, an in-memoriam montage, usually accompanied by a moment of silence for remembering those lost, was uprooted in favor of upbeat song and dance, with messages of remembrance clipped in by actors of note. At another moment, one of the hosts, Amy Schumer, attempted to clear the air with comedy after the room hit a low in enthusiasm due to Rock and Smith.
The only thing the ceremony cemented for viewers of the broadcast was the realization that the Oscars need to be slapped into shape.
Reshaping the event for movie lovers — the individuals tuning in — the Academy should forget the need to appease a broader audience that will never enjoy a three-hour-plus celebration of movies they did not watch.