The 10 best and worst moments of the 2022 Oscars
They came, they saw, they put a DJ Khaled airhorn on it: This year's Academy Awards promised a ceremony like no other, from its three hosts and a parade of non-sequitur presenters ("Ladies and gentlemen, Shawn Mendes and Tracee Ellis Ross!") to a newly abbreviated prize lineup. And then there were the moments no production team — not even one with a seven-second delay and a mute button — could plan for. Here, our vibe seismograph of the wild, woolly, and extremely Will-y 2022 Oscars.
Worst: The eight awards you didn't see
Let's start with the elephant that's not in the room, a.k.a. the eight major awards — including Score, Production Design, and in a feat of true Alanis irony, Editing — cut from the live broadcast in a late-breaking and widely derided decision by ABC, to be later revisited in clips. While stars played corny talk-show games on the red carpet and cranked out mechanical patter, inside the Dolby Theatre a little movie called Dune (you know, the only film of the10 Best Picture nominees to actually top $100 million at the box office) was picking up four prizes from genial stand-ins Josh Brolin and Jason Momoa, to a milling and half-empty room.
Best: ...But the hosts came ready to play
If the opening seemed hectically desperate to please — we give you Beyoncé! Tony Hawk! The dewy youths of Euphoria! — cohosts Amy Schumer, Wanda Sykes, and Regina Hall came in with a few sharp elbows to course correct the forced-festive flop sweat in the room, whether it was Sykes on Jane Campion's esoteric western Power of the Dog ("I watched that movie three times, and I'm halfway through it") or Schumer's zinging solo monologue that followed, which dunked breezily on everything from King Richard's misplaced feminism to voters' fondness for a certain critically derided Netflix hit ("I guess Academy members 'don't look up' reviews.")
Worst: Bad-idea music cues
Somebody tomorrow should be sleeping with the fishes, and that somebody is whoever thought that cueing the entrance of two recent Black Oscar winners, H.E.R. and Daniel Kaluuya, to Toto's "Africa," or Encanto's Stephanie Beatriz to "La Isla Bonita" (she's Latina, get it?) was somehow subtle or cute. Also pretty tacky, if it was in fact intentional: Måneskin's "Beggin'" as a winky dig at last-minute attendee and presenter Rachel Zegler, the young West Side Story star who basically had to shame ABC into inviting her.
Best: Supporting non-surprises
Sure, their wins were foregone after weeks of walk-up prizes that all but guaranteed these outcomes. Still, Ariana DeBose and Troy Kotsur, two players whose names were hardly known in Academy circles before their respective breakouts in West Side Story and CODA, came in fresh with speeches that were bracing, funny, and genuinely moving — particularly their joyful shout-outs to communities (brown, queer, deaf) still only rarely represented by little gold men.
Pure chaos: The Twitter Oscar
The full anarchic powers of the internet came to play with the so-called Fan Favorite Initiative, in which the Oscars' naked thirst for clicks via an earnest Twitter poll resulted, inevitably, in exactly the heroes we deserved: Minimata, a Johnny Depp movie so obscure it may in fact still be living in protective custody; the pile of girlboss taffeta and twee that was Disney's Camila Cabello Cinderella, and of course, the ever-loyal #SynderCut militia (Army of the Dead).
Worst: The song remains the same
The Grammys are next weekend, though you wouldn't think the Oscars knew it; all that time they cleared by cutting pesky categories like Editing and Score, they saved for Billie Eilish and Beyoncé and… Reba McEntire's warbling rendition of the Diane Warren ballad "Somehow You Do," from the Glenn Close-Mila Kunis drug drama Four Good Days, currently resting at 53 percent on Rotten Tomatoes. No shade to our beloved Trish, but do better, bookers. (Also, we very much talked about Bruno. But hey! Remix.)
Best: Old-school nostalgia
"I feel like moments like this should be sincere and brief," Francis Ford Coppola said, standing onstage with his Godfather consiglieres Robert De Niro and Al Pacino in honor of the film's 50th anniversary. And he made it exactly that, even as Kevin Costner went sincere and long, charmingly, in a fond anecdote about seeing How the West Was Won as a 7-year-old that he unhurriedly told before presenting the prize for Best Director to Jane Campion. In a short-attention-span show, pauses like this for the pure love of cinema felt old-fashioned, dad-earnest, and lovely.
Weirdest: The sound of silence
What happened between Will Smith and Chris Rock? Only the man with the mute button knew for sure (though they got it in full in Japan.) Smith's Best Actor award was cumulative for a decades-long career, and well earned. Still, his raw, rambling, and often tearfully emotional acceptance speech will be forever paired with the slap heard (at least partly) around the world — one that ABC, at least in the moment, chose not to let us see.
Best: Amy Schumer's reaction
"Did I miss anything?" Schumer drawled, reentering post-Will. "There's, like, a different vibe in here."And that's how you keep it moving, kids.
(Mostly) best: Sincerity mounts a comeback
In this post-pandemic, mid-Ukraine moment, a show without acknowledgment of real-world events would have felt hollow. And the night's pleas for equality, charity, and consideration of the marginalized rang messily, disarmingly true for the most part, from Schumer's pointed cracks about reproductive rights to Jessica Chastain's tearful evocation of Tammy Faye's radical kindness. Even the big win for CODA — both a family-friendly charmer and easily the most conventional choice among the 10 Best Picture nominees — felt like an acknowledgement that this year's prizes were more about a national mood, perhaps (or at least that of a few very specific coastal zip codes) than high art.
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