Congratulations! You've managed to land on the one Oscars postmortem you'll read today whose author won't detail the experience of watching Will Smith slap Chris Rock on live television! I didn't see it!
To clarify, I did see last night's telecast – or rather, I saw everything except the moment that appears to be the only thing viewers of the 94th Annual Academy Awards are talking about. But when, at roughly 9:25 p.m. CT, Rock took the stage before presenting the Oscar for Best Documentary Feature, I figured that the comedian's preamble was something I could enjoy without keeping my eyes glued to the show. Consequently, I took Rock's arrival as an opportunity to do some quick updating of the Reader site's home page (the sacrifices I make for this job … ), and the next thing I knew – even though my TV set was three feet away from me – I had completely missed the live-broadcast event of the year.
It quickly became evident that something was up: the telecast's sound went out for what seemed like 10 seconds; after it returned, the audience's murmurs were reaching a crescendo; texts from friends and family members began pouring in. I, meanwhile, was just struggling to catch up. “Wait … what happened?! Rock said what? Smith said what?!” A couple of my texters wondered, at least initially, whether the bit was a pre-planned (unfunny) joke. Most of them were positive that the altercation was unscripted and no joke at all, as was later confirmed during Smith's Best Actor acceptance speech. (For Dolby Theatre attendees, what on earth must that standing ovation have felt like?) But everyone I communicated with over the hour-plus that followed, as my brother labeled it, “The slap NOT heard 'round the world” – their responses ranging from amused incredulity to calls for Will Smith's arrest – seemed to agree that it was an unplanned Oscars moment for the ages. And I missed the whole thing. And I had been so dutiful about taking notes!
For those who managed to miss everything involving last night's ceremony that cut the live presentation of eight categories yet still clocked in at three hours and 42 minutes, here's a sampling of the glorious, hideous, tear-jerking, embarrassing, satisfying, disappointing spectacle that transpired … .
7 p.m.: As an Oscars obsessive who avidly, annually skips the fashion parade and inane banter of the red-carpet proceedings, I'm happy to see the telecast kicked off by Venus and Serena Williams, whose most recent brush with movie awards found them the subjects of Jane Campion's punchline-gone-wrong at the Critics' Choice Awards. The sisters are faring much better tonight (at least until their screen “dad” rushes Chris Rock some two-and-a-half hours later), and introduce Beyoncé performing a pre-recorded version of King Richard's “Be Alive” on a tennis court surrounded by backup singers in choir robes. I find it a well-produced bit, and it proves to be a fun litmus test for those I'm texting with. The under-30s love it. The over-50s hate it.
7:06: Inside the Dolby, the ceremony's vaguely sci-fi set looks pretty cool, and happily, the hosts themselves prove even cooler. For more than five minutes, Regina Hall, Amy Schumer, and Wanda Sykes – the Oscars' first evening-long emcees in four years – generally delight the crowd with fast-paced, well-timed, genuinely funny quips, several of them at the expense of nominated films. (Sykes on nomination leader The Power of the Dog: “I watched that movie three times – and I'm halfway through it!”) Schumer scores the monologue's best gag by saying “the academy hired three women to host because it's cheaper than hiring one man,” but all three are terrific right off the bat, and Regina “I'm single!” Hall sets up a bit that'll pay off nicely later … depending on your fondness for bits that reference COVID protocols for laughs.
7:14: Now it's Schumer on her own, and she slays. After acknowledging her presence, with a self-directed dig, as “Melissa McCarthy said no,” Schumer begins to giddily dig into others, her lampooned targets including Jake and Maggie Gyllenhall (“It's a night for lovers!”), Aaron Sorkin for making a Lucille Ball film that somehow isn't funny, and King Richard. Oh no, Amy – don't work him up!
7:18: Two of last year's winners, Daniel Kaluuya and H.E.R., appear to present Best Supporting Actress – yay for the return of the acting clips! – and West Side Story's Ariana DeBose is so ebullient and resplendent and touching in her victory speech that you can almost forget/forgive the orchestral decision to accompany the presenters' arrival with the Toto song “Africa.” Almost.
7:29: Continuing her I'm-here-and-I'm-horny routine, Hall recruits Timothée Chalamet, Bradley Cooper, Tyler Perry, and a few other men onstage for the obligatory “COVID-test pat-down.” The guys look mildly amused but mostly embarrassed, and it feels like fitting retribution for Seth MacFarlane, as host of the 2013 ceremony, singing his ode to female screen nudity “We Saw Your Boobs.”
7:35: After Dune wins the first of its eventual six Oscars – four of which were handed out during the untelevised hour preceding the broadcast – we get the night's first standing ovation, and a completely unexpected one, for the 30th-anniversary reunion of Wesley Snipes, Woody Harrelson, and Rosie Perez from White Men Can't Jump. Who knew that movie was so beloved? Or maybe it's just the stars who are beloved, and deservedly so, with Harrelson throwing some welcome shade when he mentions that he's a three-time nominee who, on the Oscars stage, had never before been allowed to say so much as a sentence.
7:45: Clips from the Best Picture nominees are being shown this year without any introductions; the clips from CODA seem especially well received. (This feels like an omen. That feeling will prove correct.) Even more well-received is Jacob Elordi escorting West Side Story's Rachel Zegler on-stage for their presentation of Best Visual Effects. A sharp reference to her puzzling initial lack of an invitation to the ceremony, Zegler's line “I never thought I'd be here … six days ago” was killer.
7:49: Look! It's Tony Hawk and Kelly Slater and Shaun White! How did the academy ever convince such world-famous movie stars to act as presenters?! It turns out all they're presenting is a short film-clip homage to James Bond, which is painless, but also pointless. This is what we get instead of the possibility of Riz Ahmed scoring an Oscar?
7:57: Sebastián Yatra sings Encanto's nominated song “Dos Oruguitas” and instantly becomes the new crush of half the people I'm texting with. Sample response to his performance: “YUM.”
8:04: Oh God. It's time for the results of that boneheaded poll asking Twitter users to vote for their favorite “Oscars Cheer Moment” … whatever the hell that is. The runners-up include Oscar winner Jennifer Hudson belting out Dreamgirls' “And I Am Telling You I'm Not Going” and the three web-slingers teaming up in Spider-Man: No Way Home. The winner is the Flash entering “the speed force” in Zack Snyder's Justice League. The reveal is met with flabbergasted silence in the Dolby. It's a perfect end to a perfectly awful idea.
8:12: The Oscars give themselves a(nother) commercial with a virtual tour through the Academy's new museum. At least Sykes is the tour guide.
8:16: Later in the evening, Anthony Hopkins will get a belated and hugely deserved standing O, and Jessica Chastain will give a moving acceptance speech, and Lady Gaga will prove herself a class act for all time. But the 2022 Oscars' unequivocal emotional highlights land now, because the Academy recruited last year's Best Supporting Actress Youn Yuh-jung from South Korea to present Best Supporting Actor! And she reads CODA winner Troy Kotsur's name in sign language! And members of the audience accompany their ovation with ASL applause by shaking their hands in the air! And the deaf performer's overwhelming speech – particularly the mention of his father who could no longer sign after becoming paralyzed in a car accident – even chokes up the sign-language interpreter!
8:29: It's no surprise, but still – Drive My Car wins Best International Feature. Huzzah! And the orchestra plays their “Wrap it up!” music under Ryusuke Hamaguchi's speech. Boo!
8:33: Finally, some recognition of Ukraine, and by our country's most recognizable Ukrainian performer – Mila Kunis. A lovely moment leading into Reba McEntire's equally lovely performance of Diane Warren's “Somehow You Do” from the Kunis movie Four Good Days. Nope, I haven't seen it, either.
8:41: It's pre-recorded, but yes! Riz Ahmed scores his Oscar for the Live-Action Short The Long Goodbye and even gets to speak a little! Take that, Tony Hawk!
8:47: More fun with our co-hosts, with Sykes outfitted as Richard Williams, Hall as Tammy Faye Bakker, and Schumer dropping from the ceiling in full Spider-Man attire as a lead-up to Jenny Beavan's wildly earned Costume Design Oscar for Cruella. A performance of Encanto's un-nominated smash “We Don't Talk About Bruno” follows, with a few new lyrics by rapper Megan Thee Stallion. It's a lively number. But why wasn't the positioning of this song and Beyoncé's number swapped? Aren't all the little kids who would get the biggest kick out of this in bed by now?
8:50: A mini-reunion for the cast of Juno featuring Elliot (née Ellen) Page, J.K. Simmons, and Jennifer Garner. Then Kenneth Branagh winning his first Oscar – Original Screenplay for Belfast – after eight attempts that began 32 years ago. He's a patient man, Sir Kenny is.
9:01: I am not a fan – like, at all – of CODA winning Best Adapted Screenplay, but writer/director Siân Heder is gracious and charming, and beats us all to the punch by referring to her gown as “a disco ball.” Even this CODA grump has to give credit where it's due: their nominees know how to deliver a speech.
9:06: The Twitter brigade returns, and now it's time for the results of the “Oscars Fan Favorite” poll, in which Zack Snyder's Army of the Dead triumphs. The runner-up is that Prime Video musical version of Cinderella. The second runner-up is some Johnny Depp drama titled Minamata that I've never heard of. Way to go, Academy! Can't wait to see the no-doubt amazing ratings spike!
9:25: Chris Rock, before announcing the winner of Best Documentary Feature, makes a G.I. Jane joke in reference to Jada Pinkett Smith's short haircut. Right after that, I turned my attention away from the TV for a second. I'm sure nothing interesting happened.
9:29: Questlove wins Documentary Feature for Summer of Soul. A cinematic celebration of peace and love. Oh, the irony.
9:34: The 50th anniversary of The Godfather is celebrated with a reunion for Francis Ford Coppola, Al Pacino, and Robert De Niro. Ummm … whose idea was it to not let Pacino and De Niro speak?
9:40: The annual “In Memoriam” starts.
9:46: The annual “In Memoriam” ends.
9:52: Beyoncé loses the Oscar to Billie Eilish. I'm sure it's a refreshing change from her losing Grammys to Billie Eilish. Seriously, though, Eilish and her brother Finneas are adorable in their acceptance, even if Diane Warren's loss now makes her 0-13 in this category. That is an unlucky number.
9:56: Kevin Costner might be the new standard-bearer for “old Hollywood,” and he wears the crown with dignity. Oh yeah, and The Power of the Dog's Jane Campion becomes only the third woman to win Best Directing (though the second in two years). One of the contenders she triumphed over was Spielberg, who won the Oscar for Schindler's List when Campion was nominated for The Piano. Payback can take a while, but when it comes, it can be so satisfying.
10:06: John Travolta, Samuel L. Jackson, and Uma Thurman – Pulp Fiction redux, baby! Complete with glowing suitcase! This has been the most enjoyable of the ceremony's “innovations” this year: numerous reunions for co-stars of beloved movies. By any chance, is the Academy taking requests for future telecasts? Because I'd like to lobby for Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy, the team from Sideways, and the 1994 cast of Little Women, please.
10:10: Will Smith wins Best Actor. He gets a standing ovation. He cries. He rationalizes. He apologizes. But not to Chris Rock.
10:21: Schumer returning to hosting duties. “I've been getting out of that Spider-Man costume. Did I miss anything? There's, like, a different vibe in here … .”
10:23: Anthony Hopkins hands an Oscar to Jessica Chastain. I swear that happened in a dream of mine. But it wasn't as wonderful as the real thing.
10:32: The best of all possible sports, Lady Gaga joins a wheelchair-bound Liza Minnelli for the reveal of Best Picture, gently taking the older icon's hand when she appears flustered and whispering “I got you.” She is officially forgiven for her House of Gucci accent.
10:35: CODA wins Best Picture. The movie is, I think, a grossly overrated after-school special, and my personal least-favorite of the nominees, and its victory here means that, having made 19 correct guesses in my predictions, I was just one correct guess shy of beating my personal record. But the Best Picture moment itself is admittedly thrilling. So much genuine emotion on that stage! So many happily shaking hands in that crowd!
10:40: The Oscar hosts bid us adieu … in their pajamas. Yeah, that feels right.
2022 Academy Award winners
Best Picture: CODA
Best Directing: The Power of the Dog, Jane Campion
Best Actress: Jessica Chastain, The Eyes of Tammy Faye
Best Actor: Will Smith, King Richard
Best Supporting Actress: Ariana DeBose, West Side Story
Best Supporting Actor: Troy Kotsur, CODA
Best Original Screenplay: Belfast, Kenneth Branagh
Best Adapted Screenplay: CODA, Siân Heder
Best Animated Feature: Encanto
Best Original Song: No Time to Die, “No Time to Die”
Best International Feature: Drive My Car, Japan
Best Documentary Feature: Summer of Soul (… Or, When the Revolution Could Not Be Televised)
Best Cinematography: Dune
Best Film Editing: Dune
Best Production Design: Dune
Best Costume Design: Cruella
Best Sound: Dune
Best Original Score: Dune
Best Visual Effects: Dune
Best Makeup & Hairstyling: The Eyes of Tammy Faye
Best Documentary Short: The Queen of Basketball
Best Live-Action Short: The Long Goodbye
Best Animated Short: The Windshield Wiper