Allegedly, bookending the moment when Will Smith slapped Chris Rock on live television in front of millions of viewers, there was an Academy Awards ceremony last night. Frankly, we can’t quite recall.
The thing about the Oscars — or any major awards broadcast, for that matter — is that it’s an event that relies on careful orchestration and unspoken codes of decorum: Limit your acceptance speech to 45 seconds, clap graciously if you lose, and, y’know, don’t physically or verbally assault the presenters. TV viewers are watching less to find out who’s going to take home the gold and more in the hopes of witnessing a genuinely spontaneous moment, whether it’s Warren Beatty announcing the wrong best picture winner or Jennifer Lawrence tripping over her own gown.
Well, last night they sure got it, when Smith stormed onstage and assaulted Rock for making a joke about his wife, Jada Pinkett Smith, chasing that with an obscenity-laden exchange that had producers scrambling to cut the sound in the Dolby Theatre. Suddenly, the numbing rhythm we’ve come to expect from awards shows was interrupted, the gristle beneath Hollywood’s artfully Botoxed skin exposed.
But hey, there were also some awards. The 94th Academy Awards didn’t crown one big winner; rather, the major honors were scattered among a variety of nominees. Two female filmmakers won the evening, including Best Picture, Supporting Actor, and Adapted Screenplay winner CODA, helmed by Sian Heder; and Jane Campion, who nabbed Best Director for The Power of the Dog. Two big acting awards went to a pair of biopic performances: Jessica Chastain for The Eyes of Tammy Faye and Smith for King Richard. Denis Villeneuve’s Dune performed a near-sweep of the technical categories, most of which were presented in a pre-broadcast segment of the ceremony.
Read on for the best, worst, and most baffling moments of this year’s Oscars — one that, thanks to Smith’s outburst and its aftermath, will go down in infamy.