The statement that you can’t spell “Oscars” without “chaos” may not have been an adage for tonight, but it won’t be far from anyone’s mind the next time the Academy gathers, thanks to an uneven and wildly unpredictable ceremony in 2022.
First up was the broadcast, which opened with a surprise Beyoncé drop that felt odd, and featured a chilling Oscar special rewrite of “We Don’t Talk About Bruno” that made no sense in any context. The production’s decision to move many awards to the pre-show became mind-boggling when the presenters still announced those winners during the ceremony, without doing anything to save time or momentum. That didn’t mean there weren’t really touching speeches, and even a funny host, but bizarre moments were the norm.
But this, of course, was all our regularly scheduled chaos. Our default, built-in, “will someone read the wrong name?” Oscar night chaos. None of that prepared anyone, whether at home or at the Dolby Theater, for the night’s stunner—a real Oscar night, when the night’s best actor, Will Smith, gave a host, Chris Rock, a punch. And they say live TV is boring!
Here are four winners and two losers from tonight’s Oscars, including the biggest winner of them all: chaos.
Winner: Amy Schumer
Few Oscars presenters in recent memory have gone as hard as co-host Amy Schumer, who had a shocked Jessica Chastain covering her mouth during Schumer’s opening roast. Onstage alongside co-hosts Wanda Sykes and Regina Hall, the self-described “unbearable white woman,” Schumer managed to hold the landing.
Airily announcing that she hadn’t seen any of the year’s movies, Schumer paused to play with a few victims — don’t look up (“I assume the Academy members are not looking up the reviews”), King Richard (“After years of Hollywood ignoring women’s stories, this year we finally have a movie about the incredible father of Williams sisters”) — Schumer settled on her real-life victim: Aaron Sorkin’s leaden, soulless Lucille Ball biopic, The Ricardos are.
“The innovation of making a film about Lucille Ball without even a moment that is funny,” Schumer marveled. “It’s brilliant. It’s like making a biopic about Michael Jordan and just showing the bus rides between games. Great.”
In addition to her come-out-fighting opening, Schumer also managed to make a softer joke to ease the tension when needed. After the breathtaking scene in which Will Smith punches Chris Rock in the face live in front of the camera, Schumer returned to the front after the commercial break in a gleeful good mood to ask what she had missed. “The energy seems different here,” she mused, and the audience laughed with palpable relief.
Schumer also threw in a few fat jokes (to herself and her friend Jennifer Lawrence), an obnoxious throwback to the worst traditions of the comedy roast. But for the rest of her piece: mean jokes that have the advantage of being true? More fun jokes when the audience could use a break? Definitely the best possible scenario. On an evening marked by often-bizarre production choices, Schumer kicked off the Oscars with just the jolt of sour, vicious energy the ever-complacent show needed—and softened the mood when it needed it too. —Constance Grady
It’s been a long time since Beyoncé last performed on live television (Coachella was in 2018, and her last performance at an awards show was the Grammys in 2017), and the Queen returned, opening the Oscars in royal fashion.
Draped in neon yellow tennis ball and beaming from the Compton courts where Venus and Serena Williams once played, Bey sang “Be Alive,” her Oscar-nominated song by the Williams sisters. King Richard. Beyoncé, her orchestra and her dancers (some sports gems reminiscent of the early playing days of Venus and Serena) delivered a performance that drew inspiration from and evoked the struggles – racism, sexism, classism – faced by the Williams family, the continual work they continue to do, and appreciation for all that symbolizes their triumph. The performance was equal parts power, politics, and suspense — a mix only Beyoncé could deliver. —Alex Abad-Santos
Loser: Move the technical awards to the pre-ceremony
For the first time this year, the Oscars moved eight of their technical awards to the pre-ceremony. The change — which affected the categories of sound, editing, makeup and hair styling, original score and production design, along with documentary short, animated short and live action short — was heralded as a time-saving consideration.
specifically, Academy president David Rubin wrote in a letter to members in February:, it was meant to save time for more of the Oscars’ favorite time wasters: all those montages. The change, Rubin explained, was to provide “more time and opportunity for entertainment and audience engagement through comedy, music tracks, movie clip packages, and movie tribute.”
In theory, the change is a clear loser. Pushing the recognition of talented craftsmen off the stage so the Oscars can make a montage about how movies are made? A miscarriage! In practice, it turned out to be even worse. The ceremony aired the nominees’ presentation, as well as portions of their acceptance speeches, cutting perhaps 30 seconds in total from each announcement.
So to sum it up, the Oscars are still bloated and congratulatory, and they weren’t even done until 11:42 PM. And we all had to go through a mind-boggling montage of how when the Flash enters the Speed Force, that’s the Oscars. Worst of all possible worlds. †Constance Grady
Loser: “We don’t talk about Bruno”
“We Don’t Talk About Bruno”, the inescapable hit from the Pixar movie encanto, hasn’t even been nominated for an Oscar, but its viral popularity probably fueled the creative choice to drop a performance of the song in the middle of the awards ceremony. Unfortunately it was all a bit of a mess.
Perhaps it would have been better to open the show with the song, switching places with Beyoncé’s tennis court rendition of “Be Alive” from King Richard, but even in that scenario I’m not sure ‘Bruno’ would have landed. The original singers were in attendance, alongside singers Luis Fonsi and Becky G, but the seams became apparent as the performers spun around the screen, waiting for an unlikely guest to appear: Megan Thee Stallion? It’s unclear what the connection between the film and the rapper is, besides a very transparent bid for more goodwill from young people (as if making the song trend on TikTok wasn’t enough). Also, the lyrics were changed to be about the Oscars themselves, which is beyond corny, but of course the desperation of this institution continues to shine through. But they tried, as usual! We shouldn’t have talked about “Bruno” tonight. —Melinda Fakuade
This year’s Oscars were full of visual and sonic clutter — the aforementioned rewrite of “Bruno,” a celebration of the 28th anniversary of Pulp Fiction, an alarmingly perky in memoriam segment complete with reaction shots from the audience. But in the midst of all this noise, what really stood out was the speeches.
From West Side Story‘s Ariana DeBose talks about how art has shaped and empowered her queer identity, to code‘s Troy Kotsur dedicates his ASL speech to his father, to The eyes of Tammy FayeJessica Chastain spoke about how the woman she played on screen has encouraged her to speak up for unity and against discrimination. Those human moments will last longer than any of the fabricated, thirsty bits of the show. —Alex Abad-Santos
First, there was the grab bag of prizes itself: Dune won the most technical awards of its 10 nominations, but missed the most important, while CODA took home the award for Best Picture, despite being nominated in only three categories. (The last time a film won the grand prize with so few nominations was in 1932 Grand Hotelwho only had one.) The Apple TV-ness of it all – CODA is the first movie from a streaming platform to win Best Picture, despite Netflix’s years of high-profile attempts — made its win that much weirder.
Another hotly debated pick, the show’s introduction of fan favorite prize categories sparked a lot of random love for Zack Snyder and superhero movies, but felt like a mind-boggling interstitial for the rest of the ceremony. Congratulations on… Oscar Winner “The Flash Enters the Speed Force” by Zack Snyder’s Justice League† Sure, Academy, whatever.
But none of that prepared anyone, at home or at the Dolby Theater, for Will Smith to march onstage and punch Chris Rock in the face (during Rock’s Best Documentary presentation) after Chris Rock made a joke about Jada Pinkett Smith. – something he is apparently done before† Rock’s joke broke Jada because of her shaved head – something Jada, who has alopecia, clearly didn’t appreciate. Cue Will reacts, uh, badly:
Smith then went on to 1. be comforted by Denzel Washington and Tyler Perry, apparently plucked from the evening’s unexpected cameo dartboard; 2. win the Oscar for Best Actor for the titular role in King Richard† Smith spent his entire speech discussing his vulnerable headroom thanks to playing Richard Williams, a man known for “defending his family”, while Venus Williams herself looked on sadly, and most of the audience just looked shocked. .
No amount of jokes and make-up references could really improve the night after. “Will Smith said it all,” Anthony Hopkins said half an hour later, his face straight. Was he joking? Was he serious? Does it matter? Does anything matter? —Aja Romano