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`CODA' captures Best Picture; Will Smith slaps Chris Rock in on-stage incident


Last updated 3/27/2022 at 10:02pm

HOLLYWOOD - In an Academy Awards ceremony that will be remembered as much for Will Smith storming the stage and slapping presenter Chris Rock as it will be for Smith winning best actor honors later in the broadcast, "CODA'' tonight captured the big prize of best picture.

Link to the incident below:]

An emotional drama about the talented daughter of deaf parents deciding whether to pursue her singing-career dream or remain with the family fishing business, "CODA'' also captured Oscars for best supporting actor, Troy Kotsur, and for the best-adapted screenplay, to Sian Heder.

Other major winners Sunday included Jessica Chastain for best actress in "The Eyes of Tammy Faye,'' Jane Campion for best director for "The Power of the Dog'' and Ariana DeBose for best-supporting actress for "West Side Story. The sci-fi epic "Dune'' collected the most Oscars on the night -- six --in largely technical categories.

But the Smith-Rock confrontation overshadowed the evening's winners.

Rock, while presenting the nominees for best documentary feature, made a joke about Smith's wife, actress Jada Pinkett Smith -- referencing her bald head and suggesting she would be starring in another "G.I. Jane'' film.

Pinkett Smith has talked in the past about having a hair-loss condition, and Will Smith took offense to the remark.

After the joke, Smith walked onto the stage and smacked Rock in the face, in a move that initially drew laughs from the crowd -- until it became obvious it was no joke.

Smith walked back to his seat, but screamed at Rock twice, telling him to "keep my wife's name out of your (expletive) mouth.''

Later, in accepting the best actor award for his role as Venus and Serena Williams' father in ``King Richard,'' an emotional Smith apologized -- although not to Rock.

"Richard Williams was a fierce defender of his family,'' Smith said. "... I want to apologize to the Academy. I want to apologize to my fellow nominees.''

He later said, "I look like the crazy father just like they said about Richard Williams. ... Love will make you do crazy things.''

Smith never mentioned Rock in his acceptance speech, which he ended by saying, "Hopefully the Academy invites me back.''

A year after COVID-19 forced the Academy Award ceremonies to be scaled back and relocated to downtown's Union Station, these Oscars returned to their traditional glittery script -- once again at the Dolby Theatre, once again in a host format, and featuring a raft of presenters and performers that organizers hoped would boost the broadcast's down-trending TV ratings.

The Oscars had been without a host for the past three years, but this year's telecast on ABC featured three -- Regina Hall, Amy Schumer and Wanda Sykes, each hosting an Oscar ceremony for the first time.

"This year the Oscars hired three women to host because it's cheaper than hiring one man,'' Schumer quipped during the show's opening monologue.

The Academy also scored what it hoped would be a ratings-grabbing star, with Beyoncé among the musicians performing this year's nominees for best original song.

In fact, Beyoncé opened the broadcast by performing "Be Alive,'' which she co-wrote for "King Richard'' -- and her song was introduced by Venus and Serena Williams, characters in the movie that focused on their father, Richard Williams.

The best song Oscar wound up going to Billie Eilish and her brother Finneas, who performed their song "No Time to Die,'' the title track for the James Bond film of the same name.

The first Oscar awarded during the broadcast went to DeBose, for best-supporting actress in "West Side Story'' -- making her the first openly queer woman of color to win an Academy Award.

"Imagine this little girl in the back seat of a white Ford Focus. Look into her eyes, you see an openly queer woman of color, an Afro-Latina who found her strength in life through art,'' DeBose said, her voice shaking with emotion.

Kotsur's best-supporting actor award made him the first deaf man, and second deaf performer, to win an Academy Award. Marlee Matlin, his co-star in "CODA'' -- an acronym for ``Child of Deaf Adult(s)'' -- won for best actress in 1987's "Children of a Lesser God.''

Kotsur delivered his acceptance speech in sign language, with an offstage announcer narrating his words -- and when he finished, many in the Dolby audience signed their applause by "clapping'' silently, their hands making a clapping motion but not coming together.

"It's really amazing that our film CODA has reached out worldwide, and even reached all the way to the White House,'' Kotur said. ``They invited the cast to CODA to visit and have a tour of the White House. We met a president, Joe, and Dr. Jill. I was planning on teaching them some dirty sign language, but Marlee Matlin told me to behave myself. So don't worry, Marlee, I won't drop any F-bombs in my speech today.''

Then Kotsur turned serious, saying, "My dad, he was the best singer in our family. But he was in a car accident and he became paralyzed from the neck down, and he no longer was able to sign. Dad, I learned so much from you. I'll always love you. You are my hero.

"...This is dedicated to the deaf community, the CODA community, and the disabled community. This is our moment.''

The roster of presenters included Jennifer Garner, Bill Murray, Samuel L. Jackson, Sean ``Diddy'' Combs, Jamie Lee Curtis, Woody Harrelson, John Travolta, Lupita Nyong'o, Wesley Snipes, Anthony Hopkins, Kevin Costner, Lady Gaga, Rosie Perez, Rami Malek, Uma Thurman and numerous others.

Besides the Smith-Rock dust-up, the ceremonies featured another controversy, as the broadcast's producers -- looking to streamline the show -- decided that eight awards would be presented prior to the actual telecast.

Those categories were documentary short subject, film editing, makeup/hairstyling, original score, production design, animated short film, live action short film and sound.

The way it played out, those pre-show awards gave "Dune'' four early wins -- original score for Hans Zimmer; film editing for Joe Walker; production design for Patrice Vermette and Zsuzsanna Sipos; and sound for Mac Ruth, Mark Mangini, Theo Green, Doug Hemphill and Ron Bartlett.

Meanwhile, the award for best makeup and hairstyling went to ``The Eyes of Tammy Faye,'' while "The Queen of Basketball'' won for best documentary short subject, "The Windshield Wiper'' for best animated short film and "The Long Goodbye'' for best live action short film.

Their presentations were edited and scattered throughout the telecast -- but their exclusion from the live broadcast still brought criticism from the American Cinema Editors board of directors, among others -- with the editors saying, "It sends a message that some creative disciplines are more vital than others. Nothing could be further from the truth and all who make movies know this.''

The Oscars' push for a ratings rebound drove the decision, Academy President David Rubin had said.

Rubin noted that the ceremony is "a live event television show and we must prioritize the television audience to increase viewer engagement and keep the show vital, kinetic and relevant.''

The 5 p.m. broadcast was scheduled for three hours, but ran long, finishing at 8:39 p.m.

Copyright 2022, City News Service, Inc.


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