In the words of Chris Rock, the 2022 Oscars may have truly been “the greatest night in the history of television.” The award show was a historic one, from its hosts to its winners to its jaw-dropping impromptu action sequences.
There's so much to unpack from everything that happened Sunday night — so let’s break down some of the best — and worst — moments from this year's Oscars.
Beyoncé’s opening performance
The Oscars ceremony started off with a bang: an opening with a performance of Beyoncé’s song “Be Alive” from the film “King Richard,” which was nominated for Best Original Song. Beyoncé performed the song from a tennis court in Compton, California, as a tribute to Venus and Serena Williams (whose stories are chronicled in “King Richard”).
The performance began with a shot of Saniyya Sidney and Demi Singleton, who play Venus and Serena respectively, walking down the streets of Compton, then cuts to Beyoncé on the court.
Beyoncé, the backup dancers, the live orchestra and the tennis court were all dressed in a bright pastel shade of green, reminiscent of a tennis ball. The monochromatic aesthetic of the scene made it seem almost surreally beautiful. And even though Beyoncé was dressed to blend in with the background, she absolutely shined in this performance, standing front and center amongst the background ensemble.
The production value of this performance amplified what was already a fantastic song and made it absolutely sensational. Not to mention, “Be Alive” has such a satisfyingly original melody and rhythm, making it the perfect number to start the show with.
Three new hosts
This Oscars boasted three hosts — Wanda Sykes, Amy Schumer and Regina Hall — after three hostless years. The hosts had some good moments (particularly their riskier, more scathing jokes), some not-so-good moments and some downright awkward moments. But, it’s undeniable that the Oscars is exponentially more entertaining with hosts than without.
Even when their humor is cheesy or predictable, it adds an air of lightheartedness and fun to the show and makes it feel less stuffy and somber, as it has for the past few years. Sykes, Schumer and Hall weren’t exactly revolutionary hosts, but they were consistently energetic and brought life to what is widely considered a dying award show — which is exactly what the Oscars needed.
Troy Kotsur wins Best Supporting Actor
Troy Kotsur deserved his win for best supporting actor through and through. His performance in "CODA" was amazing, expertly balancing tones of comedy and drama and conveying the heartbreaking inner turmoil of a parent watching their child grow up.
The way Kotsur's character played off of the character of Ruby, his on-screen daughter (played by Emilia Jones) was believable and refreshingly realistic. Not to mention, his win paves the way for other deaf actors to gain visibility in film.
Kotsur is only the second deaf actor to win an Oscar (the first being Marlee Matlin, who starred in “CODA” alongside Kotsur as Ruby’s mother). Combined with the film's historic Best Picture win, this year’s Oscars has provided a great foundation for deaf representation in Hollywood to grow.
Paper beats Rock
Of course, any 2022 Oscars highlight list is incomplete without mentioning the most dramatic event of the night — when Will Smith slapped Chris Rock for making an offensive joke about his wife, Jada Pinkett Smith, and then cursed him out.
Rock recovered from the incident quickly and with dignity, but it was a truly shocking moment that seems to have divided the world. One side of the argument claims that the joke was not so provocative and that Smith was out of line, while the other claims that Rock was being insensitive to Pinkett Smith, who has alopecia.
Later, when Smith accepted the award for best actor in tears, he gave a vague apology and spoke for several minutes about love, faith and his role as a protector. This moment not only changed the tone of the rest of the event but also brought up issues about violence and professionalism.
Billie Eilish and Finneas win Best Original Song
After their captivating performance of “No Time to Die,” from the film of the same name, Eilish and Finneas won the award for Best Original Song. The siblings are undeniably extremely talented as both songwriters and performers and absolutely deserve their Oscar win.
They were up against some truly formidable competitors, among which were Lin-Manuel Miranda’s “Dos Oruguitas” and Beyoncé’s “Be Alive.” Each of these songs not only captured the tone and story of the film they were written for but are also wonderful on their own.
But the chilling lyrics and hair-raising melody of “No Time to Die” make it a true masterpiece of music that perfectly amplifies the story of its film. Eilish and Finneas are worthy winners of this category — besides, it’s doubtful that Beyoncé needs a silly trophy for validation.
Even though it didn’t win Best Picture, “Dune” left the competition in the dust — or the sand — at the Oscars this year, winning 6 out of the 10 categories it was nominated in and receiving the most awards of any film nominated this year. Among these are Best Original Score, Best Cinematography and Best Visual Effects.
It seems that every year, there's one film that domineers over the rest, which not only makes the show boring and predictable but also draws attention and viewership away from the other nominees. This monopoly effect often reads as biased and unfair, especially when the film in question is as high-budget as “Dune.”
Contrarily, perhaps there's some element of artistry or production that casual viewers cannot recognize which puts one film ahead of others. “Dune” excelled in every category it was nominated for, but was it so well made as to win in more than half of these?
At the very least, the film's victories in cinematography, sound and visual effects were well justified, but the competition for Best Original Score, Best Production Design and Best Film Editing was a bit closer.
“Encanto” and “The Power of the Dog” could have just as easily won Best Original Score, and “West Side Story” and “Nightmare Alley” were also top contenders for production design.
As far as the film editing category, “Dune” was truly lucky to have won in this category — “Don’t Look Up” and “tick, tick…BOOM!” were rife with stunningly edited sequences throughout the film.
Smith wins Best Actor
Regardless of whose side you’re on in the slap controversy, it’s hard to deny that Smith deserved his win for best actor. His performance as Richard Williams in “King Richard” was astounding and arguably the best of his career.
The viewer equally roots for Richard in his quest to help his daughters succeed and is unbearably frustrated by his rash and seemingly illogical decisions. Smith conveys this stout resolution with such conviction, making for an absolutely captivating story.
"CODA" wins Best Picture
I’ll be honest: “CODA” wasn’t my first guess for the Best Picture winner, or even my second or third. But its victory was truly a welcome surprise, not only due to its representation of deaf actors and deaf characters but also because it was a truly engaging and entertaining movie all the way through.
While this film is certainly not perfect in terms of representation and accessibility, what makes “CODA” a best picture-worthy movie is that its story is what's accessible. Unlike many of the best picture nominees, “CODA” doesn’t require its audience to have a degree in film or literature to fully appreciate it (I’m looking at you, “The Power of the Dog”).
Anyone can watch this film and understand what it has to say — both literally and figuratively. “CODA” was well deserving of its win and will hopefully pave the way for more deaf representation in media in the future.
Beyond what it means for the deaf community, “CODA” is simply a beautiful and relatable coming-of-age story about what it means to find your own identity and passions and how you navigate your relationships as you grow up.
"CODA" somehow manages to feel fresh within a genre that has been nearly exhausted. The film is rich with compelling characters, conflict and story, and it sticks with the viewer long after the credits have rolled.
Not to mention, the musical talent in the film is superb without being unrealistically polished. The film’s renditions of classic songs such as “Both Sides, Now” by Joni Mitchell, as sung by Jones in the film, are sure to be stuck in your head, and you won’t want to get them out.
This isn't to say that “CODA” is objectively “better” than any of the other nominees. I want to emphasize that each of these films is superb in their own right, and the quality of each depends entirely on personal preference. Truly, any of these films could have won — I watched all 10 of them, and even I thought they were equally likely to triumph.
But in the end, only one of these films could win, and “CODA” is a solid and loveable film through and through.
Honorable mentions: Snubs and underrepresented nominees
For all the incredible award recipients Sunday night, countless films didn’t get the same love and appreciation, in spite of their creative virtues and achievements.
Of the films that I watched, “Being the Ricardos” was an excellent dramatic portrait of Lucy Ball and Desi Arnaz with a stellar performance by Nicole Kidman as Lucy, yet it only received three nominations and no awards.
“tick, tick…BOOM!” was a beautifully crafted film that integrated Jonathan Larson’s play of the same name with a parallelled original screenplay, but this film only received two nominations and also did not win any awards.
In addition, “Spider-Man: No Way Home” only received one nomination for visual effects, in spite of its widespread critical acclaim, especially for Willem Dafoe’s performance as Norman Osborn.
Even more than these high-budget, A-list Hollywood movies, there's an ever-expanding catalog of independent films and international films that didn’t get the attention they deserve. The true magic of award shows like the Oscars is that they provide a platform for little-known artists to gain visibility. That’s why “CODA” winning best picture is such a big deal — it was one of very few nominees not to have an A-lister in the leading role.
But most films weren’t quite as lucky as “CODA.” Only a few small, independent films were nominated, and they rarely won in their categories, and most all of the international films with the exception of “Drive My Car” were relegated to the best international feature category, which condenses a world’s worth of cinema into five films. But even “Drive My Car” lost in most of its categories, including best adapted screenplay, in spite of its beautifully written script.
Of course, it’s true that the viewership of the Oscars would go down significantly if not for these larger films, which would completely diminish the positive impact the award show can actually have on independent artists.
But we as viewers should make more of an effort to appreciate these smaller creators and those outside of Hollywood. Not only does this open up a world of unexplored cinema, but it also gives artists an opportunity to shine where they might never have before.