When the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences tried to ring the changes to attract bigger audiences to watch the Oscar ceremony, this can’t have been what they had in mind; an actor, first nominated for an Oscar twenty years ago for playing the boxer Muhammad Ali, marching onto the stage and hitting one of the presenters – the comedian Chris Rock – in the face, before returning to his seat and shouting expletives at him. When, just minutes later, Will Smith was named as the winner of the Best Actor award for his portrayal of the father of the tennis stars Venus and Serena Williams in King Richard, he used the opportunity afforded him by his acceptance speech to offer a tearful apology to the Academy and his fellow nominees – but not to Rock, who – literally – took it on the chin.
Rock had made a joke about Smith’s wife, Jada Pinkett Smith, looking like the shaven-headed Demi Moore in the 1997 action film GI Jane; Pinkett Smith has alopecia. Will Smith seemed, at first, to laugh at the joke, but appeared to take action when he noticed that his wife was less amused.
Such drama would be expected, perhaps, of the films in contention for cinema’s highest accolades, rather than the ceremony intended to honour them.
In years to come, how many people will remember that the early Awards Season favourite The Power of the Dog missed out on the Best Picture award to the smaller drama, CODA, featuring a largely deaf central cast? How many people will remember that Troy Kotsur became the first deaf actor to win an Oscar, for Best Supporting Actor in that very film? His co-star Marlee Matlin is the only other deaf star to have won an Oscar.
Who will remember that Jane Campion became only the third woman to win the Best Director prize for The Power of the Dog, while Sir Kenneth Branagh – the first person to be nominated in seven different categories throughout his career – finally collected his first Academy Award, for writing the original screenplay for his semi-autobiographical Belfast?
Who will remember that this was the year that Ariana DeBose became the first non-white actor, identifying as “queer,” to win an Oscar for her supporting role in Steven Spielberg’s remake of West Side Story?
Who will remember that this was the year the auditorium fell silent in recognition of what’s going on in Ukraine?
And who will remember that this was a year a film distributed by a streaming service rather than a traditional studio first won Best Picture – and who will remember that after several near misses from Netflix, they were finally beaten to the honour by Apple TV+.
The records fell like dominoes – although some of the records become so specific that every year, someone might be only the second person whose middle name begins with the letter after the letter the first name starts with, whose birth religion is different from their current belief – or whatever.
Who will remember that this was the year that a number of Academy members quit the organisation to protest against having their category cut from the live show and edited into the broadcast later to save time?
And who will remember that this was the year that the Academy introduced a “fan favorite” award, voted for by the public, to try to recognise blockbusters that would otherwise get overlooked – but online campaigns by fans of Johnny Depp, Camilla Cabello and Zack Snyder saw Spider-Man: No Way Home come fourth, behind Minimata, Cinderella and the winner, Army of the Dead.
Like in 2017, when the wrong film was announced as the Best Picture – when another small film from diverse film-makers with few stars (Moonlight) unexpectedly overcame the awards season’s star-studded juggernaut (La La Land), the controversy will be remembered long after the bulk of the winners.
But there were other winners – a handful of surprises and plenty of sure things; Troy Kotsur, Ariana De Bose and Will Smith picked up awards at almost all the other ceremonies during Awards Season, with Jessica Chastain – named Best Actress for The Eyes of Tammy Faye – sweeping up all the others, except the BAFTA, where she wasn’t even nominated.
The Power of the Dog went into the ceremony with twelve nominations – in eleven categories – but left with only one prize, for its director.
CODA, which was up for awards in three categories – won them all; the top prize of Best Picture, Kotsur’s acting honour and the director Sian Heder picked up the third for her adapted screenplay.
The film to end the night with the most prizes was Dune, which picked up six awards, including Original Score, cinematography, visual effects, editing, sound and production design.
The other technical awards saw Cruella earning costume designer Jenny Beavan her third statuette from eleven nominations and The Eyes of Tammy Faye picking up a second prize, for make-up and hair. With the controversy over some of the technical wards being handed out before the show started, Chastain and Dune star Timothée Chalamet were in the Dolby Theatre to offer support to the below-the-line talent on their films.
Encanto was not a surprise winner of the Best Animated Feature prize, although – as a musical – it was perhaps a surprise that it didn’t win the Best Original Song – that went to Billie Eilish for the latest James Bond song, No Time To Die, matching the achievement of the previous two Bong Songs, Adele for Skyfall and Sam Smith for SPECTRE‘s Writing’s On The Wall.
The other winners including Japan’s Drive My Car as the Best International Film, Summer of Soul was the Best Documentary Feature, The Queen of Basketball was the Best Documentary Short, the Best Animated Short was The Windshield Wiper while the Best Live Action Short went to The Long Goodbye, earning an Oscar for the British actor and writer, Riz Ahmed.
Here is the full list of winners of the films that history will remember as the winners in the year that the star of Ali found himself in character during the ceremony. The police, incidentally, said they would not be investigating it unless the “involved party” filed a report. The star of the sitcom “Everybody Hates Chris” has not. The Academy itself, while congratulating all the winners, stressed, in a statement, that it did not condone violence of any form.
- Winner: Coda
- Winner: Jessica Chastain – The Eyes of Tammy Faye
- Winner: Will Smith – King Richard
Best supporting actor
- Winner: Troy Kotsur – Coda
- Winner: Jane Campion – The Power of the Dog
Best adapted screenplay
- Winner: Coda – Sian Heder
Best animated feature
- Winner: Encanto
Best documentary feature
- Winner: Summer of Soul
Best international feature
- Winner: Drive My Car (Japan)
Best original score
- Winner: Dune – Hans Zimmer
- Winner: Dune – Greig Fraser
Best visual effects
- Winner: Dune – Paul Lambert, Tristan Myles, Brian Connor, Gerd Nefzer
Best film editing
- Winner: Dune – Joe Walker
Best costume design
- Winner: Cruella – Jenny Beavan
- Winner: Dune – Mac Ruth, Mark Mangini, Theo Green, Doug Hemphill and Ron Bartlett
Best production design
- Winner: Dune – Patrice Vermette and Zsuzsanna Sipos
Best live action short
- Winner: The Long Goodbye
Best animated short
- Winner: The Windshield Wiper
Best documentary short
- Winner: The Queen of Basketball