Well, that was certainly an Academy Awards to remember.
Not for the winners and nominees exactly. And not even for the performances or the tributes. But for a moment between Chris Rock and Will Smith that nobody can stop talking about.
Still, that was one of a few moments that were either huge surprises or equally large snubs. And while the 2022 Oscars rolled out largely as many had prognosticated, there were still a few unexpected moments throughout. We run them down below.
Surprise: “Coda” Takes Best Picture
While “Coda” has perpetually gaining steam over the past few weeks, its ultimate win for Best Picture was far from a sure thing – longtime favorite “The Power of the Dog” remained in the conversation, while there were dark horse opportunities for “Dune” or “King Richard” to ultimately triumph. Maybe most surprisingly, Apple TV+, a relatively subdued streamer (and one much newer to the scene), secured a Best Picture win before Netflix, which has tried repeatedly for the top prize and come up short (including but not limited to: “Roma,” “Mank,” “The Irishman,” etc.) Netflix spent big on “Power of the Dog” and “Don’t Look Up,” but it was the very sweet “Coda” that took home the gold.
Snub: Lin-Manuel Miranda, Still EGOT-Less
If Lin-Manuel Miranda had won the Academy Award for his song “Dos Oruguitas” from Disney’s animated “Encanto,” it would have put him in the rarefied space of the EGOT, which stands for Emmy Grammy Oscar Tony. And it had a pretty good shot at winning. Disney films historically have a high win rate, even if the song isn’t exactly the best (see: Phil Collins’ “Tarzan” song winning over “South Park: Bigger, Longer and Uncut” at the 2000 ceremony). Instead, Billie Eilish and her brother Finneas won for their moody 007 theme song “No Time to Die,” which was released before the pandemic and we’ve had plenty of time to hum. (They did a great, laser-adorned performance tonight too!) No doubt Lin-Manuel will get his EGOT soon enough.
Snub: “The Mitchells vs. the Machines” vs. the Disney Machine
One of the more competitive categories wound up being the Best Animated Feature, with new features from Walt Disney Animation Studios (“Encanto,” “Raya and the Last Dragon”), Pixar (“Luca”) and Sony Pictures Animation/Netflix (“The Mitchells vs. the Machines”) going head-to-head, along with a wildcard nominee in the form of Neon’s animated documentary/narrative hybrid “Flee.”
Netflix and Sony spent big on the campaign for “The Mitchells vs. the Machines,” an inventive family comedy about the end of the world, which pushed the medium forward thanks to its incorporation of hand drawn elements and its exaggerated posing (which beautifully juxtaposed the movie’s stark emotional realism). “Encanto” is one of Disney’s loveliest animated movies. But it didn’t attempt to disrupt. It was, however, riding a huge wave thanks to its presence on Disney+ and the omnipresence of hit song “We Don’t Talk About Bruno.”
Snub: “The Power of the Dog” Only Wins 1 Oscar
Going into Oscar night, “The Power of the Dog” was the most-nominated movie of the year with 12 nominations. It was also the Best Picture frontrunner. While that didn’t happen, it could have excelled in a number of other categories like Best Adapted Screenplay or Best Supporting Actress. Instead, it picked up a single award – Jane Campion’s well-deserved Best Director win. The movie was divisive for sure, with some criticizing its pacing and homoerotic undercurrents, but it was also rightfully celebrated. And Netflix went hard for this movie. Still, it only picked up one award.
Snub: Paul Thomas Anderson Loses Best Original Screenplay
While “Licorice Pizza” wasn’t the Oscar powerhouse some imagined it would be (it only had three nominations, although it was the first Best Picture nominee for MGM in 33 years), it did seem like it could have secured the win for Paul Thomas Anderson’s original screenplay, set in the San Fernando Valley in the 1970s. (He’s been nominated for 11 Academy Awards and hasn’t won yet.) The award, however, went to Kenneth Branagh’s sugary “Belfast.” It’s unclear if some of the more questionable aspects of PTA’s script, including a pair of scenes involving Asian stereotypes some found hurtful, caught up with it. Or if voters were more drawn to Branagh’s historical family drama. But once again, PTA left the show empty-handed.
Surprise: Jessica Chastain Wins Best Actress
This wasn’t a complete shock, considering she had picked up the SAG award, but Jessica Chastain’s work in “The Eyes of Tammy Faye” was far from a sure thing. More recently there had been increasingly loud buzz about Penelope Cruz picking up the award for her work in “Parallel Mothers.” But it ended up being Chastain who took it home, over Kristen Stewart, Nicole Kidman, Cruz and Olivia Colman. It didn’t blow you out of your seat, exactly, but it was an upset of sorts.
Surprise: Will Smith Slaps Chris Rock, Wins Best Actor Immediately Afterwards
Obviously the biggest surprise of the night was Will Smith assaulting Chris Rock after he made a crack about Smith’s wife Jada Pinkett Smith starring in “G.I. Jane 2.” Smith coming up to the stage, slapping Rock, and then shouting to him after he sat back down was riveting, uncomfortable television, made even more WTF-worthy by the timed delay’s attempt to obscure what had actually happened. What made the moment even more uncomfortable and suspenseful was the fact that, minutes later, Smith ascended the stage again, this time to pick up his Best Actor trophy for “King Richard.” In a tearful speech that alternated between defensive, apologetic and bizarre, he tried to justify his actions and relate them to the role that he had just played. (Hilariously the clip they chose to show before he accepted was Richard telling his young girls that they have to set a good example.) Honestly, we’re still rattled.
Surprise: Zack Snyder Triumphs
This might be the biggest surprise: two Zack Snyder wins! He didn’t win Oscars, exactly, but he did take home two of the “fan prizes” – for most cheer-worthy moment (for a scene from his four-hour cut of the “Justice League,” a movie that never actually played in theaters) and the fan-favorite movie (“Army of the Dead,” his blurry zombie movie for Netflix). Still, for an army of ravenous fans, this will feel like some sort of weird vindication.