Writers' Note: Oscars 2022

Several BFB writers took the opportunity to reflect on one of the more discordant Oscar ceremonies of the past ten years. Though the Academy of Motion Picture Arts is no stranger to controversy, the ones that occurred this year seemed to spark legitimate societal discourse, somewhat overshadowing the winners. Check out the BFBs' takes on this year's ceremony and award recipients.

CODA (2021), dir. Sian Heder

Chance

The Oscars are television and television is spectacle. The myriad programs beamed to American television screens day in and day out are little more than amoral sensationalism, which is to say, damn fine entertainment. I can think of no better way to summarize the 2022 Oscars ceremony than has already been done by Will Sloan, a writer who, if he knew I respected him, would likely encourage me not to. (Too late for that, Will). He writes, “Wesley & Woody reunited. Countless John Leguizamo reaction shots. Bond montage. Will Smith assaulted a man. Something nobody has seen called CODA won Best Picture. Best Oscars ever.” In many ways, I am inclined to agree.

Dune (2021) dir. Denis Villeneuve --- winner in six categories

Was I satisfied with any of the winners? A few. Ariana DeBose nabbing the award for Best Supporting Actress was a well-deserved delight; plus, the Dune sweep in the technicals gave me an inkling of hope early on. Perhaps, in six or seven years, Dune Messiah will be the feel-bad blockbuster of the century and manage to take home Best Picture. A man can dream. The night became increasingly baffling as it dragged on, the winners (despite their predictability) still managing to elicit cascades of confused laughter from the group of intoxicated friends I was watching with. As my compatriots became more and more loaded, the broadcast descended into the mouth of madness. Moments folded into one another, each misguided gag leading to some unforeseen controversy. Harassment, violence, bourgeois decadence, all colliding repeatedly; I couldn’t look away. It had that same implacable quality of when your friend showed you a LiveLeak video in middle school. It isn’t the winners that make this the “best Oscars ever,” it’s the chaos.


The politics of the Oscars are unequivocally awful and I feel no need to relitigate this. People who are much more informed than I am have done so at length, and still more have curb-stomped the Oscars into oblivion on Twitter. The Academy’s picks, as always, are less than interesting. Hell, even among my friends that watched and liked CODA, the Best Picture win was mildly interesting at best. I watch for reliable insanity. What program has delivered more hijinks annually than the Oscars? One year it’s a surreal and embarrassing Anthony Hopkins Best Actor win, another it’s Warren Beatty flubbing the Best Picture announcement. While I can’t say I feel like a good person for finding a masturbatory, in-group clown show like the Oscars entertaining, nothing can make me say I didn’t have a good time. Until next year.


Grace

This was my first time watching the Oscars in its entirety since The Shape of Water sweep of 2018, so this year’s ceremony was quite the culture shock. The usual prestige of the night was undercut by a clashing trio of hosts, the Rachel Zegler debacle, and Jacob Elordi being allowed on stage. However, most notably the technical awards were pushed aside to instead show us a James Bond montage (that went hard, but I still would have preferred to have seen it on YouTube). These awards were still recorded and later broadcast during the live ceremony which made it even more hurtful and disappointing to not hear the speeches from the most deserving people to attend the Oscars: the crew.


Another punch to the gut was the lack of acknowledgment of Halyna Hutchins, the cinematographer who died from an accidental shooting on Rust’s set. Although she was included in the “In Memoriam” montage, no colleague was invited to the stage to share some words and memories about Hutchins. In fact, only a select few were chosen to be “highlighted” which is an insensitive concept on its own, creating a hierarchy of importance amongst those who have recently died. I can see why it could have been controversial to bring up her death, but Hutchins deserved better.


Truth be told, I have not seen the majority of the winners of the night. So, for obvious reasons, I left the Oscars an unhappy camper, and the featured scenes and speeches did little to push me to want to watch these films. CODA, you are the exception. I’ll get around to you, I promise. Despite all this, we got some touching

moments. Troy Kostur’s speech almost brought me and the interpreter to tears, I got to remember that Liza Minnelli is still kicking, and Megan Thee Stallion and Zendaya shared the screen. I truly felt lucky to be witnessing the evening live at some points.


Nightmare Alley (2021) dir. Guillermo del Toro --- Best Picture nominee


But in conclusion, justice for Andrew and get Nightmare Alley out of here! The Shape of Water was why I stopped watching the Oscars in the first place. Sorry, Guillermo. Your selfies were super cute though.



Lydia

For me, the Oscars were bland and frustrating. I was more of an awards watchdog this year than I have been in past years, so I did see the CODA sweep coming, but I am disappointed in the Oscars’ attempts to “change things up” year after year to no avail. The finest ceremony of my recollection was undoubtedly the year of the Parasite sweep – 2020. 2021 was unusual because of the format, the pandemic, the awards arrangement, and the lack of a host. It seemed the producers went back to their original strategy this year, but things were slightly off. I had seen some of the anonymous ballots and was prepared for some of the rough takes by Academy voters (hell, I’d been prepared for it since I’d seen the weird-ass nominations), but the attempts to pander were strange. To break it down: the hosts, the Twitter awards (Zach Snyder fans, please go outside and touch some grass), and the selected audience reactions were all bizarre.


There was a strange recurring theme in Regina Hall’s bits of objectifying male attendees that did not bode well. Wanda Sykes was arguably the most charismatic of the hosts, but her energy didn’t fit very well with Hall and Schumer. If anything, I can admire how much the three women just “went with it.” I think that I have become so disillusioned by Internet humor and deep irony that I was surprised that the hosts were executing simple gags without excessive commentary about their being chosen. They are comedians, and they were hired to make jokes. It really is as simple as that.

The Power of the Dog (2021) dir. Jane Campion --- winner: Best Director

As for the winners, I was uninspired. The only horse I had in the Best Picture race was The Power of the Dog, which most people in my Letterboxd community have championed, isolating me from the reactions of normies and slow-burn critics. I wish one of the four acting nominees from the film was able to interact and stand up for the movie, as Jane Campion’s best director speech left me wanting.


Drive My Car was too long and too niche for voters, and Dune too sci-fi. CODA was a tolerable win, but not one that made me jump for joy. It has been cool to watch it gain support since I first saw it at Sundance last year, but I wish some of my other 2021 picks (The French Dispatch, C’mon C’mon, Mass, The Worst Person in the World) had been given the time of day. The best winners were Documentary Feature and International Feature, but they were tragically overshadowed by rude music queues and a blunt slap. I don’t know if I should’ve expected more, or if I am simply aging out of my fascination with meaningless awards shows, but I think I’ll stick to my instincts as quality indicators.


Tyler

This year’s Oscars was… an Oscars ceremony I guess. Although it luckily didn’t have the disastrous ending that the 2021 ceremony had with the Academy announcing Best Actor last (leading audiences to believe it was going to be awarded to Chadwick Boseman posthumously when it actually ended up going to Anthony Hopkins, who wasn’t even present), one of it’s biggest problems was how the show was run.


What do you get when you have Regina Hall, Amy Schumer, and Wanda Sykes host a show as big as this? A lot of unamusing jokes and nothing to feel good about. Shoot, Amy Schumer calling Kirsten Dunst a “seat filler” just felt rude. I bet Jesse Plemons wanted to give Schumer a piece of his mind (could we have gotten two celebrity altercations that night?). On top of that, Schumer disrespected animators by saying Encanto was the only animated film she saw this past year and it was because of her kid. Come on Academy, have some more sense than to make jokes like these.

Encanto (2021) dir. Byron Howard & Jared Bush --- winner: Best Animated Feature

This year’s awards lacked something most Oscars have: upsets. Not even some categories I got wrong were enough to get me excited or stunned by the result. The only category I felt came close to being a surprising upset was Best Animated Short Film, which went to The Windshield Wiper rather than the more popular nominee Robin Robin. I don’t usually pay close attention to the short film categories, so even then I wasn’t shaken by this win. To make matters worse, this category along with many others weren’t broadcasted and were in a sense replaced with two awards that shouldn’t be here: Fan Favorite of the Year and Best Oscars Cheer Moment. Having these awards in was totally unnecessary and I’m even more upset by the fact that Zack Snyder fans dominated these categories.


Tristan

Unlike last year’s ceremony, the 94th Academy Awards were lively and eventful, but not in the way I had hoped they would be. To use the term “disastrous” would be a vast understatement. In the weeks leading up to the ceremony, this year’s show-runner Will Packer made the asinine decision to present the awards for the short films, technical and craft categories off-air, during the red carpet. The speeches were later awkwardly spliced into the ceremony. This decision was in an effort to boost ratings and contain the runtime of the show. However, that clearly wasn’t effective, as this was the longest Oscars ceremony since 2018, clocking in at three hours and forty minutes.


This decision wasn’t only redundant, but it took away from a moment that many have been dreaming of since they entered the film industry. Cinematographers, editors, production designers, composers, makeup artists, hairstylists and short film directors often go unrecognized in Hollywood, and the Academy Awards are supposed to be their one night to shine. This year the ceremony felt like less of a celebration of cinema, and more of a celebrity showcase, in the vein of The Golden Globes.

Summer of Soul (2021) dir. Questlove --- winner: Best Documentary

That being said, there were some truly special moments that were worth watching the ceremony for. Ariana DeBose, Troy Kotsur, Jane Campion, Kenneth Branagh, Sian Heder, Questlove and Jessica Chastain delivered impassioned and meaningful speeches that represented why the Academy Awards and recognizing the people who dedicate their lives to telling stories through film are so important. Unfortunately, the entire night was derailed by a display of toxic masculinity by Best Actor winner, Will Smith. Regardless of the tasteless nature of the jokes that Chris Rock was making, they absolutely did not warrant a physical assault. Will Smith was way out of line and his ego got the best of him. That moment set a dour mood for the rest of the night and overshadowed some incredible Oscar speeches. It also ruined his own moment and will have a negative impact on his legacy going forward.


It was a tumultuous ceremony and end to an awards season that I am personally happy to finally put in the past.


-Chance, Grace, Lydia, Tyler & Tristan

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