After a movie year often light on crowds, the Academy Awards named an unabashed crowd-pleaser, the deaf family drama ‘CODA,’ best picture Sunday, handing Hollywood’s top award to a streaming service for the first time in a ceremony that saw the greatest drama when Will Smith strode onstage and slapped Chris Rock.
With a night filled with a few surprises and few shocks, here’s a look a the most memorable moments at the Oscars.
‘CODA wins’ best film
‘CODA,’ a feel-good indie drama about a deaf family defying the odds, pulled off a stunning upset to scoop the top prize at the Oscars, becoming the first-ever streaming film to win best picture.
Taking its title from the acronym for child of deaf adult, ‘CODA’ follows high school teen Ruby as she juggles her musical ambitions with her family’s dependence on her to communicate with the hearing world.
The film bested tough competition to secure Apple the much-coveted gong, pipping streaming rivals including Netflix as well as Hollywood’s traditional studios, and delivering a landmark win for disability representation on the silver screen.
“Thank you to the academy for letting our ‘CODA’ make history tonight,” said producer Philippe Rousselet.
‘CODA’ was released by Apple TV+ after a bidding war at last year’s Sundance independent film festival, where it fetched a record $25 million.
The film by director Sian Heder (‘Orange is the New Black’) beat out rivals in the best picture category including the bookies’ favourite ‘The Power of the Dog’ by Jane Campion, acclaimed family memoir ‘Belfast’ from Kenneth Branagh, and Steven Spielberg’s remake musical ‘West Side Story.’
Heder also won the Oscar for best adapted screenplay.
Troy Kostur becomes first deaf male actor to win honour
‘CODA’ star Troy Kotsur became the first deaf male actor to win an Oscar, as he was feted with the Best Supporting Actor honour for his performance in the film.
On accepting the coveted honour, Kostur said: “I just wanted to say that this is dedicated to the deaf community, the CODA community and the disabled community. This is our moment!”
Kostur is the second deaf performer to be nominated. The first deaf actor to win an award was Marlee Matlin, who scored the Oscar for ‘Children of a Lesser God’, played his wife in ‘CODA’.
‘CODA’ is about a teenage girl, who is the only hearing member of her family learning to connect with her deaf parents and brother through, of all things, her passion for singing.
Ariana DeBose calls Rita Moreno her ‘divine inspiration’
In winning best supporting actress, Ariana DeBose made history as the first Afro-Latina woman of colour to get an acting Oscar. She started tearing up (and trying to stem said tears) before she even got to the stage. “Now you see why Anita says, ‘I want to be in America,’” DeBose said, referencing her ‘West Side Story’ character. “Even in this weird world that we live in, dreams do come true.”
DeBose is also the first woman to win for playing the same character as another woman who also won. She paid tribute to Rita Moreno, who won her own historic Oscar for playing Anita — calling the legendary actress her “divine inspiration.” “I’m so grateful your Anita paved the way for tons of Anitas like me,” she said.
After thanking her family and telling her mother the trophy was “as much yours as it is mine,” DeBose asked the audience to “imagine this little girl in the back seat of a white Ford Focus,” and referenced her historic triumph as a “woman of colour and Afro-Latina who found her strength in art.”
“So to anybody who has ever questioned your identity — ever, ever, ever — or you find yourself living in the gray spaces,” DeBose continued, “I promise you this: There is indeed a place for us.”
Jessica Chastain win for Best Actress
In a category that was left wide open with no one really able to predict who could lift the Best Actress award on the night, Jessica Chastain’s win for her work in the biographical drama, ‘The Eyes of Tammy Faye’ shared that in difficult times like the one which the entire world is going through, she feels inspired by her character’s radical acts of love.
The coveted award was presented to her on Sunday night by the legendary actor, Anthony Hopkins. As she accepted the award, Chastain took to the stage to give a speech, where she thanked her “brilliant” co-star Andrew Garfield and drew the audience’s attention towards the topic of suicide which continues to be the leading cause of death in the US.
“So many people out there feel hopelessness and alone and suicide is a leading cause of death in the United States. It’s touched many families. It’s touched mine…. We’re faced with discriminatory and bigoted legislation that is sweeping our country with the only goal of further dividing us. There’s violence and hate crimes. In times like this, I think of Tammy and I’m inspired by her radical acts of love.” she added.
Chastain preceded over fellow nominees — Olivia Colman for ‘The Lost Daughter’, Penelope Cruz for ‘Parallel Mothers’, Nicole Kidman for ‘Being the Ricardos’ and Kristen Stewart for ‘Spencer’ — for the win.
Jamie Lee Curtis and that puppy
During the In Memoriam segment, Jamie Lee Curtis, with a puppy in hand, celebrated TV legend and trailblazing animal rights activist Betty White, who died on December 31, 2021, at the age of 99. “She was not only a Golden Girl, she was a legend who brightened every room she walked in, and brought a smile to the faces of all who watched her on the screen. And day in and day out, for almost a century, she was a woman who cared so much for not just her two legged friends, but for animals just like this.
“So the greatest gift you could give Betty White is to open your heart and your home and adopt a rescue dog, just like Archie. Just Mike Mac and Cheese from Paw Works. Thank you, Betty, for being a friend to us all,” she said.
White and Curtis starred together in the 2010 rom-com ‘You Again’, along with Kristen Bell and Sigourney Weaver.
While White’s fame over her lengthy career came primarily from television series such as ‘Golden Girls’ and ‘The Mary Tyler Moore Show’, she had some memorable movie roles as well.
BTS make surprise appearance to praise Disney films
K-pop superband BTS members Jin, RM, Jungkook, J-Hope, Suga, V and Jimin made a surprise appearance during the 94th Academy Awards to celebrate some of their favourite Pixar and Disney movies, including Oscar winner ‘Coco’ and the Will Smith-starring live-action ‘Aladdin’.
Jimin cited ‘Coco’ as one of his favourites, to which RM added, “It’s a real masterpiece. I watched it three times and I cried a lot.”
While RM said he did not cry watching ‘Coco’, he did give a shout-out to Will Smith for the live-action ‘Aladdin’ that grossed more than $1 billion worldwide in 2019.
BTS’ appearance came during the Oscar telecast after Disney won a couple prizes at the ceremony.
The live-action ‘Cruella’ took home the Oscar for costume design, while ‘Encanto’ was awarded best animated feature. BTS favourite ‘Coco’ won two Oscars at the 2018 ceremony, including animated feature and original song for ‘Remember Be’.
Billie Eilish and Finneas win Oscar for best song
‘No Time to Die’ is proving a song very much alive at awards shows. The 007 song by Billie Eilish and Finneas O’Connell has won a Golden Globe, a Grammy and now an Oscar for best original song.
To win, they beat out some impressive names, including Beyonce, Van Morrison and Lin-Manuel Miranda. They also prevented Diane Warren from nabbing her first Oscar on her 13th try.
‘No Time to Die’ debuted and peaked at No. 16 on the U.S. Billboard Hot 100 but debuted at the top of the UK Singles Chart and the Irish Singles Chart.
The filmmakers behind Daniel Craig’s latest turn as James Bond invited artists to submit their best effort at a title song for the iconic opening credits. Eilish and O’Connell, longtime fans of the franchise, recorded their demo on a tour bus between concerts and put their track up for consideration. Eilish said she and Finneas were given a script with only the movie’s opening scene to go on.
Having recorded the track at the age of 18, Eilish officially became the youngest-ever recording artist to work on a James Bond theme song. The last two Bond songs to take home an Academy Award for best song were Jimmy Napes and Sam Smith’s ‘Writing’s on the Wall’ from ‘Spectre’ in 2016 and Adele and Paul Epworth’s ‘Skyfall’ from 2013.
Jane Campion makes history
Jane Campion won the Oscar best director for ‘The Power of the Dog,’ her open-plains psychodrama that twisted and upended western conventions.
Campion, who had been the first woman ever twice nominated in the category (previously for 1993’s ‘The Piano’), is only the third woman to win best director. It’s also the first time the directing award has ever gone to women in back-to-back years, after ‘Nomadland’ filmmaker Chloe Zhao won last year.
Were three better than one?
Hosts Wanda Sykes, Amy Schumer and Regina Hall then began the telecast from the Dolby Theatre.
Sykes, Schumer and Hall breezily joked through prominent Hollywood issues like pay equity — they said three female hosts were “cheaper than one man” — the Lady Gaga drama that Sykes called ‘House of Random Accents,’ the state of the Golden Globes (now relegated to the memoriam package, said Sykes) and Leonardo DiCaprio’s girlfriends who seemed to get younger with each passing year.
Will Smith slaps Chris Rock
The Academy Awards briefly came to a stunning halt on Sunday night when Chris Rock made a joke about Jada Pinkett Smith, causing husband Will Smith to come to the stage and hit him in the face.
The incident started as Rock arrived to present the award for best documentary, and started riffing about celebrity attendees. “Jada, I love you: ‘G.I. Jane 2,’ can’t wait to see it,” Rock said, an apparent reference to Pinkett Smith’s bald head. (Pinkett Smith spoke out about her alopecia diagnosis several years ago.)
The camera cut to the star couple, and showed Smith laughing. Pinkett Smith rolled her eyes and did not look pleased. Rock then held up his arms in a “who, me?” gesture as some of the audience groaned. All of a sudden, the tone changed very abruptly as Smith jumped out of his seat and made his way to the stage.
“Uh oh!” Rock said jovially. He started laughing as Smith kept walking. Then Smith slapped him in the face.
The audience was still cracking up, perhaps thinking this was all a bit — and then abruptly stopped. ABC cut the sound on the broadcast, so there was about 20 seconds of silence. However, clips from international TV making the rounds on Twitter showed the dialogue between the two actors.
The audience laughed uncomfortably as Rock, who seemed visibly shaken, moved on to award the prize for best documentary.
Several moments later, reporters in attendance at the show started tweeting about Denzel Washington (as well as Tyler Perry) talking to the flustered couple moments later. Shortly after the ceremony ended, Smith’s son, actor Jaden Smith, tweeted, “And That’s How We Do It.”
After the show, the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences issued a statement saying it “does not condone violence of any form.” The Los Angeles Police Department said it was aware of a slapping incident at the Oscars but said the person involved had declined to file a police report.
Will Smith’s Best Actor speech
#Slapgate led us to Will Smith’s tearful speech when he accepted the best actor trophy, he started with a nod to what had just occurred.
“Richard Williams was a fierce defender of his family,” he said, already in tears, drawing a few knowing chuckles from the audience, who also seemed to not know how to react. “In this time of my life, in this moment, I am overwhelmed by what God is calling on me to do and be in this world.”
He spoke about protecting his co-stars during the film, and also about the pressure of being in the entertainment industry when people can “talk crazy” and “disrespect you.”
“I know to do what we do, you gotta be able to take abuse,” Smith said. “And you gotta smile and you gotta pretend like that’s OK.”
Smith said that a few moments before his speech, Denzel Washington told him, “At your highest moment, be careful, that’s when the devil comes for you.” Smith added he wasn’t crying because of the award: “It’s not about winning an award for me. It’s about being able to shine a light on all of the people.”
Smith cried throughout his speech, in which he didn’t reference Rock directly, but apologised to the academy and his fellow nominees for the disruption. “I look like the crazy father, just like they said about Richard Williams,” Smith said, possibly trying to lighten the mood of the still-shocked audience. “But love will make you do crazy things.”
At the end, he said, “I’m hoping the academy invites me back.”