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Will Smith’s Smackapalooza and the 15 Best, Worst, and Most WTF Oscars Moments

Oscars? What Oscars? It’s tough to remember there was an entire awards ceremony last night, but from historic wins to bizarre comedy bits, a few more weird and wonderful things went down

ABC via Getty Images

Allegedly, bookending the moment when Will Smith slapped Chris Rock on live television in front of millions of viewers, there was an Academy Awards ceremony last night. Frankly, we can’t quite recall.  

The thing about the Oscars — or any major awards broadcast, for that matter — is that it’s an event that relies on careful orchestration and unspoken codes of decorum: Limit your acceptance speech to 45 seconds, clap graciously if you lose, and, y’know, don’t physically or verbally assault the presenters. TV viewers are watching less to find out who’s going to take home the gold and more in the hopes of witnessing a genuinely spontaneous moment, whether it’s Warren Beatty announcing the wrong best picture winner or Jennifer Lawrence tripping over her own gown.  

Well, last night they sure got it, when Smith stormed onstage and assaulted Rock for making a joke about his wife, Jada Pinkett Smith, chasing that with an obscenity-laden exchange that had producers scrambling to cut the sound in the Dolby Theatre. Suddenly, the numbing rhythm we’ve come to expect from awards shows was interrupted, the gristle beneath Hollywood’s artfully Botoxed skin exposed.  

But hey, there were also some awards. The 94th Academy Awards didn’t crown one big winner; rather, the major honors were scattered among a variety of nominees. Two female filmmakers won the evening, including Best Picture, Supporting Actor, and Adapted Screenplay winner CODA, helmed by Sian Heder; and Jane Campion, who nabbed Best Director for The Power of the Dog. Two big acting awards went to a pair of biopic performances: Jessica Chastain for The Eyes of Tammy Faye and Smith for King Richard. Denis Villeneuve’s Dune performed a near-sweep of the technical categories, most of which were presented in a pre-broadcast segment of the ceremony.  

Read on for the best, worst, and most baffling moments of this year’s Oscars — one that, thanks to Smith’s outburst and its aftermath, will go down in infamy. 

From Rolling Stone US

Best: A Big Night for ‘CODA’

It was only nominated in three categories, but CODA won them all — including the coveted Best Picture. Sian Heder’s indie, based on the French film La Famille Bélier, broke barriers by centering the story of a deaf family and their hearing daughter. The speech that brought home the impact of the film the most came not from its producers, but from Troy Kotsur when he won Best Supporting Actor for his turn as loving, crass fisherman Frank Rossi. “I cannot believe I’m here,” he said in ASL, after sharing a sweet exchange with last year’s best supporting actress winner, Minari’s Youn Yuh-jung. “This is our moment,” he said to the Deaf, CODA, and disabled communities, finishing with a proud, “Look at me now! I did it.” CODA may be a traditionally structured family drama about a teen girl (Emilia Jones) searching for her place in the world, but that’s a big part of what makes the film so revolutionary: It tells a familiar story with actors from a minority who have long been kept from the Hollywood spotlight.—JS

Worst: Will Smith’s Post-Slap Best Actor Speech/Non-Apology

Following Smith’s violent outburst, the atmosphere in the Dolby became noticeably tense. When Smith won best actor for King Richard shortly thereafter, as he was expected to, viewers held their breath to see what Smith would say. With tears running down his face, the actor both apologized for and defended his actions. He compared himself to the character he plays in the film, real-life tennis dad Richard Williams, calling him “a fierce defender of his family,” and talked about how he was proud of “protecting” his female co-stars Aunjanue Ellis, Saniyya Sidney, and Demi Singleton. Disturbingly, he justified his attack on Rock by with the aphorism: “Love will make you do crazy things.” (He also, bafflingly, quoted a line from 1963 Best Picture winner Lawrence of Arabia.) Overall, it was a patriarchal diatribe about men’s roles as the guardians of defenseless women, and an argument for physical violence as a justifiable reaction to emotionally charged situations. Smith finished by saying that he hopes the Academy invites him back; we hope he gets some therapy before they do. —JS

WTF: Random Movie Reunions

Listen, we all love White Men Can’t Jump, Juno, and Pulp Fiction; and it was neat to see stars of those movies, including Wesley Snipes, Rosie Perez, Elliot Page, and J.K. Simmons, reunite onstage as presenters. Except… Why, exactly? Of those three films, the first two have fairly normal anniversaries this year — their 30th and their 15th, respectively — but it’ll be the 28th anniversary of Pulp Fiction in 2022, not traditionally something people stop and celebrate. Fact: It’s always the anniversary of some movie, if you think about it. So next time, just have Uma Thurman and John Travolta come out and do the Vincent-and-Mia dance for no particular reason at all. It’d be better than taking something so cool and give it an ill-fitting frame. —NM