Why the Oscars 2022 were the strangest yet - and not only because of Will Smith's slap

The 94th Academy Awards weren't exactly a return to pre-Covid form

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The year 2022 will go down in history as the year that streaming officially became the go-to place for cinema, with Apple TV’s Coda picking up the Oscar for Best Picture — the first time a streamer has achieved the feat.

The film picked up a total of three awards, with Troy Kotsur also making history as the first deaf actor to win an Oscar, and writer/director Sian Heder also landing Best Adapted Screenplay. We can only assume Netflix isfuming after both Roma and The Irishman tried, but failed, to break the big screen’s stranglehold on the Academy’s hearts.

Oscars 2022 winners list: 'Coda' wins top prize on film's biggest night

Coda’s success was something of a surprise, although the Oscars rumour mill had seen the film about a deaf Massachusetts family’s chances of winning increase significantly in the days leading up to the ceremony, while previous favourites The Power of the Dog and Belfast slipped behind. The Power of the Dog director Jane Campion picked up Best Director, however, making her only the third female director to do so following Kathryn Bigelow in 2010 for The Hurt Locker and Chloe Zhao in 2021 for Nomadland.

Scroll through the gallery below to see the best-dressed women on the Oscars 2022 red carpet:

Belfast also didn’t have an entirely wasted night, with Kenneth Branagh picking up a statue for Best Original Screenplay — incredibly his first award, having previously been nominated eight times in seven different categories.

Strangeness in the air

The event itself was a strange affair, certainly strange enough to make Coda’s win appear fairly normal. Will Smith’s apparent physical assault on host Chris Rock has obviously stolen the limelight, but there was something undeniably odd about this year’s ceremony even before that piece of TV history.

Will Smith slaps Chris Rock at Oscars after joke about Jada Pinkett Smith

Will Smith slaps Chris Rock at Oscars after joke about Jada Pinkett Smith

It’s been two years since we had a full-blown live Oscars ceremony, courtesy of the pandemic, but this year the event was back in full flow, with hosts, guests, a red carpet, the removal of less interesting awards from the live broadcast, and a couple of new audience awards aimed at, well, enticing an audience which has been rapidly declining in recent years in common with other big entertainment industry bashes.

We couldn’t honestly say these attempts to return to normality, and improve on the pre-covid Oscars, were an unqualified success.

This year’s hosts were comedians Amy Schumer and Wanda Sykes, and actress Regina Hall. The three are all eminently qualified in their respective fields, but as a trio they lacked chemistry throughout the night, exemplified best during a skit where the three dressed as characters from nominated films, culminating in Schumer dropping in from the ceiling in a Spider-Man costume. The reason for that remains unknown, but largely chalked up to comedy.

Tedium, audience favourites and 'boring' awards

The guests were obviously dictated by this year’s Oscars nominees, and they were mostly fine, but with a four-hour running time, it’s a little disappointing that among the tedious speeches and tears, the whole event was essentially a snoozefest until Smith marched onstage to slap Rock and shout expletives.

The new audience awards were also very strange. The first — Most Cheerable Moment — seemed to have potential. The arrival of the Millennium Falcon in The Force Awakens, the final blow that sees off Thanos in the Marvel Universe, even Tommy Wiseau’s “I did not hit her” speech in The Room, have all raised cheers in cinemas in the past. But it was won by The Flash achieving Speed Force, a scene so memorable it didn’t even make it into the cinematic cut of The Justice League.

Scroll through the gallery below to see the best-dressed men at the 94th Academy Awards:

The second audience prize, for Oscars Fan Favourite, went to Netflix’s Army of the Dead. An abject lesson, perhaps, in why you shouldn’t hand over Oscars judging to Zack Snyder’s Twitter following. Two audience awards, two Snyder films.

As for cutting out “boring” awards such as Best Editing and Best Live Action Short, and giving them out before the live broadcast, one can see the logic of this for an overly lengthy ceremony that has been haemorrhaging viewers for some time. But then they showed recorded footage of the awards being presented anyway, leaving people scratching their heads as to why they did it in the first place.

Overall, it was a strange event, and one that will ultimately be remembered for one thing — and it's not Coda’s surprise win, Wesley Snipes’s interesting fashion choices, nor the hosts’ failing punchlines.

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Updated: March 28, 2022, 7:34 AM