Oscars Recap: ‘Everything’ won everything, Will got stomped, and yes, Angela got robbed
OPINION: Host Jimmy Kimmel made several jokes about the infamous slap, Ruth E. Carter made history and Angela Bassett left empty-handed ... again.
Editor’s note: The following article is an op-ed, and the views expressed are the author’s own. Read more opinions on theGrio.
Will Smith was the elephant in the room at this year’s Oscars, and host Jimmy Kimmel repeatedly pointed him out. A year after “the Slap,” some people wondered if the Academy would put on a show that gave the impression that they were moving forward. Would they ban the mention of Smith like they banned Smith for a decade?
Well, Kimmel skewered Smith several times throughout the show. In his opening monologue, he said, “If you get mad at a joke and decide you want to come up here and get jiggy with it…” then he mentioned several supposedly tough actors who the hypothetical new Smith would face before reaching Kimmel. He ended the night by walking offstage to reveal a sign that said, “Number of Oscars without incident.” He flipped a number on the sign from 0 to 1. Finally, the Oscars had returned to being conflict-free.
It seemed like the Academy was wiping its feet on Smith’s image and painting him as a person who had shown that he could turn into the Incredible Hulk at any time. It made sense to make fun of Smith in the show; you’ve got to embrace an issue that big. You don’t run from it, but given that he’s not actually forgiven — this was the first year of that 10-year ban — it’s kinda like punching him over and over when he’s already down. Smith deserves a lot of the shame he’s getting. He put himself in this position. He was wrong, but how much of a penalty is too much? Is the Academy hoping to destroy his career? I can’t tell. Or perhaps this is the Academy’s way of showing how traumatized it was by Smith’s actions.
Jonathan Majors is a STAR
I bet a lot of people won the Oscar bets they made with co-workers or friends because it was a delightfully predictable Oscars with no real upsets in the major categories. I predicted a big win for “Everything Everywhere All at Once” (“EEAAO” from here on out), and the film raced through the Oscars like a runaway freight train, winning an impressive seven Oscars and almost sweeping the major categories. I was certain that it would win Best Picture, but when it swept the supporting categories, with Ke Huy Quan winning supporting actor, and Jamie Lee Curtis winning supporting actress, it was clear that it was going to be “EEAAO’s” night.
It’s a movie with a big heart and a unique vision of the world(s). It’s a sci-fi film about family and a love story set in the multiverse. It’s a philosophical conversation about love, the mother-daughter relationship and the meaning of life that’s uplifting and spiritually fulfilling. “EEAAO’s” win is a victory for great, creative films that have an independent spirit and don’t feel like traditional Hollywood films. It’s also a victory for Asian and Asian-American film-loving communities. It’s a movie that portrays an Asian-American family with tremendous dignity. They have problems, but they also have a deep love for each other. It’s a film that honors Asian-American culture without ever pandering to stereotypes.
It’s also a big victory for film veteran Michelle Yeoh, the best actress winner, who’s been acting since the mid-’80s and is known as the queen of Hong Kong action films. She’s been an icon for Asian and Asian-American people for decades. Her regal dignity, her commitment to craft and her deep seriousness as an actress is inspiring. Her win should propel her to a wealth of new opportunities.
It’s not easy for a film starring people of color to dominate the Oscars in a town where some Oscar voters don’t even watch the big films starring us. One Oscar voter told a media outlet that they had not even seen “Black Panther: Wakanda Forever.” This is part of the reason why Angela Bassett was robbed in the best supporting actress category. Some white Oscar voters didn’t bother to see the film, and others didn’t care for it. Bassett was extraordinary in “Black Panther,” as she always is, and she’s been around a long time, which means she has probably worked with many of the voters. But Jamie Lee Curtis has also been around for a very long time. She shot her first movie in 1978, and she’s Hollywood royalty — this super nepo baby has two parents who were noted actors Tony Curtis and Janet Leigh — and she was part of a film that was extremely popular with the Academy. Yes, Stephanie Hsu had a bigger and more important role in “EEAAO,” but she’s not a fraction as well known as Curtis. Being known by the voters is important.
Chris Rock’s new special was…something
If I had the honor of voting on the Oscars, I would think that came with the responsibility of making sure I watched the major films that were in contention. Oscar voters get screeners sent to them, so they don’t even have to leave their homes to watch. But when Oscar voters tell reporters things like Viola Davis, the star of “Woman King,” and the film’s director, Gina Prince-Bythewood, need “to sit down, shut up, and relax,” then you can see the lack of respect for filmmakers of color. That particular voter admitted to never seeing “Woman King” and went on to tell the reporter that they are a fervent liberal but also think wokeness is “so out of control.” When there are people like that in the voting pool, it’s extraordinary for a film starring people of color to win.
The massive success of both “EEAAO” and “The Whale” (its star, Brendan Fraser, won the Oscar for best actor) makes this Oscars a gigantic moment for the studio behind those films: A24. It’s rare to be able to say that a film studio has a brand, but just like ’90s rap labels Bad Boy and Death Row had their own distinct image and fans, A24 is a company that has people in Brooklyn getting its logo tattooed on their body. I mean, it feels like every time I see a film I want to watch because it seems like it’ll push the boundaries of cinema, it’s from A24. The studio’s been called “the most interesting, creative, and reliable film company of the 21st century,” by GQ and “Hollywood’s latest tastemaker brand” by the New York Times.
A24 is an 11-year-old independent studio known for doing films that are unique, smart and authentic. This is the studio that released “Moonlight,” “Spring Breakers,” “Ex Machina,” “The Lobster” and “Room.” In a time where the Marvel Cinematic Universe is dominating with big-budget Hollywood action movies, A24 is bringing back the innovative arthouse vibe. This Oscars is the biggest moment in A24’s relatively short history, and the success of “EEAAO” and “The Whale” will give it more power to boldly follow its vision which, to me, is a way more exciting prospect than whatever big twist is coming next from the MCU.
One last victory to note — Ruth E. Carter, the extraordinary costume designer behind the “Black Panther” films, won the Oscar for best costume design for “Black Panther: Wakanda Forever.” She also won in 2018 for “Black Panther,” making her the first Black woman to win two Oscars. Her work on “Black Panther” has been really smart — she’s a critical part of creating the world of Wakanda and combining African tradition with a futuristic touch. Carter’s designs were inspired by traditions, patterns and symbols seen throughout Africa, and the film would not be what it is without her. Carter started her career as a costume designer for Spike Lee and worked with him during his golden period — “School Daze,” “Do the Right Thing,” “Mo’ Better Blues,” “Jungle Fever” and “Malcolm X.”
For once, I was pleased with almost all of the Academy’s choices from “EEAAO” to Michelle Yeoh to Ruth E. Carter. It was a year celebrating so many people of color while walking all over one who’s in image jail right now. But Hollywood loves a great second act and the denigration of Smith now will only fuel the reignition of Smith at some point in the future.
Touré is a host and Creative Director at theGrio. He is the host of the podcast “Toure Show” and the podcast docuseries “Who Was Prince?” He is also the author of seven books including the Prince biography Nothing Compares 2 U and the ebook The Ivy League Counterfeiter. Look out for his upcoming podcast Being Black In the 80s.
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