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The 94th Academy Awards: A Night to Remember

By Julia Barth, Features Editor

The 94th annual Academy Awards took place on Sunday, and so did some moments that are worth putting in the “Notable Moments in Oscar History” scrapbook. Besides the most talked about moment — which, surprise, had nothing to do with the actual awards — this year’s ceremony felt particularly bland and disappointed audiences who looked forward to the event’s revival in a post-pandemic world.

The red carpet looks had some gems, along with some misses, but Assistant Features Editor and resident fashion expert Ava Green has you covered on that front. As for the winners themselves, everything went according to plan. Being one of the last awards ceremonies for film to happen in the season, many of the winners have already been celebrating their victories at the Golden Globes, the SAG Awards and the Critics Choice Awards.

“CODA,” a film about a hearing child of deaf parents, took the biggest award for the night, winning Best Picture. Jessica Chastain collected her winnings for Best Actress for her role in “The Eyes of Tammy Faye,” and Will Smith took home Best Actor for his portrayal of Richard Williams in “King Richard.” Best Supporting Actor winner Troy Kotser (‘CODA”) and Best Supporting Actress winner Ariana DeBose (“West Side Story”) both made history — the former being the first deaf actor to win that category and the latter being the first openly queer woman to win an acting award.

But one movie really cleaned up at this year’s Academy Awards — the 2021 remake of the classic science fiction novel “Dune.” The film, directed by Denis Villeneuve, won six of the 10 categories it was nominated for, taking home awards for editing, score, visual effects, cinematography, sound and production design.

Other notable wins of the night included “Encanto” for Best Animated Feature, “Drive My Car” for Best International Feature and “Summer of Soul” for Best Documentary Feature. Jane Campion took home directing’s biggest award for her role in “The Power of the Dog.”

What makes this Oscars night memorable, however, is more than the historic wins that took place. Obviously, everyone who watched (and even those who didn’t watch) couldn’t stop talking about the slap. Before presenting an award, comedian Chris Rock came out on stage and told some jokes, one of which was about Jada Pinkett Smith that caused Will Smith to walk up on stage and slap him. After he sat back down, he yelled at Rock to stop talking about his wife, throwing some expletives in as well.

The whole thing was a bit odd, with audiences wondering whether it was planned beforehand or not. After the internet gathered exactly what happened (and after Smith apologized to the audience during his acceptance speech a few minutes later), people began to realize that it wasn’t planned at all.

It caused a massive uproar online, as these things do, with many people giving their opinions on the situation. Some think Smith was right to defend his wife; others thought resorting to violence wasn’t the best idea. Either way, it happened, and my take on it is that it was easily the most entertaining thing that happened on that stage all night.

Besides the slap, this year's ceremony was also notable because it was the first time the Academy Awards had a host since Jimmy Kimmel in 2018. My opinion? Go back to no host(s) please! It’s hard as an audience member to watch an award show that is over three hours long in general: let’s not make it more painful by throwing Amy Schumer up there to make uncomfortable jokes about current political issues.

If the Academy insists on this award show going past 11 p.m. every year, at least let it be so that more categories can be announced live on television. Many notable categories were cut from the live show this year, effectively stopping many people’s important work on films from being recognized by their peers and by audiences. And for what? For Kirsten Dunst to be called a seat filler for some unfunny segment?

The Oscars this year were definitely notable, and all of the winners and nominees deserved their praises. So many great films came out this year — whether it be in theaters or on streaming services — and they deserve to be recognized. Maybe as the years go on, the Academy will drop the superficial elements of the ceremony and focus on the winners and their incredible work.

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