Oscar’s night: Where to begin?

An evening of historic wins and unforgettable moments.

Jacob ‘Coby’Aloi, Multi Media Editor

Every year the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences hosts their annual awards night. It is often an evening of elegance, laughter, tears and meme-able moments. This year’s ceremony, which took place on March 27, was no exception. Even though all the awards have been handed out, there is plenty to talk about.

Even before the broadcast, the Academy had its hands full with early controversies. Between actress Rachel Zeglar, who played Maria Vasquez in the nominated picture “West Side Story,” not receiving an invitation and the choice to pre-film certain award wins, this year was shaping up to be an odd one for the Academy. Luckily Zeglar was able to attend—even serving as a presenter—and although it was not live, the categories that were pre-filmed were still broadcast as part of the ceremony. 

As for the actual event itself, many moments transpired that are beyond noteworthy. Let us start with the positives. My favorite moment was Troy Kotsur’s historic Best Supporting Actor win for his turn as Frank Rossi in “CODA.” His speech was incredibly touching, and as the first Deaf man to win any acting award—and only the second Deaf person to win any acting award after Marlee Matlin for Best Actress in 1986—I hope that it has inspired a new generation of Deaf filmmakers. 

Speaking of historic wins, Jane Campion’s win as Best Director for “The Power of the Dog” made her only the third woman to win the honor, after Chloé Zhao’s win last year for “Nomadland” and Kathryn Bigelow’s win for “The Hurt Locker” in 2008. Other favorite moments of mine included “Encanto” winning Best Animated Feature as well as “Drive My Car” for Best International Film. 

Of course, we could not talk about the Oscars without addressing the more controversial moments. One moment that came early on in the ceremony was co-host Regina Hall engaging in a joke about having to administer a “special” COVID-19 test, and then proceeding to touch actors Josh Brolin and Jason Mamoa in what some consider an inappropriate manner. I certainly found this ill-timed, especially considering the Academy’s recent history with combating sexual harssment. 

The moment that had all of Twitter active was when Will Smith struck presenter Chris Rock during the broadcast after Rock made an insensitive joke at the expense of Smith’s wife, Jada Pinkett Smith. Rock’s joke was in reference to Pinkett Smith’s baldness, which Pinkett Smith has explained is due to alopecia. After the joke was told, Smith took to the stage and slapped Rock, returning to his seat and then yelling something at Rock, which was censored on the American broadcast. However, an uncensored version soon circulated online. Smith went on to win Best Actor for his performance as Richard Williams in “King Richard”—becoming only the 5th Black man to claim the award. Smith eventually apologized online to both Rock and the Academy before resigning from the Academy a few weeks later, according to CNN and the Hollywood Reporter. 

The incident has led to the Academy banning Smith from attending any events or programs hosted by them for the next 10 years, which they announced via a statement. In their statement, according to the Associated Press, they also apologized for their handling of the situation in allowing Smith to remain at the ceremony, saying “During our telecast, we did not adequately address the situation in the room. For this, we are sorry.”

Even though this year’s Academy Awards were marred with controversy before, during and after the official ceremony took place, it was also a night full of wonderful moments for many communities to finally see themselves represented in the media. While it is important to acknowledge the more difficult moments, it is also important to acknowledge the winners and nominees who were honored.