94th Academy Awards: The Telecast

It happens to everyone. You’re at a work outing, family gathering, party or some other celebration, having a good time, enjoying the vibes; and then somebody in attendance says or does something to sour the mood, turning what was a pleasant affair into an awkward and uncomfortable one. And afterwards, you’re just wanting to leave, or wishing you never attended in the first place.

That’s how this author felt in the immediate aftermath of that incident at the Oscars earlier this week. You know, the moment pictured above, where soon-to-be Academy Award-winner Will Smith walked onto the stage of the Dolby Theatre, slapped Chris Rock, strutted back to his seat, and then told Rock in no uncertain terms to stop name-dropping his wife.

There’s already been endless commentary about the incident, to which nothing more can be added, suffice to say that the altercation and its ensuing verbal spray was enough for one Tom Parry to make him feel so uneasy that he had to physically walk away from the television, and out of the lounge room to process what had just happened.

Two days on, the drama has passed – Smith has been condemned by the Academy for his actions, apologised to Rock (who, curiously, nobody has any sympathy for) and seems to recognise the gravity of his behaviour – so let’s move on to what everybody should be focusing on, that being the 94th Oscars ceremony itself.

This year saw not only a return to the famed Dolby Theatre, but the reintroduction of a dedicated host to the telecast – or, more accurately, three hosts. Amy Schumer, Wanda Sykes and Regina Hall were all given the unenviable task of guiding viewers through three hours of speech-giving, statuette-bestowing and montage-showing, with Sykes’ tour of the Academy Museum being the one of the very few comedic highlights. Sadly, their presence served only to remind viewers of the joys of a host-less ceremony, and pad the run-time.

At least Finneas O’Connell and Billie Eilish enjoyed themselves

Yes, even after relegating eight awards to a preshow event – which were given their due in the telecast, blessedly – the 94th Oscars still managed to go overtime, ending 40 minutes after what the producers intended would be the concluding hour.

Another issue was the consistency of international feed. Here in Australia, the picture cut-out three times during key moments, including the acceptance speech of Questlove et al for Summer of Soul, and Kevin Costner’s monologue when presenting Best Director. This problem is not unusual in the realm of live television, but the length of the lost vision, and the fact that this keeps happening year after year, sorely needs addressing in future ceremonies.

As for the awardees, there weren’t any real surprises – this author amassed his best-ever tally of 20 correct predictions out of a possible 23 – with the possible exception of the Best Picture recipient, that being CODA. Its win marks the first for a streaming service, with Apple TV+ beating Prime Video and Netflix to the punch despite both platforms making significant investments into Awards contenders.

Anyhow, this author’s personal highlights of the night included:

  • Ariana DeBose becoming the first openly-queer woman of colour to win an Oscar for acting;
  • Dune sweeping the technical categories, with Aussie snapper Greig Fraser being awarded Best Cinematography;
  • Troy Kotsur’s heartfelt acceptance speech, delivered in sign-language;
  • The ecstatic reaction of multiple Grammy-winner Billie Eilish receiving her statuette for Best Original Song
  • Cruella’s costume designerJenny Beavan being given a much warmer reception than the one she received six years ago for Fury Road;
  • The standing ovation for Frank Coppola, Al Pacino and Robert De Niro, who appeared in celebration of The Godfather’s 50th anniversary, and;
  • Kenneth Branagh, the only man in the organisation’s history to be nominated in eight different categories, finally earning his first ever Academy Award.
Kenneth Branagh with his long-overdue statuette at the 94th Academy Awards

And finally, since all but three of the categories were correctly predicted by Yours Truly, here are the ones he missed out on:

Best Picture: CODA // Original pick: The Power of the Dog

Best Actor: Will Smith (King Richard) // Original pick: Benedict Cumberbatch (The Power of the Dog)

Best Animated Short: Windshield Wiper // Original pick: Bestia

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