REVIEW: The 2022 Academy Awards
The Oscars Have Gone Off the Rails
Let’s set the scene. It’s 2+ hours into an Oscars telecast that can only be described as somewhere between mind-numbing and hellish. I’m on my couch in a space between awake and asleep as Chris Rock is on stage delivering a monologue that I faintly hear but am not listening to. Suddenly, Will Smith storms the stage, and I begin to come to, assuming it’s part of a bit. Things are happening fast. Will slaps Chris, returns to his seat, and begins to yell at him. Mind you, the audio is completely cut, and we the audience are left to make out what is happening in this disorienting, silent haze. Queen Lupita Nyong'o saves the day, as her facial expressions let us know that this must be real life, we are not dreaming, and this is not a bit. This viral moment will be what we all remember from this year’s Oscars, and that’s okay because truthfully, not much else was worth remembering.
I think most of us were extremely wary going into this year’s Oscars, with the knowledge that The Academy was desperately trying to attract a wider demographic of viewers. Each new announcement about the show created increasing cause for concern, as it became more and more clear that their efforts to increase viewership were severely misguided. What resulted was a disjointed telecast, full of cheap attempts to cater to their misplaced idea of what viewers want. One of the worst decisions made was to cut many of the technical awards from the telecast, reserving them to a pre-show that wasn’t aired live. It somehow gets even worse, as likely in course correction to the backlash of this decision, their solution was to insert heavily edited and shortened clips of these awards into the live show. Throughout the live telecast, they cut to recycled footage from the pre-show we missed, inserting random audience reaction clips from the live show in an attempt to make it look live. Not only was it a massive disservice to all of the artists nominated in those categories, it also completely ruined the flow of a show where much of the excitement comes from it being LIVE.
Among other laughable decisions made are the addition of 2 popularity-voted awards, “Oscars Cheer Moment” and “Oscars Fan Favorite.” As expected, the results are embarrassing. To enhance our suffering, we are forced to see clips from not only the winner, but all 5 of the highest-voted choices. Because we can’t trust the internet, this results in clips from Zack Snyder’s Army of the Dead and Justice League, Avengers: Endgame, as well as Cinderella being played on cinema’s biggest night. Other deranged highlights include but are not limited to: a pre-recorded segment in which BTS talks about their favorite Disney movies, a “We Don’t Talk about Bruno” performance featuring Becky G and Megan Thee Stallion where they remix the song so greatly that it is almost unrecognizable, and multiple inexplicable, random montage tributes to movies of the past, including a James Bond tribute presented by Tony Hawk, Sean White, and Kelly Slater, a surfer whose name I had to google for this.
In some brighter, or at least more compelling, points of the telecast, the hosts (Regina Hall, Amy Schumer, and Wanda Sykes) had bits ranging from cringey but entertaining to actually funny. In a historic win, Troy Kotsur became the first deaf man to win an Oscar, and he accepted his award as presenter Youn Yuh-jung remained in frame, looking at him with the most sincere, pure look of adoration. Lady Gaga presented with Liza Minnelli and whispered “I got you,” after helping her through it, and to the relief of us all, Jane Campion won best director and had a pre-written speech this time, leaving no room for offensive improv. Will Smith won Best Actor after his altercation with Chris Rock, and delivered a questionable monologue of a speech through lots of tears, in which he proclaims he is being called to serve as a vessel for love.
How incredibly fitting that the big viral moment of the 2022 Oscars, a show marred by manufactured attempts at virality, was a moment that was unscripted, raw, and completely unhinged. It's a shame that the creatives behind the show haven’t learned that live television will inevitably bring natural chaos. In their attempts to appeal to the masses, it seems the Oscars have forgotten what made the event so magical in the first place. The excitement of the Oscars comes from it being a live spectacle full of famous people and the anticipation of who will win - we hope for big upsets and to see deserving creatives win. Last night strayed so far from what makes The Academy Awards a momentous night that it became something else entirely. Even the live moments felt rushed in order to get to the next pre-recorded bit, as most glaringly evident when they attempted to loudly, brazenly play the director of Drive My Car, Ryusuke Hamaguchi, off the stage when accepting his award for International Feature Film. What we witnessed was an atrocious, heavily edited variety show, bloated with pre-recorded segments and cheap filler.