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Oscars 2022: The 6 biggest talking points, from Will Smith hitting Chris Rock to Coda’s triumph

A night in which unscripted controversy overshadowed all the wins and awards

Annabel Nugent,Louis Chilton
Monday 28 March 2022 06:41 BST
'This is dedicated to the deaf community': Troy Kotsur wins best supporting actor Oscar for 'CODA'

“That was the greatest night in the history of television,” quipped Chris Rock, just moments after being slapped in the face by Will Smith.

The 2022 Oscars are sure to live long in the memories of everyone who watched this year’s ceremony – though not for the reasons anyone expected.

It was a night in which unscripted controversy overshadowed all the wins and awards. But among the awards were some deserved wins, some minor upsets, and some long-overdue recognition.

Ariana DeBose became the first openly queer woman of colour to win an acting Oscar, for her role as Anita in Steven Spieberg’s West Side Story remake. Coda star Troy Kotsur delivered a powerful speech in American Sign Language after picking up the award for Best Supporting Actor.

Wins for Jessica Chastain and Will Smith in the leading categories followed, as well as a Best Director win for Jane Campion, who was the first woman to be nominated for the award twice.

Here’s a breakdown of six of the biggest talking points from an Oscar night no-one will be forgetting any time soon.

It’s hard to imagine anyone will be talking about anything besides the Will Smith-Chris Rock incident. In what is being called “the most insane moment” in Oscars history, Smith took to the stage to punch Rock after the comedian cracked a joke about his wife, actor Jada Pinkett Smith.

He then yelled repeatedly at Rock to “keep my wife’s name out your f***ing mouth”. Viewers at home and those in the audience at the ceremony were left shocked over the altercation, unsure whether it was a planned skit. It was not.

And just like that, the spotlight was back on Will Smith. Before the dust had a chance to settle, the actor was called back on to the stage to accept the Best Actor award for his role in King Richard. He delivered a lengthy and teary-eyed speech, in which he made numerous references to the incident that had occurred only moments earlier.

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In the first apparent reference to the altercation, Smith praised Richard Williams – the father of Venus and Serena Williams, whom he portrayed in the movie – as a “fierce defender of his family”. He went on to speak about “love” and “protect[ing] people”, adding that “in this business, you’ve gotta be able to have people disrespecting you”. Apologies were doled out to the Academy and his fellow nominees, but na-da for Rock himself. What was a momentous moment for Smith – his first ever Academy Award – will likely be remembered for very different reasons.

Cast and crew of ‘Coda’ (AFP via Getty)

After a hotly contested race, it was Coda who took home Best Picture – triumphing over Jane Campion’s The Power of the Dog. The victory rounded out a hugely successful evening for the fan-favourite drama, which scored a hat-trick after the film’s Troy Kotsur won Best Actor in a Supporting Role and Siân Heder took home the prize for Adapted Screenplay.

Kotsur – who became the first deaf male actor to ever win an Academy Award – delivered a particularly emotional speech, paying tribute to his “hero” father. He dedicated the prize to the deaf and disabled community, stating: “This is our moment.” Although far less of an important milestone, Coda’s big win also makes Apple TV the first streamer to nab the coveted Best Picture prize – even beating Netflix to the punch.

Ukraine-born actor Mila Kunis spoke about (AFP via Getty)

A moment of silence for Ukraine

The Russian invasion of Ukraine had been mentioned extensively in the build up to the ceremony, and was acknowledged partway through the evening with a moment of silence. Mila Kunis, who was born in Ukraine, praised the “resilience” of the Ukrainian people, before a statement appeared on screen asking for silence to “show our support for the people of Ukraine currently facing invasion, conflict and prejudice within their own borders”.

Technical difficulties...

Viewers in various territories experienced technical issues throughout the broadcast, including on Sky Oscars in the UK. With the transmission dropping out shortly after Smith’s altercation with Rock, and again at several points across the night, viewers shared their frustration with the technical issues on social media. In the scheme of things, the technical hitches are going to be overshadowed by some of the evening’s other occurrences, but for those watching at home, it all added to the general sense of chaos.

Best live action short film winners for ‘The Long Goodbye’ and Riz Ahmed and Aneil Karia (AFP via Getty)

The non-televised awards

The Academy’s decision not to televise a number of categories this year, including Best Editing, had prompted considerable outrage before the ceremony began. For many viewers, the omissions were just as infuriating as expected, with Riz Ahmed winning his first Oscar, for the short film The Long Goodbye, in a presentation that took place before the ceremony began. In a final twist of fate, the ceremony ended up being longer than last year’s, despite the supposedly time-saving cuts.

Find the full list of 2022 Oscar winners here. Follow live updates and reactions from the ceremony here.

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