94th Academy Awards: Beyond the Slap


Dominique Pecovic, Staff

The 94th Oscars were dominated by Will Smith and Chris Rock, easily the most memorable moment since the La La Land/Moonlight mix up of the 89th ceremony. However, there was so much more than that. The show was hosted by Amy Schumer, Wanda Sykes, and Regina Hall at the Dolby Theatre in LA, which was met with mixed reactions. Some praise the fact that there were three women hosts, while others took the opportunity to make fun of the specific choice of said hosts. Nonetheless, viewership was up from the year before. 

While only one topic dominated conversation following the show, there were so many historic wins that cannot be overlooked. Ariana DeBose won Best Supporting Actress for her role of Anita in West Side Story (2021), making her the first openly queer woman of color and first Afro-Latina to win the award. She and Rita Moreno also became the third pair to each win an academy award for the same role, joining Heath Ledger and Joaquin Phoenix as the Joker, and Marlon Brando and Robert De Niro as Vito Corleone. Troy Kotsur won best supporting actor for his role in CODA, the first deaf actor to win the award, and the second deaf actor to take home any academy award. Best Director went to Jane Campion, putting her in a very small and prestigious club among the only other two women to win the award. Such a historic night of firsts deserves recognition, but instead is overshadowed by an event that conspired from a tasteless joke. 

Scandals that don’t involve Will Smith were also plentiful. Eight categories, including Film Editing and Makeup and Hairstyling, were pre-taped and presented before the audience even arrived. This was an effort to shorten the ceremony, but these changes were negatively received. It was widely agreed that it was unfair to the crew, the most overlooked part of filmmaking. Another controversy surrounding the ceremony involved Rachel Zegler. Zegler, the lead of West Side Story (a best picture nominee) revealed that she was not invited to the Oscars. She replied to an Instagram comment saying “I have tried it all but it doesn’t seem to be happening … I will root for West Side Story from my couch and be proud of the work we so tirelessly did 3 years ago. I hope some last-minute miracle occurs and I can celebrate with our film in person.” Like everything else that occurs on the internet, discourse ensued. Her efforts were not in vain, though, because she was invited to be a presenter within days. 

Before ripping into the three hosts, it’s important to acknowledge that being a host is difficult, no doubt. Not all jokes will always land, which is to be expected. Some of the jokes, though, were seemingly not thought through at all and fell painfully flat. Kirsten Dunst being called a seat filler has garnered (likely) the most criticism, because of her history of not being respected in Hollywood. Another was Amy Schumer calling Jake and Maggie Gyllenhaal lovers, which was simply weird. The two are not a couple, but rather siblings. The camera panned over to the Gyllenhaals, who were sitting several rows apart and revealed Jake’s looks of uncomfortable (forced) laughter. However, the worst of all had to have been Regina Hall calling a list of men on stage and patting them down. This list included Bradley Cooper, Timothee Chalamet, Simu Liu, and Tyler Perry. It was so unfunny and made every single person watching feel awkward. It was not only a bad joke, but dragged on for far too long. 

Between the obviously scandalous moments, the “snubbed” losers, and the comments made post-show, there was no shortage of Oscar content for the internet to discuss. The 94th Academy Awards was one of the most disastrous to date. The controversy started weeks before the ceremony with the announcement of the pre-taped categories, and stretched long past the end of the broadcast.