Emma Clifton and Kelly Bertrand accidentally watched this year’s Academy Awards and they have some THOUGHTS – namely, it’s high time for the archaic awards show to go, even without the now infamous Will Smith Chris Rock Oscar clusterf***.
Surely when a Kardashian walks down the hallowed red carpet of the Oscars, the jig is up.
And that was before we got to the punches, the verbal slinging matches and what ended up being the saddest part of the night, a legend of the silver screen reduced to a confused old woman who didn’t even realise where she was.
Hot mess doesn’t even begin to cover this year’s Academy Awards. It was sad, it was violent, it was boring, it was too political, it was not political enough.
Back in Mag Land, Oscars day was one of great excitement. We would gather around the communal television for a) the dresses, b) the opening jokes and c) the big categories. If there was a Kiwi nominated? Forget it, there would be all eyes glued to the TV screen – except for the poor journo having to actually write the story and saying ‘Can you all be quiet!?’ every 10 seconds.
Today, Capsule watched the Oscars in the background during our office day. We had already spent a few hours bemoaning the lack of glamour and recognisable movie stars (this is otherwise known as ‘getting older’). “The only proper movie star they’ve got there is Will Smith, thank god for Will Smith!”
We watched as the Academy Awards did a ham-fisted job of referencing the war in Ukraine, pointing out again that Hollywood only knows how to handle a war when it’s scripting it. (Those of you post-35 like me might remember the 2003 Oscars when, after the US invaded Iraq, the Oscars responded by telling all the women they should wear black. You’ll be surprised to know that war actually continued despite that show of community, disappointingly).
The balance of celebrity and politics is a hard one; from their lofty heights as they LITERALLY HOLD UP 10 POUNDS OF GOLD STATUE, it’s pretty hard to relate to the struggles of the common man so please give us a break and don’t force us to listen while you ramble on about how evil Republicans are for five minutes, while thanking your billion-dollar movie companies.
We watched as the Academy looped in as much Kardashian, Marvel and ‘Yes, Young People, We See You’ content as it could. An Amy Schumer as Spiderman joke. Sure, I guess. We got sad about a lack of Clooney and Amal but then happy at the range of great red-dresses-with-feature-boobs. I sang the praises (literally) of Encanto, because who hasn’t turned to children’s movies in this time of need (I don’t actually have a child, but that’s never stopped anyone with a Disney subscription).
And then it was during one of our ‘chatting while the Oscars created background noise’ that we realised Something Was Happening. I don’t know what it says about us, society, the Oscars or what life is like now, but when we caught Will Smith yelling ‘Keep my wife’s name out of your f–king mouth,’ live on camera, it was hard to know if it was real or a joke gone bad, because we had just watched so many jokes gone bad in the previous hour. But no, this was serious – and as we rewound the live broadcast to see what had happened, we had the fear of knowing you’re about to see something extremely awkward play out in real time.
But it was less awkward and more, well, shocking. Chris Rock told a bad joke about Jada Pinkett-Smith, a fellow actor who is married to Will Smith, based on the fact that she has a bald head. It turns out Jada has alopecia, a condition that causes hair loss. It was a thoughtless joke, sure. I mean, it’s Chris Rock. And then Will Smith took to the stage, open-hand slapped Chris Rock in front of the entire world (slash a few million people, as the Oscars rating are terrible, although… probably not after today). And then everything inside that room just continued on, business as normal, while a good percentage of the internet and its group chats plunged into ‘WHAT JUST HAPPENED?’
And all we could think was ‘Wow, we really let men get away with a lot, huh’. Because an hour later, Will Smith won the biggest award of the night and he got a standing ovation from the room full of people who had just watched him slap someone and he did it while weeping about being a family man. It’s so interesting that ‘family man’ is an almost universal defence for men in a way that it isn’t for women, isn’t it? Imagine any prominent woman being able to throw a violent tantrum, still get an award, cry about throwing the tantrum and then credit it to the love they have for their family.
And then there was a final degradation, when in what was clearly supposed to be the highlight of the night, Lady Gaga emerged from the wings, accompanying Liza Minnelli in a wheelchair, to present the final award for Best Picture.
It might have been a final swansong; a living farewell to a legend of the silver screen. But when Lady Gaga threw to Liza for her line, the latter looked up to Gaga and muttered, “I don’t understand…”
“I got you,” the younger murmured back before taking over, displaying a true masterclass of compassion, kindness and understanding while Liza looked around the auditorium, completely bewildered.
To see a star of such magnitude in such a bad way broke our hearts, and it made absolutely no sense as to why organisers would wheel out such an unwell woman for a few nostalgia points.
The moment sent Twitter into yet another frenzy as people called the incident ‘elder abuse’ and ‘disrespectful’ while praising Gaga’s poise. Perhaps the only winner on the day was the disgraced Golden Globes, who were basically cancelled this year due to the systemic racism of its voting body and instead was basically a slightly fancier Zoom meeting. Watching this year’s Oscars lurch from people-pleasing to all-out-chaos, their production team surely realised there are worse things than being cancelled. Maybe that’s the way all these awards shows should now go, because watching this protracted disaster on screen today, all we could think was: this could have been an email.