Yikes! With the box office on life support, and streaming sucking the life from cinema, the Oscars had one job this year; show audiences what’s good about films. Unfortunately, what they got was the opposite; a display of toxic masculinity from actor Will Smith that shows the worst of Hollywood’s excess.
I’d noted elsewhere my discomfort about watching Smith’s film King Richard, which seemed to have a tight grip of racial issues, but a complete lack of vision when it comes to women and so it proved when it got to the ‘victory’ speeches, with Smith somehow forgetting one of life’s basic tenets ’don’t act violently to other people, and certainly don’t act violently when you have the eyes of millions on you’. Smith should hand back his award in disgrace; these things were designed to reward career excellence, and Smith doesn’t fit that description at all. His lame justification, defending his wife from a cheap joke by comic Chris Rock, is like something from the dark ages; if you think that women want or need men to act violently to defend them against purile jokes, you’re living in the wrong Willennium.
Elsewhere, in the world of Oscars, most of the category calls were solid; Jessica Chastain was a worthy winner for The Eyes of Tammy Faye, also a fine choice for hair and make–up, Kenneth Branagh’s dark horse Belfast deserved a screenplay win, and Dune vacuuming up all the technical awards was pleasing for a ground-breaking work of commercial art. Ariana De Bose was also good value for West Side Story, and what should have been the big story was the excellent Coda surging past the presumed front-runner The Power of the Dog, which won for Jane Campion; the Academy’s voting system seems to have been effective in creating consensus.
But it’s a muted end to an awards season that’s completely failing to serve audiences, creatives and product; as an advert for the best in cinema, the 2022 Oscars ended up rewarding the worst in the form of Smith, exposed as a bully by his own behaviour, rather than the role model we were promised. There’s no applause for all this; just silence, frustration and anger at the crudest Hollywood hypocrisy on show while the film-making Rome burns to a crisp.