I will be writing a longer piece tomorrow about the Oscars but I wanted to tap out a few words about what it was like to be sitting in the theater when something off-script like this happens. The Oscars felt a little “off” the whole night. It was hard to explain what it was exactly. Maybe it’s the two years of lockdown. Maybe it’s the invasion of Ukraine. Maybe it’s that the country has so completely changed in the past few years. Maybe because the Oscars are changing, or the film industry is changing. Either way, something felt kind of “off” even before Will Smith smacked Chris Rock across the face for presumably insulting his wife Jada. The odd thing is that Smith can be seen laughing before it cuts back to Rock. So what made him suddenly decide, on live television, to walk up to the stage and hit one of the presenters?
It was so bizarre, people thought it had to be fake. But it was immediately clear from Rock’s expression and from Smith saying “Keep my wife’s name out of your fucking mouth” on LIVE TELEVISION that we’d just witnessed something very real.
The entire Dolby Theater went completely quiet. No one knew what to do next, and no one knew what was going to happen next. They had to continue the show, obviously, and they did. But that’s isn’t something you can easily shake. It just added to the surreal nature of the show to begin with. It was unsettling and uncomfortable. I don’t know if anyone was able to shake it off. I certainly wasn’t.
The only thing that matched it was Will Smith’s acceptance speech, which was highly emotional, raw, and unpredictable. We did not know if we were watching someone completely break down on camera, but the show had to go on. He had to accept his Oscar and that was that. Probably the strangest thing about all of it was that part of it — that it’s a live show, so it must go on.
The crowd continued to cheer as the other awards were read, including the final award of the night. But this is the only thing people will remember from the 94th Oscars.
Anyway, here is the full video. I will give a full report of the Oscars tomorrow. The good, the bad, and the ugly.