The 2022 Academy Awards kicked off with a rousing performance by nominee Beyonce, who was nominated for her song “Be Alive” for King Richard. After announcing that it would not be showing eight categories live, the award show was met with criticism from the media and awards fans. In its attempt to gain more viewers, it seemed to have forgotten about its core audience.
Amy Schumer, Regina Hall, and Wanda Sykes however lived up to the demand and delivered a fantastic monologue to welcome the audience. The ladies took turns guiding the show on their own, giving each of them a chance to shine throughout the night.
The first winner of the night was Ariana DeBose for Best Supporting Actress for her iconic performance in Steven Spielberg’s “West Side Story.” In her heartfelt acceptance speech, she noted “To anybody who has ever questioned your identity, or you find yourself living in the gray spaces. I promise you that there is indeed a place for us.” DeBose made history by becoming the first openly queer, afro-latina woman to win an Oscar. Troy Kotsur won best supporting actor for his moving performance in Coda, making him the first deaf male actor to do so.
Earlier in the night Ben Proudfoot won for best documentary short for “The Queen of Basketball.”
A film that highlighted Luisa “Lucy” Harris Stewart, a pioneer in women’s basketball and the first woman to be drafted in the NBA. He took time in his acceptance to say, “Bring Brittany Griner home,” highlighting the WNBA star that is currently being held in Russia.
Will Packer and Shayla Cowan, who led an all-Black producing team, hoped to add some excitement to the show, but an altercation between Will Smith and Chris Rock was not what they had in mind. The comedian, who was on hand to present the award for best documentary, decided to make a joke about Smith’s wife, Jada Pinkett-Smith, referring to her shaved head as “GI Jane.” Pinkett-Smith has been open about her hair issues and was not entertained. She suffers from alopecia. Will Smith did not find the situation amusing either and marched on stage, slapping Rock, and yelling expletives once he reached his seat.
Rock did his best to brush off the moment but clearly was shaken and the mood of the awards show took a turn.
Unfortunately, it happened right before Questlove’s moment, who won Best Documentary. In a speech that included a tribute to his late father, Lee Andrews, and his mother, Jacqui Andrews, who was in the audience to witness her son’s victory. The musician was visibly moved and overwhelmed by the win.
When asked what message does he want to send to the youth of West Philadelphia? He stated, “We weren’t taught to dream, we were taught to survive so I want them to dream cause it’s important to dream.”
Will Smith was the other big Philadelphia winner of the night finally winning that elusive best actor statue. Visibly emotional, he wanted to take the time in his speech to talk about the importance of protecting Black women but also took the time to apologize for his outburst. “I want to apologize to the Academy; I want to apologize to all my fellow nominees. This is a beautiful moment and I’m not crying for winning an award, it’s not about winning an award for me. Art imitates life, I look like the crazy father.”
He added “I know to be able to do what I do what we do you gotta be able to have people talk crazy about you. In this business, you gotta have people disrespecting you and you gotta pretend that that’s okay. Denzel Washington said to me a few minutes ago ‘At your highest moment, be careful, that’s when the devil comes for you.’”
He continued by thanking the Williams family and his family here in Philadelphia. Smith becomes only the 5th Black actor and the first in 16 years since Forest Whitaker won for “The Last King of Scotland” in 2006.( Smith declined to take questions in the press room)
This Academy Awards may have had some unexpected excitement, but one of the highlights was that men who grew up only a few miles apart in West Philadelphia won Oscars.