A lengthy yet compelling awards season finally came to an end on Sunday, March 27th, with the culminating event, the 94th Academy Awards. After the global pandemic necessitated a scaled-down version of the Oscars ceremony in 2021, this year’s edition was to signify a return to normalcy, being set at the iconic Dolby Theatre and featuring a much more lavish show than the previous year. Over forty feature films were represented at this year’s Oscars, and the night was filled with many profound moments that should be honored and immortalized in film culture.
While the Academy recognized outstanding artistic achievements among its nominees and winners, the 94th Oscars were unfortunately derailed by “the slap heard around the world,” which quickly seized the undivided attention of mainstream audiences and media outlets worldwide. Regardless of the polarizing opinions regarding the altercation, the moment unfairly took significant attention away from the winning artists and films of the evening. The Academy Awards broadly introduces everyday viewers to cinema from around the globe, serving as a mainstream platform for many movies. Unfortunately, this function was greatly impeded by the drama that took place on Sunday evening. There are plenty of takeaways from the event beyond the headline-grabbing slap.
Beyoncé’s Opening Performance
Beyoncé kicked off the ceremony on a fantastic note when the Academy Awards chose to use her pre-recorded performance to open the show. Singing her Oscar-nominated “Be Alive” from King Richard, Queen B paid homage to the Serena and Venus Williams biopic through the performance’s production design.
A tennis court backdrop and coordinating green looks with her backup dancers (including her daughter Blue Ivy) accentuated Beyoncé’s powerhouse performance that will undoubtedly go down in Oscar’s history as one of the most memorable openings to the show’s ceremony.
Ariana DeBose Won Best Actress In A Supporting Role
Starting off the show with a tremendous achievement was Ariana DeBose in the Supporting Actress category for her role as Anita in West Side Story. DeBose became the first Afro-Latinx winner in the Academy Awards history in just her first Oscar-nominated role.
For portraying Anita, DeBose swept the awards season, winning nearly every major Supporting Actress prize on her way to the big Oscar win. One of the few openly queer nominees of 2022, DeBose’s triumph served as a significant win in terms of diverse representation at the ceremony. This criticism has plagued the Academy Awards many times in years past.
Troy Kotsur Became The First Deaf Actor To Win An Oscar
Troy Kotsur was another history-maker on the night of the Oscars, becoming the first deaf actor and just the second deaf performer to win an Academy Award for his role in CODA. Kotsur captured the hearts of Academy voters with this gentle performance as the patriarch of the Rossi’s, a mostly-deaf family with a struggling fishing business in New England.
At the ceremony, Kotsur was presented his Supporting Actor Oscar by the vivacious Youn Yuh-jung, who won Supporting Actress last year for her role in Minari. In a sweet and supportive exchange, Yuh-jung stood beside Kotsur during his acceptance speech and held his Oscar so that he was free to use sign language. Kotsur’s speech honored the cast and crew of CODA and his father: the address became one of the most heartwarming and sentimental of the ceremony.
‘Dune’ Won 6 Oscars, The Most Of The Evening
Denis Villeneuve’s Dune solidified its status as an immaculately made sci-fi film at the 94th Academy Awards by taking home six Oscars across the craft categories. Dune, winning the most awards of the evening, scored victories for Original Score, Cinematography, Editing, Production Design, Sound, and Visual Effects.
Proving to portray the world-building ingrained in Dune’s DNA successfully, the team behind the film was made up of industry heavy-hitters, including Hans Zimmer and Greig Fraser, who were all tremendously rewarded for their beautiful achievements in the movie. If the future installments of Dune are as successful as the first, they will likely reenter the Oscar conversation once more in the coming years.
‘Summer of Soul’ won Best Documentary Feature
Celebrated musician and DJ Ahmir “Questlove” Thompson proved his aptitude for filmmaking on the night of the Oscars when his directorial debut Summer of Soul (…Or, When the Revolution Could Not Be Televised) took home the award for Best Documentary Feature. Questlove became overwhelmingly emotional during his winning speech, recognizing the cultural influence that his documentary captured through its use of archival footage and his film’s relevance to contemporary times.
A documentary that focuses on the short-lived 1969 Harlem Cultural Festival, Summer of Soul celebrates a time of radical change in African American culture. Even though Summer of Soul’s big moment was tarnished by the dramatics that took place right before its win was announced, it does not take away from the tremendous accomplishment of Questlove and this documentary.
‘Drive My Car’ Became The Second Japanese Film To Win Best International Feature
At the 94th Academy Awards, Ryusuke Hamaguchi’s critically acclaimed Drive My Car won the Best International Film award, becoming just the second Japanese recipient. A highly astute yet emotional work, Drive My Car also made history with its Best Picture nomination, the first granted to a Japanese film.
The Best International Film category is always highly competitive, showcasing some of the greatest films worldwide, emphasizing Hamaguchi’s accomplishment of taking home the Oscar with just his first nominated work. Following in the footsteps of great movies of recent years, including Roma and Parasite, Drive My Car received four Oscar nominations this year, emphasizing the Academy’s shift towards more inclusion of international cinema.
Jessica Chastain Won Her First Oscar
After receiving three Academy Award nominations throughout her career, 2022 was finally the year celebrated American actress Jessica Chastain took home her first Oscar. For her starring role in The Eyes of Tammy Faye, playing the titular character, Chastain was awarded the prize for Best Actress in a Leading Role.
Chastain’s performance channeled the nuanced characteristics of Tammy Faye Bakker with incredible emotional intellect. In addition, Chastain’s moving acceptance speech spoke to the difficult times of our contemporary world and the love and acceptance we should be treating one another with each day.
Jane Campion Became The Third Female Filmmaker To Win Best Director
On Oscars night, Kiwi director Jane Campion took home the coveted Best Director win for her exquisite work on The Power of the Dog. Last nominated in 1994, Campion made Oscars history by becoming the second female filmmaker nominated for Best Director twice and just the third woman to win the award after Kathryn Bigelow in 2009 and Chloe Zhao in 2021.
In Campion’s acceptance speech for her big win, she graciously thanked her cast and crew, who came together to contribute to The Power of the Dog’s remarkable achievements. Well-known as one of the world’s leading filmmakers, Jane Campion is likely to reenter the race for Best Director at future Academy Awards.
Indie Underdog ‘CODA’ Took Home Best Picture
During the final moments of the 94th Academy Awards, living legends Lady Gaga and Liza Minnelli made their way to the stage to announce the most anticipated award of the ceremony — Best Picture. Gaga wonderfully helped Minnelli make her way through the announcement with tremendous respect and care. When Minnelli announced the Best Picture winner, CODA, audiences throughout the Dolby Theatre rapturously celebrated the film’s enormous triumph.
Something of a dark horse for the awards season, CODA is an indie film with a modest budget that was able to build steam and seize audiences emotionally just months before its colossal victory. CODA makes Academy Awards history for many reasons; the first Sundance Film Festival premiere to win Best Picture, the first winner with a prominently deaf cast, and the third Best Picture winner made by a female filmmaker (Sian Heder). In addition, CODA came to its Best Picture win in one of the most unconventional manners on record; the film’s Sundance debut was virtual, as the pandemic impacted the festival for its 2021 edition, and CODA‘s distributor AppleTV+ never gave the film a traditional theatrical release. While CODA may not have been in the spotlight like many other Best Picture nominees this year, the touching film won audiences over with its moving family narrative and captured the hearts of enough Oscar voters to take home the most influential prize of the evening.
KEEP READING: Best Oscar Speeches Of 2022