The Academy Awards, aka the Oscars, is an annual awards ceremony that honors the greatest achievements in cinema from the past year, voted by just under 10,000 Academy members. Or at least it’s supposed to be about that. We all know that the 2022 Oscars will be remembered for many other reasons.
No, I promise you this isn’t another think piece dissecting the Will Smith/Chris Rock incident that unfolded on the Oscars stage. Instead, let’s discuss the major wins and moments that, in any other year, would’ve been the leading stories.
CODA wins Best Picture
Sian Heder’s CODA, a heartwarming, coming–of–age tale of a teenager who loves to sing but whose entire family is deaf, was “the little film that could'' of this awards season. Premiering at Sundance in January 2021, CODA was bought by Apple for $25 million (a Sundance record), where it got dumped on Apple TV+ with little attention and had a late surge that led to a Best Picture win, a first for a streaming platform. CODA is the first Sundance film to ever win Best Picture, additionally winning Best Supporting Actor and Best Adapted Screenplay. How did CODA pull this off?
Apple is why.
While Apple decided to release CODA on its streaming service in August without insane marketing, it decided to focus on the endgame: awards season. It might sound a little crazy, but Oscar winners are not necessarily only chosen by their merit, but also by how well they campaign for their movies, which includes Q&A sessions, film screenings, and attendance to all awards shows prior to the Oscars. Apple ran an incredible campaign, culminating in a White House visit with President Joe Biden and First Lady Jill Biden. CODA’s lead ensemble of four actors—three of whom depict deaf characters and are themselves Deaf—charmed Academy voters with its nuanced storytelling.
Who would’ve thought two years ago, when Apple TV+ was launched, that it'd be the first streaming platform to win the top prize in Hollywood? Not Netflix.
Over the years, Netflix has invested tens of millions of dollars in Oscar campaigns for films like The Irishman, Roma, and most recently, The Power of the Dog, which all failed to win Best Picture. Netflix will get a Best Picture win eventually, but it's laughable that it's been obsessed with receiving one for years and just got beat by a newcomer, albeit one hailing from one of the world’s biggest companies.
It’s tough to fully understand the effects of a streaming film winning Best Picture right now. But for an industry like Hollywood, which relies heavily on movie theater attendance for success, awarding a film that barely played in theaters demonstrates a changing tide in Hollywood’s approval of streaming.
Best Supporting Actor and Actress shine
In terms of the most endearing speeches of the night, the supporting acting categories were some of the best. Troy Kotsur became the first deaf male actor and second deaf actor ever to win an Oscar. In his speech, he thanked his family and cast for their tireless support for him.
“I really want to thank all of the wonderful Deaf theater stages where I was allowed and given the opportunity to develop my craft as an actor. … This is dedicated to the Deaf community, the CODA community, and the Disabled community. This is our moment!” Kotsur said when accepting his Oscar.
Ariana DeBose won for Best Supporting Actress for her role as Anita in West Side Story and became the first openly queer woman of color and second Latina to win an acting Oscar. Sixty years ago, Rita Moreno, who was in the audience that evening, won the same category playing Anita in the original West Side Story. DeBose, who comes from a dancing and theater background, dedicated her award to her family and the power of art.
“Imagine this little girl in the back seat of a white Ford Focus, look into her eyes: You see a queer, openly queer woman of color, an Afro–Latina who found her strength in life through art. And that's what I believe we're here to celebrate,” DeBose said.
Dune dominates in the technical awards
Dune obliterated its competition in the technical and “below–the–line” categories, winning six of its ten nominations: Original Score, Sound, Visual Effects, Production Design, Film Editing, and Cinematography. The awards are great news for Dune, which is currently in preproduction for Dune: Part II, tentatively releasing in 2023.
Liza Minnelli and Lady Gaga’s touching moment
Together, Liza Minnelli and Lady Gaga presented the final award of the night. It was a rare occasion for show business legend Minnelli, who won Best Actress for Cabaret 50 years ago but took a step back from the spotlight in recent years due to health issues. While presenting the award, Minnelli was thrilled by the loud reception from the crowd but appeared to get a little lost as she stumbled on her lines. Gaga, who has a genuine love for elders in the industry (evinced by her friendship with Tony Bennett), helped Minnelli present and in a hot mic moment, leaned over to Minnelli to say, “I got you,” to which Minnelli responded, “I know.”
So yes, even without Slapgate, there were plenty of memorable and pivotal moments on Hollywood’s biggest night. The historic winners of this year's Oscars have shown us the side of Hollywood that values representation and creating inclusive stories, which is a step in the right direction.