Everything was going so well.
The energy was way up, compared to the snooze-fest of 2021.
The choice to feature three hilarious actresses/comedians – Regina Hall, Amy Schumer and Wanda Sykes – seemed to be inspired, particularly Schumer, who did some of her usual stand-up schtick early, and then added levity later to an almost unbelievably uncomfortable situation. (More on that in a bit.)
Things were moving at a thrilling pace – an elegant horse trot. And even the controversial decision to present some of the awards off camera and before the ceremony – while rightfully upsetting to the hard-working folks in those categories – really helped prevent any lagging and dull moments.
Film Producer Will Packer (“Girls Trip”, “Think Like a Man”) put together something that hasn’t been seen with the Academy Awards telecast in years –real life and entertainment.
And then suddenly it got far too real! (Again, more on what derailed this train a little further down.)
But first, to the predictions. Each year I do a “what should win/ my personal favorite” pick, and I do a “what will win”, based on what I think the Academy voters are thinking. Sometimes they end up being the same.
Of course, I’m correct if my “what will win” predictions win. But I also count as a correct prediction a win for a “what should win/ my personal favorite”.
And based on that premise – however faulty you may deem it – I got only one prediction totally wrong.
For Cinematography, I predicted Dan Laustsen of “Nightmare Alley” would win.
But it was a “Dune” night. The film won the most awards of any movie. That’s six out of its 10 nominations (the second most nominations overall), and mostly in the technical categories, including sound, editing and visual effects.
If you recall, I also declined to handicap the screenplay categories. But I did predict correctly – at least in one case – that whichever movies win, these would be their only awards for the night.
That was certainly right for “Belfast”. Of their seven nominations, the only win came for Kenneth Branagh (who was also nominated for Best Director) with Best Original Screenplay for his semi-autobiographical tale.
I was slightly off – way off – for Best Adapted Screenplay. Sian Heder had a big night. Not only did she win for writing “CODA”, but the film – which she directed – won in all three categories for which it was nominated.
That includes the big award of the night, Best Picture, which rightfully returned to the final award of the night, after last year’s disastrous attempt to switch things up and have it come up second to last.
“CODA” was indeed “my personal favorite and what should win” pick. Although I did say “what will win (maybe)” would be “The Power of the Dog”.
But you can tell from all of that “maybe” stuff that my heart was with “CODA”, which I said was “perhaps the best film of 2021, and arguably the most likable of all these nominees”. So, folks, I count that as an accurate prediction!
That now makes it six years in a row I have correctly predicted the Best Picture winner, even when others questioned my sanity for picks like “Moonlight”, “The Shape of Water”, “Green Book”, and “Parasite” – although last year’s pick of “Nomadland” was a no-brainer.
It was also a no-brainer that Troy Kotsur would win Best Supporting Actor for stealing “CODA”.
And that Jessica Chastain would win Best Actress for saving “The Eyes of Tammy Faye”.
And that Ariana DeBose would win Best Supporting Actress for shining in the remake of “West Side Story” – although my personal favorite was Aunjanue Ellis, whom I felt was allowed to shine just a little brighter in “King Richard”.
And then there was Will Smith, who every creature on the planet knew would win Best Actor for “King Richard”.
It was a foregone conclusion. Between the brilliance of the performance, and the fact that he’s been nominated so many times, and that he’d already won every single award in the world for this role, there was absolutely no doubt.
But not a soul in the universe could have predicted that such an admired entertainer, a star of many comedic productions and known for a decent sense of humor, could become so unnerved by a lame (barely) joke, that he’d jump from his seat in the audience (after at first laughing) , and run on the stage in his tuxedo and slap comedian Chris Rock for what he said. On LIVE television! In front of a global audience!
And then unleash a tirade of expletives, leaving everyone in the theater and at home wondering if they’d fallen asleep and were having a most bizarre dream.
It was incredibly unbelievable and disappointing. And in the future, only the biggest Oscar historians and trivia lovers will remember the 94th edition of the Academy Awards for anything other than the slap heard around the world.
Not even those nominees for Original Screenplay could have come up with something so outrageous.
• Dwight Strachan is the host/producer of “Morning Blend” on Guardian Radio and station manager. He is a television producer and writer, and an avid TV history and film buff. Email email@example.com and follow him on twitter@morningblend969.