The Academy Awards are Sunday, but did last year’s Oscars ever end?
When Hollywood reconvenes at the Dolby Theater for the 95th Academy Awards, the ceremony will mark many things. The potential triumph of ‘Everything Everywhere All at Once’. A potentially historic night for Asians and Asian Americans in the film industry. Probably a record number of “Cocaine Bear” jokes.
But for many, nothing will register more than returning to The Slap’s site. In a way, we all still live in this moment of frozen time. Chris Rock’s face turned to the side. Will Smith’s hand stretched dramatically. A deathly silence over the Dolby Theater.
A new low for the Oscars but a high point of fascination for audiences, The Slap was instantly etched in the collective memory and its shock reverberated throughout. The Rock, in a live stand-up special on Sunday, just offered his fiery rebuttal, adding a new volley to the still-ongoing debate surrounding the incident.
For the first time, two sequels (“Top Gun: Maverick”, “Avatar: The Way of Water”) are nominated for best picture this year. But this year’s Oscars – like it or not – will also be a sequel, just one without the major stars in attendance. Smith has been banned from the film academy for 10 years. Rock is stuck with stand-up.
Host Jimmy Kimmel — who was on stage at the Dolby in 2017 for The Flub, a now-almost-forgotten moment of Oscar infamy — said he would address The Slap. It would be “ridiculous” not to, he told the Hollywood Reporter.
The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences is also making preparations. After a lackluster response to Smith’s actions that academy president Janet Young called “inadequate,” the Oscars will have its first “crisis team” to deal with surprises. Kimmel, who has hosted twice before, was hired in part to keep a steady hand on the telecast, which will bring all the categories back to the live show. Kimmel is the first solo host for the show since he last hosted five years ago.
“We learned from this that the academy must be fully transparent and accountable in our actions,” Young said at the luncheon last month, “and especially in times of crisis you must act quickly, compassionately and decisively for us and for our industry.” .
Kimmel’s challenge will be to refer to The Slap without allowing other Oscars to be defined by it. Last year, after Smith’s hit and subsequent booing from his seat, the Academy Awards stumbled in a blur to the rest of the airless ceremony, taking the spotlight away from the landmark win for the deaf drama “CODA” and its winner documentary ‘Summer of Soul, Rock’s Award to Questlove. Smith also won his first Oscar for “King Richard.” He did not apologize at the time, but in a statement the next day. Smith soon resigned from his academy.
This year, “Everything Everywhere All At Once” comes in with a whopping 11 nominations. While it’s an unlikely Oscar frontrunner, Daniel Kwan and Daniel Scheinert’s multiverse mash-up is tipped to win best picture after sweeping the top guild awards. The Daniels, as they are known, are favored for Steven Spielberg for Best Director. Former child star Ke Huy Quan is considered a lock for best supporting actor. Michelle Yeoh could become the first Asian best actress winner.
CAN ANYTHING STOP “EVERYWHERE ALONE”?
Independent hit A24 had an enviable run to the Oscars, winning at the Screen Actors Guild, Producers Guild, Directors Guild and Writers Guild. History says that nothing can beat it. However, there are still doubts that the crazy action comedy is not enough Oscar material to win and that World War I film “All Quiet on the Western Front” – which won at the BAFTAs and comes in with nine nominations – could to sneak in for the upset. Netflix’s chillingly anti-war film, from Germany, has particular resonance in Europe where Russia’s war in Ukraine continues to rage. The nominee for the documentary “Navalny,” about imprisoned Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny, is more directly connected to current events in Eastern Europe.
WHAT’S THE LAST IN BEST ACTRESS?
Easily the toughest and most contested category this year is Best Actress. It’s billed as a clash of heavyweight contenders in first-time nominee Yeoh and two-time winner Cate Blanchett, for “Tár.” Both could go home with the trophy. But much of the drama came at the nominations, where Andrea Riseborough scored a nod for the little-seen drama ‘To Leslie’ after a host of celebrities led an A-list grassroots campaign for the British actress. At the same time, two established black actresses — Danielle Deadwyler (“Till”) and Viola Davis (“The Woman King”) — were left out, sparking a debate about the influence of connections, money and race on awards campaigns . As the whole affair seemed to be fading away, Yeoh on Tuesday, with hours still to go before Oscar voting, posted screenshots on Instagram of a Vogue article claiming Yeoh would beat Blanchett. Academy rules prohibit “any tactic that distinguishes the ‘competition’ by name or titles.” Yeoh deleted the post. Throughout the match, however, she and Blanchett warmly celebrated each other.
WHERE ARE THE STREAMERS?
Last year’s best picture winner, “CODA,” marked the first time a streamer won Hollywood’s top prize Many of the pandemic-era contenders were quickly, if not immediately, released home. This year, it’s a very different story. Only one of the 10 Best Picture nominations came from a streaming service: Netflix’s “All Quiet on the Western Front.” This film will receive several awards on Sunday, including best international film and picture. Netflix’s “Guillermo del Toro’s Pinocchio” is also heavily favored to win Best Animated Feature. But after years of progress at the Oscars, Netflix and company may be experiencing a setback in the top categories. This happens to coincide with declining streaming across the industry after years of tremendous growth.
WILL BLOCKBUSTERS BOOST RATINGS?
It’s been years since the best picture nominees have been this box office rich. “Top Gun: Maverick” brought in nearly $1.5 billion worldwide. (Spielberg was heard telling Tom Cruise that he “saved Hollywood” at the Oscars luncheon.) “Avatar: The Way of Water” is the third-highest-grossing film of all time with nearly $2.3 billion in ticket sales. “Black Panther: Wakanda Forever” ($858.8 million) could earn Angela Bassett her first acting Oscar for a Marvel movie, although the supporting actress category remains one of the toughest. But historically, ratings have often risen with the popularity of candidates. Last year’s ceremony, perhaps boosted by those rushing to watch the aftermath of The Slap, drew 16.6 million viewers. That was up 58% from the pandemic-ravaged 2021 edition (watched an all-time low of 10.5 million), but still a far cry from the ratings of several years ago. Last year’s telecast was billed as a return to normalcy for the Oscars — at least before, well, you know what. This year will go a long way in determining what the new normal is for televising the Academy Awards.
WHAT IS UP/DOWN ON THE SLAPS?
As Kimmel has noted, you can bet on anything at the Academy Awards, including whether someone will slap the host.
“If you bet $100 on yes — you win $1,200,” Kimmel said earlier this winter on his late-night show. “Which I have to say, looks like they’re encouraging someone with a gambling problem to slap me. Right?”
Follow AP film writer Jake Coyle on Twitter at: http://twitter.com/jakecoyleAP
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