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    The Slap Heard Round the World

    By Jan Wahl–

    It should’ve been a wonderful night. And in many ways, it was. The Oscars this year was full of fine ideas, a love of all thing cinematic, and fun entertainment. The three women hosts, Any Schumer, Wanda Sykes, and Regina Hall, were in sync, with Amy beginning with, “They got three women for the price of one man.” Wanda chimed in, “Hey Florida, tonight we’re having a gay night,” with the other two women and the audience cheering. 

    Jessica Chastain won her best Actress Oscar as Tammy Faye and said: “We’re facing bigoted and discriminatory legislation, with the goal of further dividing us.” Supporting Actress winner Ariana DeBose (West Side Story) reminded us in my favorite acceptance speech, “I am the first openly queer Afro Latina to win this award.” Suck on it, Florida.

    My favorite movie in years is CODA. The world is now going to finally see this movie that has changed so much for deaf people and their families. By declaring it Best Picture, voters really went with their hearts. It’s a small picture big on humor, heart, and the importance of having each other’s backs. CODA stands for Children of Deaf Adults, and this movie is changing legislature and awareness everywhere. There were waving hands all over the auditorium and in Oscar viewing parties everywhere, the deaf applause.

    It was terrific to have production numbers back, with Beyoncé and her group from Compton singing and dancing leading the way. Stunning colors were evident everywhere on the Red Carpet, with hands waving for DeBose’s red, Chastain’s pink gold, Zendaya’s Valentino, Kristen Stewart’s custom Chanel, and Timothée Chalemet’s Vuitton with no shirt. As usual with the divine Lady Gaga, she supported her co-star Liza in presenting Best Picture. “I got you,” said Gaga to the obviously weak Liza. “I know,” said our Liza. 

    The “In Memoriam” segment was a celebration of life and of the careers of those we now miss. I was very moved with the way they used gospel and rock numbers.             

    “Okay, Jan,” I hear you saying. “You are burying the lead.” No, I am attempting to appreciate terrific moments that came beforehand. It was a good Oscar show … and then time stopped. It will now be known as the Oscars that talked love and showed violence. Comedian Chris Rock came out to present Best Documentary feature. He made some jokes, including a completely tasteless one about Jada Pinkett Smith’s hair, a condition she has publicly explained is due to alopecia. In a sudden outburst of anger, Will Smith marched onto the stage and slapped Rock in the face. Then Smith went back to his seat and yelled, “Keep my wife’s name out of your f—in’ mouth.” 

    When Smith won the Oscar a few minutes later for Best Actor, he was nakedly emotional and eventually in tears. The most important part for me was when he quoted Denzel Washington telling him, “At your highest moment, be careful. That’s when the devil comes for you.”

    Smith apologized to everyone but Rock, claiming he was protecting his family as his character does in King Richard. As much as I dislike Rock for his disgusting joke, Smith could’ve simply taken the microphone from him and made a statement, or dealt with him after the show. Big mistake, Will Smith, and a bad career move. Smith resigned from the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences days later. Academy president David Rubin responded, in part: “We will continue to move forward with our disciplinary proceedings against Mr. Smith for violations of the Academy’s Standards of Conduct, in advance of our next scheduled board meeting on April 18.”

    This unfortunate incident has now clouded everything in what could have been that rarity: a fabulous Oscar night. Fortunately, the great expressions and wins for women, LBGTQ, people of color, and people who love movies will remain with many of us.

    Jan Wahl is a Hollywood historian, film critic on various broadcast outlets, and has her own YouTube channel series, “Jan Wahl Showbiz.” She has two Emmys and many awards for her longtime work on behalf of film buffs and the LGBTQ community. Contact her at

    Published on April 7, 2022