Oscars 2022: Will Smith’s slap of Chris Rock disrupts a mostly upbeat night

In a night of big wins for ‘CODA’ and Jessica Chastain, the ‘King Richard’ star dampens spirits by storming stage and striking the comedian.

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Will Smith slaps Chris Rock on stage during the Oscars on Sunday.

Robyn Beck/AFP via Getty Images

We were sailing along with one of the most uplifting, groundbreaking, amazing Oscars ever when all of a sudden, an ugly and polarizing and insane incident broke out.

Chris Rock made a joke about Will Smith’s wife Jada, and Smith took umbrage to the comment, stormed the stage and slapped Rock in the face, and then returned to his seat, exclaiming, “Keep my wife’s name out of your f---ing mouth!” and nobody knew exactly how to react.

It was one of the darkest moments in Academy Awards history—and it put a huge damper on what had been a largely celebratory evening.

Shortly thereafter, Smith won best actor for playing the father of Venus and Serena Williams in “King Richard” and apologized to the academy and his fellow nominees in his heartfelt and moving speech.

“Art imitates life,” he said. “I look like the crazy father, just like the crazy father, just like they said about Richard Williams, “Love will make you do crazy things.’ ”

Things returned to relative normality when Jessica Chastain won best actress for “The Eyes of Tammy Faye.” And then, in another huge moment of surprise, “CODA” took home the ultimate prize.

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Jessica Chastain of “The Eyes of Tammy Faye” accepts the best actress Oscar on Sunday.

Chris Pizzello/AP

The 94th Academy Awards had kicked off with a knockout punch of another kind.

The Williams sisters introduced Beyonce, who was in Compton with a full choir and backing orchestra—everyone bathed in tennis ball lime-green—and proceeded to belt out a killer rendition of the best song nominee “Be Alive” from “King Richard,” and it was nothing short of spectacular.

Felt like somebody’s been watching the Grammys.

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Beyonce performs “Be Alive,” from “King Richard,” on the Oscars on Sunday.

Robyn Beck/AFP via Getty Images

After a DJ Khaled cameo that felt a bit forced, tri-hosts Wanda Sykes, Regina Hall and Amy Schumer took the stage, noting that bringing three female hosts onboard was still “cheaper than hiring one man,” as Schumer put it. Their brief monologue took jabs at the Golden Globes, LeBron James’ hairline, the wobbly accents in “House of Gucci,” the slow pace of “The Power of the Dog” and the effort in Florida to stop people from saying “gay,” among other easy targets. It was funny, albeit relatively safe stuff.

The first big award of the night was supporting actress, with the favorite Ariana DeBose winning for “West Side Story” some 60 years after Rita Moreno won Oscar for playing the same part of Anita. How can you not love that! DeBose gave a beautiful, heartfelt speech, telling those who might feel disenfranchised: “You see an openly queer woman of color, an Afro-Latina, who found her strength and life through art. And that is, I think, what we’re here to celebrate. So if anyone has ever questioned your identity, I promise you this — there is indeed a place for us.”

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Ariana DeBose accepts the award for best supporting actress in a Supporting Role for her performance in “West Side Story.”

Robyn Beck/AFP via Getty Images

Just when we thought it would be impossible to equal the emotion of that moment, Youn Yuh-Jung presented the best supporting actor award and signed the name of winner Troy Kotsur, the second deaf actor to win Oscar (after his “CODA” co-star Marlee Matlin’s win for best actress some 35 years ago), and Kotsur gave a rousing, funny, inspirational speech, saying, “This is dedicated to the deaf community, the CODA community and the disabled community. This is our moment.” If your heart didn’t sing at that moment, check your heart for a beat.

Even before the awards started, it was a big night for “Dune.” Well, the Oscars had started—they just weren’t on TV yet.

With the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences relegating eight of the less glamorous categories to pre-recorded status and making the announcements on Twitter with all the fanfare of someone saying, “I had a yummy Cobb Salad for lunch,” Denis Villeneuve’s critically acclaimed and commercially popular sci-fi epic took home Oscars for best sound, best editing, best production design and best score, while “The Eyes of Tammy Faye” won for best makeup and hair, with “The Windshield Wiper” (best animated short), “Queen of Basketball” (documentary short), “The Long Goodbye” (live action short) rounding out the “pre-game” lineup of winners. (Later, with wins for cinematography and original score, “Dune” upped its total to six Oscars for the night.)

This year also marked the return of the full-fledged red-carpet parade, with great-looking people sporting spangly outfits, and gushing interviewers asking the time-honored questions about how it feels to be nominated and what was it like to take this journey and who designed your outfit—all of it silly and all it completely harmless escapist entertainment. (Making the arguably the biggest fashion splash of all was Timothée Chalamet, who neglected to wear a shirt and looked like he was auditioning for “Magic Mike XXS.”)

As for those super early winners: Good on you, and now that you’ve got those iconic statues in your possession, my guess is you don’t give a flying red carpet that the announcement wasn’t made on live old-fashioned TV. The gold-plated statue itself may tarnish with the years, but the achievement is forever.

Congratulations.

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